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Cactus Pear director promises 'spontaneity' at 2024 concerts, including free admission

Jeffrey Sykes is the Artistic Director of the Cactus Pear Music Festival.
Courtesy CPMF
Jeffrey Sykes is the Artistic Director of the Cactus Pear Music Festival.

As the Cactus Pear Music Festival prepares for its 28th season of stellar chamber music, it’s doing so with an open invitation to everyone, to attend the concerts, free of charge.

“This is a wonderful new development,” explained the festival’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sykes. “Nobody will be turned away because of an inability to pay.” Tickets are free, but the festival asks that you register online because of limited seating.

And when you visit the website, you’ll see what Sykes called “a fantastic season.”

“We’re calling it ‘Spur of the Moment,’” he said. “It’s a little nod to the San Antonio Spurs. But it's also a nod to the idea of spontaneity, of how important instantaneous, off the top of your head, off the cuff, decisions and choices are important in creating world class chamber music… that spontaneity is what audiences love.”

The programs include familiar music by Mozart, Beethoven, and George Gershwin, but also an increasing variety of composers from all walks of life and all eras.

“We need to show audiences that there is great music by a huge variety of composers,” Sykes said. “These [newer] pieces are so beautiful, [including] the fantastic Black American composer David Baker, who wrote in sort of jazz styles.”

Sykes explained a certain Oscar-winning movie may have helped influence the addition of another new piece on the program, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts.

“Einstein on Mercer Street” was written in 2002, but Sykes said, “With the popularity of that movie, ‘Oppenheimer,’ people are very interested in these guys from that era who made these momentous decisions that have affected all of our lives. And this is a very deeply human and deeply touching cantata. I think the music is gorgeous and at times very funny. Timothy [Jones] is the ultimate interpreter of it. It was written for his voice, it fits him like a glove. So I think people will really enjoy that work.”

Details on the full season, which opens July 12 in Wimberley and continues with five further concerts in San Antonio at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Use the audio player at the top of this page to hear the full interview with Jeffrey Sykes, as well as exclusive performances from previous Cactus Pear Music Festival concerts.

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Barry Brake is a composer, jazz and classical pianist who has been a part of San Antonio's music scene for decades. You can find his musings and musical exploits online here: http://barrybrake.com/