As always, musical and other artistic performances will be among the main draws of the 49th annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
Free performances will be presented on three outdoor stages — the Allen Street Stage, the Festival Shell and the Sidney Friedman Park Stage — in addition to indoor performances at the State Theatre, Penn State Downtown Theatre Center and select downtown churches.
Performers are of international, national and regional standing, and the arts festival offers everything from the much-loved Pat Farrell Sing-Along to jazz, bluegrass, folk and rock to concert bands and choral groups.
Because they know the public has favorites and traditions, this year festival organizers decided to mix some of the regulars up, to put them in different places and times. They also reached out to more Penn State student performing arts groups.
“We worked with the Penn State Performing Arts Council — a new student group that’s sort of a consortium of many different student groups — to find student performers,” festival Executive Director Rick Bryant said. “Penn State students are not only a large part of our audience but, in a few years, they’ll be back as adults and we want to make them realize sooner rather than later what a quintessential part of the Penn State experience the arts festival is.”
Returning to the festival this year are three of the four members of Cartoon, traditionally one of the most popular acts, as Hughes, Kidder and Rounds.
Since playing their last show with Cartoon in July 2012, Randy Hughes, Glenn Kidder and Jon Rounds have kept at it in the spirit of the band, working on new original songs via email and playing music whenever they are able to meet in the same room.
Finding their appetite and energy for music that’s still fresh, they decided to do a show together at this year’s festival to showcase new tunes and some Cartoon standards. They will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday in the State College Presbyterian Church.
“We’re delighted that Hughes, Kidder and Rounds is here this year,” Bryant said. “Cartoon had a farewell concert a couple of years ago but this year three of them are back, in a new venue, performing under a new name. We’re really excited about the show.”
Entrain, the eclectic Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.,-based six-piece band, has recorded eight albums, showcasing their ability to shift effortlessly between musical styles — from rock, blues, calypso and ska to zydeco, jazz and funk — often within the same song. The band will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Festival Shell Stage. Their performance is sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association.
The festival receives a number of submissions from self-represented performers and agents alike pitching acts, and organizers have to make sure that performers are available, affordable and within the logistical abilities to present.
“I’m in touch with agents whose rosters have the sort of acts our audiences like, and I go to performing arts conferences and watch performers audition,” Bryant said. “People stop me at the supermarket, in church and on the street to tell me about acts they’ve seen and liked.”
The festival can help shape the tastes of the public, and organizers do their best to respond to it in a positive fashion, Bryant said.
“Our audience likes rock, blues, folk, Americana — they’re quite receptive to almost anything,” he said. “I think our audience is pretty good at appreciating different genres of music even if the genre in question might not be their absolute favorite. But we absolutely do try to bring in acts the audience likes.”
The festival will have lots of musical theater this year, including three shows being presented by Penn State’s NU.Musical Theatre group. “We have dance, a stand-up comedian and even a silent movie with live music — it’s a pretty wide range really,” Bryant said. “Our performers bring talent, professionalism and enthusiasm to the stage, and it’s always great to see the audience respond to those things.”
Although most performances are free, some require a festival button. Buttons cost $10 for adults and are free for children 12 and younger. They are good for the entire festival, and grant admission on a space-available basis to all indoor events. Buttons are available at each performance venue, at many locations on the festival route, in retailers throughout Centre County, and online at www.arts-festival.com. Also visit the website for additional information and a full schedule of events.