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karen croppedBy Karen Hendricks, Festival PR/Marketing Director

August 24, 2009

June’s exciting flurry of activity has mellowed into a leisurely pace of life at the Gettysburg Festival office (thank goodness!).  No, the entire staff has not disappeared, although we’ve all taken our turns at enjoying “down time” and re-charging our batteries with summer vacations and family time.  While we continue to tabulate and analyze valuable data collected at the Festival, we are excited to announce that 2009 Festival attendance grew by 20% over last year, as we welcomed 20,000 attendees from 22 states plus the District of Columbia.  Kudos and accolades continue to pour into our office, along with completed surveys, reports based upon intercept surveys, and notes taken during feedback meetings with all Festival Artistic Directors.  It’s almost as exciting as the actual Festival! 

While the statistics and data are concrete proof that the 2009 Festival was a success on many levels, the emotive aspects of the Festival also linger for me:  the memories from countless, excellent performances; wonderful conversations with both performers and attendees alike; and the out-pouring of support from volunteers and community members.  I was fortunate to enjoy many behind-the-scenes moments with performers such as James Earl Jones, and I’d like to share a few highlights here.


James Earl Jones, following rehearsal with the Gettysburg Festival Orchestra, granted several media interviews and as a former reporter myself, I jotted down a number of Jones’ very moving and profound answers to the reporters’ questions:

What do you feel is the significance or legacy of Abraham Lincoln, whose words you will deliver, during Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait?  Jones:  “I don’t feel there were as many horrible times in history as our American Civil War and I question his assassination.  That set up his importance.  Booth’s aim was to set up the man who wanted to give my ancestors the right to vote.  It is perhaps because Lincoln was assassinated and taken from us that left his shadow so heavy on us…. he was the supreme common man… I think we all owe it to ourselves to ask what we would have done if we were Lincoln.”

What are your thoughts on the Civil War?  Jones:  “No one should ever understand war.  The men who fought it don’t often understand war.  What keeps men moving forward?  That the men beside you could be your brother or friend – that’s why they pressed on….  The Civil War took more lives than the sum of all the wars America fought.  That’s why we have to honor that war.”

You’ve performed A Lincoln Portrait before – it must be a piece that you enjoy.  Jones:  “There aren’t many of Lincoln’s words included in the work.  They are carefully selected – every word that Lincoln spoke is important.  I love the language of Lincoln and I love the grandeur of the music.  The maestro often has to bang on the podium to get my attention because I’m lost in the orchestra.  The Gettysburg Festival Orchestra is a beautiful orchestra.  The music is perfect and it’s a piece that works all over the world, but to do it here in Gettysburg – it’s special.”

IMG_6550The Festival’s June 19th performance of A Lincoln Portrait garnered positive reviews from the media and attendees:

“The performance was fantastic.  Getting to hear and see James Earl Jones perform in Gettysburg was simply inspiring.”  – Pat Crowner

“As usual, the Gettysburg Festival Orchestra is AMAZING!  I wish they played regular concerts in the park, on the college lawn, at the Majestic… anywhere.”  – Evangelina Rubalcava

“I’m really not one to get starstruck. But let me tell you, sitting 10 feet away from James Earl Jones last Friday at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg changed all of that. When Jones walked out onto the stage, all I could write in my notebook was ‘AAAAAAAA!’  If you’re wondering what it was that made me turn into a total tween, it was the main event of the Gettysburg Festival, an extravaganza of history, food and the arts, that kicked off last Thursday and runs through Sunday. This is only the festival’s second year, but when you’re there it’s hard to believe this thing hasn’t been going on since the days of Lincoln. It’s run THAT efficiently.”  -Alexis Dow, Harrisburg Patriot-News, June 25, 2009

Well, I don’t know about the last part of Ms. Dow’s quote, about the Festival running so efficiently, but I suppose we had our moments!  Case in point, one final memory that one of our volunteers shared in her post-Festival survey:

Share one highlight or standout Festival memory with us:  “Unquestionably, while I was working at the Festival office, tidying up the room in readiness for opening, attempting to hang several pictures on the wall.  A stranger came in and offered his help in hanging the photos and very expertly hung all of them, very well.  Was I surprised when I learned the “stranger” was actually our celebrity chef Walter Scheib!  Go figure!”  – Lolly O’Dea Polvinale

The fun memories linger… feel free to share yours by e-mailing them to me at