Yellow Barn is celebrating its 50th Anniversary at home in Putney, Vt. Its annual festival runs from July 5 to Aug. 3, and includes 19 concerts, plus master classes, pre-concert discussions, open rehearsals and a summer gala.

On July 5, Yellow Barn opens its season with Christopher Theofanidis’ "Speak Music," a commissioned work composed of the sounds of reminiscences and birthday tributes recorded by musicians and audience members spanning Yellow Barn’s history.

An occasion for musical reunion, this summer Yellow Barn welcomes back two of its most renowned composers in residence: Brett Dean and Jörg Widmann, who has called Yellow Barn his musical home.

Several works by Dean and Widmann populate their residency weeks, including an evening devoted to Widmann’s quartet cycle. Dean will be the focus of this year’s Composer Portrait, and Widmann will give a chamber music masterclass. In addition, both composers will perform works by themselves and others.

The 50th season offers the broadest range of repertoire at Yellow Barn, uniquely programmed by Seth Knopp (Yellow Barn Artistic Director since 1998). A perfect example is Knopp’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, which the first Yellow Barn musicians watched together. The July 20th program includes Birtwistle’s Crescent Moon over the Irrational, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, selections from Haydn and Galuppi’s Il Mondo Della Luna settings, Crumb Makrokosmos II, and Stephen Coxe’s reimagining of the Beatles’ Across the Universe. 

Tributes to Yellow Barn’s early years include works performed in and for the original barn, such as Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, the great finale of many seasons. The original barn will be the location of Yellow Barn’s annual summer gala, with Barbara Strozzi’s cantata Sino alla morte (Rachel Schutz, soprano), Cage’s Sounds of Venice (percussionist Eduardo Leandro, “Venetian man”), and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Anthony Marwood, solo violin). Older generations of Yellow Barn musicians and audience members will remember that Cage was their resident composer in 1988.

Founded in 1969 by David and Janet Wells, Yellow Barn began as an informal retreat for a group of musicians small enough to live, eat, and work together in the Wells house and its attached barn. David taught his students to approach music with humility, demonstrating that good musicianship must be grounded in morality, with equal attention paid to composer, interpreter, and listener.

“Fifty years of birthdays later, three generations of musicians have lived David’s philosophy,” said Knopp. “Through them our story is told, between the simple love that first draws a musician to a work of music and the commitment to give it voice, that moment when we must find our way back to that first spark, deepened with understanding.”

Complete season programs, musician biographies, and box office information can be found online at www.yellowbarn.org/summer-season.