Fabulous at 40

The Garth Newel Music Center is a haven of springs and strings.

Garth Newel

The Garth Newel Piano Quartet.

     The Garth Newel Music Center’s address may not be GPS-friendly, but for 40 years thousands have found their way to this country musical retreat located in Bath County, halfway between Warm Springs and Hot Springs on Route 220. What they’ve discovered is a cadre of resident world-class musicians performing against the dramatic backdrop of the Allegheny Mountains.

     “In the earliest years, the center had a salon feel,” says Chris Williams, executive director. “They performed concerts in the manor house for an audience of maybe 10 or 12 followed by dinner. As long as Garth Newel has been here, there has always been a connection between food and music.”

     Built in 1924 by American painter and chairman of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University, William Kendall and his wife Christine Herter Kendall, the couple gave the 114-acre property the name Garth Newel, a Welsh phrase meaning “new home.” There, they trained and rode Arabian horses, painted, and hosted musicales until Kendall’s death in 1938. Christine later donated the property, which included the manor house and indoor riding ring, to the Girl Scouts to be used as a summer camp. Finding it too difficult to maintain, the scouts would return the property a year later. Then, in 1973, Christine arranged for Luca and Arlene DiCecco, at that time the cellist and violinist of the Rowe String Quartet, to begin a chamber music study program and perform concerts on the property. Christine later converted the indoor riding ring into a concert hall and bequeathed the property to the Garth Newel Music Center Foundation when she died in 1981.

     Today, the center hosts more than 60 concerts a year performed by the resident Garth Newel Piano Quartet and visiting musicians from around the world. Continuing its culinary tradition, concerts at Garth Newel are followed by meals prepared by Chef Josh Elliott that include dishes like tulip honey brushed duck breast and corn and chanterelle bisque. And the manor house can accommodate around 20 overnight concert ticket-holding guests.

     The center is also the home of the Allegheny Mountain String Project, a music education program that draws students from five counties, and the annual Virginia Blues and Jazz Festival held in June.

     The three-day festival is a departure from the center’s mostly-classical program of music, and this year will be kicked off with a performance by Roanoke native jazz singer and songwriter René Marie.

     “I want audiences to say, ‘I’ve never seen this before,’” says Williams of the festival.

     The Virginia Blues and Jazz Festival will be held June 14-16. For a schedule of performances and ticket information, go to GarthNewel.org

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