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Ottawa Chamberfest Music Festival

9 classical music festivals to look for in 2020

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postedOctober 8, 2019

Summertime is prime time for music festivals. Millions of fans flock to venues around the world to catch their favorite bands at smaller local shows, multi-day regional events, or mega-concerts such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and the Glastonbury Festival.

But, rock ’n’ roll enthusiasts aren’t the only fan base with a bevy of options when it comes to sold-out summer happenings, as a number of classical music events also crowd calendars in June, July, and August. They feature everything from shows based on specific composers to chamber recitals and orchestra performances.

Here is a look at nine events in NTA-member destinations that keep classical music buffs coming, well, Bach for more. (The dates included are for 2020.)

Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music
Photo by Marco Borggreve

Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music

Lenox, Massachusetts

The Tanglewood Music Center welcomes thousands of music lovers for its highly anticipated August festival. The event showcases the talents of TMC’s student performers and composers, who have spent the summer at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s training academy in western Massachusetts. Attendees can see up-and-coming musicians perform alongside BSO veterans, and can sit in on sessions to get answers to questions such as: How do composers develop their skills, how has music evolved over the years, and what does today’s music tell us about everyday life?

NTA member: Boston Pops Orchestra/Boston Symphony Orchestra/Tanglewood
Contact: Megan Cokely

Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival
Photo by Marco Borggreve

Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival

Portland, Oregon
June and July

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Chamber Music Northwest, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of classical music. The group offers more than 100 events annually, including its flagship Summer Festival that spans five weeks in June and July. Shows by top chamber performers are featured throughout the event, and attendees have a lot of options beyond just seeing a show. Pre-concert picnics take place three days a week, as do free Musical Conversations with an artist or composer. There also are try-an-instrument sessions for children.

NTA member: Travel Portland
Contact: Ashley Kingman

The Mostly Mozart Festival

New York City
July and August

What began in 1966 as a way to honor the legendary composer has evolved over the years into one of New York City’s most diverse summer arts offerings. Most of the performances during the event, which is presented by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, take place at Lincoln Center venues, but places like Central Park and Brooklyn’s Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center also host shows. The diversification has led officials to expand beyond the classical music roots to include international dance and theater productions.
NTA member: NYC & Company
Contact: John Marshall

Colorado Music Festival
Photo by

Colorado Music Festival

Boulder, Colorado
June to August

Since it debuted in 1974, this event has brought six weeks of classical music to central Colorado. The concerts, held at the historical Chautauqua Auditorium, showcase the talents of the resident Colorado Music Festival Orchestra as well as acclaimed national and international musicians. Festival-goers can attend open rehearsal sessions at the venue to get a behind-the-scenes look at guest artists and the orchestra as they prepare for upcoming performances. CMF also includes Tiny Rock Concerts, a series of outdoor pop-up shows that utilize Boulder’s Flatirons as a backdrop for two- to three-song sets by festival musicians.

NTA member: Tour Colorado
Contact: Julianne Fredrick

Stratford Summer Music

Stratford, Ontario
July to August

This multi-week musical extravaganza has become a staple for classical music lovers. Venues in Stratford play host to more than 100 events and welcome the more than 300 artists heading to southwestern Ontario for the festival, which traces its roots to the 1950s. SSM also highlights the talents of upcoming national performers through programs such as the Maureen Forrester Young Canadian Artists series and opera dinners/brunches that feature some of the country’s top student vocalists in lead roles.

NTA member: Destination Ontario
Contact: Sandra Rice

Ottawa Chamberfest

Ottawa, Ontario
July and August

This event, which is the largest chamber music festival in the world, is dedicated to presenting high-caliber chamber music by bringing internationally recognized artists to the Canadian capital. The festival’s performances are held at a variety of indoor and outdoor venues across Ottawa, ranging from churches and heritage sites to museums and parks. In addition to the concerts held during the two-week event, Chamberfest organizes a year-round series of individual concerts that feature top classical music artists.

NTA member: Ottawa Tourism
Contact: Kelly Dean

The Bayreuth Festival

Bayreuth, Germany
July and August

The works of 19th-century composer Richard Wagner are presented during the annual Bayreuth Festival, which just completed its 108th year. The annual event has helped the city in the northern part of Germany’s Bavaria region become a pilgrimage destination for Wagner followers. Another bonus for festival-goers is getting to see the venue where the concerts take place: Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Wagner was heavily involved in both the design and construction of the theater, and he went to great lengths to make sure its spaces would accommodate large orchestras, such as the ones needed to perform his works.

NTA members:
Appina Travel
GTW–Grimm Touristik Wetzlar
Terra Lu Travel

Edinburgh International Festival
Photo by Ryan Buchanan

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland
Aug. 7–Aug. 31

August is a big month for the arts in the Scottish capital, and the Edinburgh International Festival is one of six major events in the city. EIF’s namesake chorus, which includes more than 140 vocalists from across Scotland, performs alongside world-class conductors, orchestras, and soloists. To open the 2019 festival, members of the choir joined Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The popular event reaches beyond classical music and also includes visual arts exhibits, theater and dance performances, and a number of salon sessions with artists and conductors.

NTA member: VisitScotland
Contact: Nicole Graham

Three Choirs Festival
Photo by

Three Choirs Festival

Worchester, England
July 25–Aug. 1

Stately cathedrals in Worchester, Hereford, and Gloucester play host to this weeklong festival, which marked its 300th year in 2015. The event’s signature offering is a group of evening performances featuring the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Philharmonic Orchestra, and during the daytime, each of the English communities is abuzz with supplemental activities. In addition to choral and chamber concerts, attendees can enjoy classes, artist talkback sessions, plays, and exhibitions.

NTA member: VisitBritain
Contact: Tara Barnes


Top photo: Ottawa Chamberfest
Photo by Earth to Andre, background: unsplash/Stefany Andrade:


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American Music Theatre
Broadway Inbound
Chicago The Musical
Disney Theatrical Group
Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
Museum of Making Music
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