Returning to the festival are several artists who have been at its core from the beginning. Goodson brings her vast knowledge and passion for Ives's work, and matches it with a prodigious technique that enables her to play his sometimes very difficult music. This year she'll play the "Hawthorne" movement of Ives's massive Concord Sonata, a piece that Bolcom calls "a real finger-buster" and that Goodson says is "the hardest music I've ever played." Violinist Gabe Bolkosky's extensive training in and affinity for modern classical music make him an ideal Ives interpreter; his gorgeous tone makes even Ivesian dissonances lyrical. Leah Dexter's supple voice and superb vocal acting allow her to embody the full range of Ives's songs, from the whimsical to the dramatic.
The festival locations are also Ivesian. The intimate Northside Community Church (Friday and Saturday) allows listeners to experience Ives's music in a setting similar to the ones that inspired much of it, while Peter Sparling's Dance Gallery Studio (Sunday) is ideally suited to Ives's visionary ideals. Surrounding the dance floor, on the same level as the dancers and musicians, allows an audience to be more directly involved than they can be in a concert hall, and Sparling's choreography gives an added level of richness to Ives's music. This year, for the monumental From the Steeples and the Mountains, Sparling and his dancers will use as props the four huge sets of chimes (each seven feet tall and weighing 200 pounds) that the piece calls for.
Ives is a giant among the giants of American music. As Helen Boatwright says, "No one could match his originality."