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Festivus for the Rest of Us

Summer Music Festival offers diverse treasures




Sometimes it's hard to find a musical event that the whole family can enjoy. Sure, Mom can't get enough of Handel, and Dad loves to hear Celtic harp, but what about cousin Larry and his infatuation with ancient Japanese drumming? And what do you do with Aunt Mildred who only listens to something called "Goth swing"? Let's not even mention your sister-in-law's fixation with all things Patsy Cline.Well, this year at the 20th Petaluma Summer Music Festival there's something for the whole darn crew. Truly.

The festival hosts a 50-piece Italian orchestra playing opera as well as Stevie Wonder classics; Celtic harpist Chris Caswell (above); the Taiko Ren drum ensemble; Lafibi and Friends flamenco troupe; a 250th birthday party for Handel; jazz singer Kim Nalley; a toe-tapping performance by Goth swing group Lee Press-On and the Nails; and performances of Always . . . Patsy Cline, a musical revue of the country queen's greatest hits. This wild cornucopia of musical genres springs forth from the creative team at Cinnabar Theater who have organized the festival for the last 20 years. "Ideas come from all over the place!" Cinnabar artistic director Elly Lichtenstein says about the festival lineup. "One of our board members has been bugging me for years to get Taiko drummers. So this year, we got them. We're very selfish people," she laughs. "It's a gift to ourselves by way of giving it to the community." To further sweeten the selfish/altruistic musical gift, the festival steps outside the confines of Cinnabar's performance space and presents works in a variety of Petaluma locales. Taiko drums will bellow through the Goltermann Gardens, Celtic harp will resonate ethereally at the Petaluma Historic Museum, and the musicians playing Handel's Water Music will do so on barge floating along the Petaluma River.

This sounds all well and good for Mom, Dad, Cousin Larry, Aunt Mildred, and your weird sister-in-law, but what do we do with Grandpa Pete who thinks he's a pirate? The festival eagerly includes the Great Petaluma Treasure Hunt, which will provide clues to participants leading all over town.

With diverse venues, eclectic performances and a treasure hunt, Lichtenstein explains that "this festival is about rediscovering Petaluma as a unique place to be."Bring the whole clan to find that out when the Petaluma Summer Music Festival runs Aug. 20&–Sept.13 at various locations. Free&–$40. For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit or call 707.763.8920.

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