For arts groups, surviving in a recession economy means trying to get by with less. So give the Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music and Arts Festival credit for boldness. At a time when cutbacks are the order of the day, the festivals fourth edition has more than doubled in size from 2011. It gets under way Monday at Cary Arts Center with a dozen concerts, up from last years five, featuring a wide array of artists from here and abroad.
The festival is a labor of love for local author/artist Carrie Knowles and her son Neil Leiter, a violist in the Brussels Chamber Orchestra. Keeping it on an upward trajectory is a priority.
We made a real effort this year to take it a big step forward, said Leiter from his home in Brussels. We made the decision early on that if were to keep doing this, we want it to continue moving forward.
Making it happen is a financial and logistical struggle in which Knowles depends on the kindness of friends and strangers. The festival relies on donations to feed and house out-of-town musicians, making it a very grassroots undertaking.
Its origins go back to 2008, at which point Leiter had been in the Brussels Chamber Orchestra for five years. The group was invited to a festival in New York, and Leiter arranged for the BCO an egalitarian, self-managed group that has no conductor to also play a few concerts in his old hometown.
That expanded to a formal BCO-curated festival the following year with guest artists, and the program has broadened its ambitions in the years since then. In addition to the Brussels group, this years edition also features Germanys Lipkind Quartet alongside American artists including Atlanta-based Will Scruggs Jazz Fellowship and musicians from various local ensembles.
Some of the collaborative programs suggest intriguing possibilities. Wednesdays Chamber Jazz will feature the Brussels Chamber Orchestra playing classical music, and then Scruggs Jazz Fellowship riffing off the musical themes introduced.
That could be really interesting, to see how jazz people interpret and react to classical music, Leiter said. Its not the newest idea, but Im not sure its really been done in the area before.
Another aspect of the festival is mentoring, in which the visiting musicians do intensive weeklong workshops with young local musicians. And there is also an accompanying art show, Quartet, where visual artists were asked to respond to the concept of four to create works that will be paired with Saturdays performance by the Lipkind Quartet.
Eventually, Leiter and Knowles hope the festival might evolve into a multidisciplinary arts event like the annual Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C.
The point of Cross Currents is to go back and forth, Knowles said. To build bridges and open doors between American and European musicians. The overarching vision is to develop a festival that brings artists of different persuasions together to create something they would not have otherwise.
Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat