by TAMMY MARSHALL & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n the past 25 years many famous faces have crooned all kinds of tunes at the Festival at Sandpoint: the late Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett -- to name a few. The festival in the last quarter-century has showcased more characters and musicians than Lyle Lovett has played in movies or was involved with romantically. Lovett, the big name in this year's festival, first performed at Sandpoint in 1993, when he played with Cash. He'll appear Saturday with His Large Band, delivering the charismatic style of country that's won him four Grammys. Gates open at 4 pm, and the concert kicks off with Bearfoot -- a bluegrass band with two fiddlers and an acoustic bassist who do old-time country with a little bit of jazz -- at 6 pm.
This year's two-week festival will go back to its classical roots on opening night, Thursday, with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Gary Sheldon. Symphony favorites Kelly Farris and Jason Moody will play the lead parts in Bach's Concerto for Two Violins. The symphony will also perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Opening night will end with a fireworks show accompanying Neil Diamond's America.
In later years, the organizers added acts that played rock, blues, bluegrass and country -- a range that festival office manager Carol Winget calls "an eclectic line-up of musicians." Some of this year's eclectic musicians include Leroy Bell and Jonny Lang on Friday, Aug. 3. Bell sounds a little like Ben Harper and sings about peace, love and his hope for the future. A brassy voice and a folk guitar accompany his vision for a world full of love. Lang, called a musical prodigy, released his first album at age 14. Already he has a strong resume. He has performed with Jeff Beck, Aerosmith and B.B. King. Lang's blues sound a bit like Stevie Wonder and are accompanied by gospel backup singers that harmonize with his consistently positive lyrics that stem from his devout Christianity.
Ticket prices for these shows: $30 for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, $45 for Leroy Bell and Jonny Lang, and $55 to see Bearfoot and Lyle Lovett.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & unday's program, featuring the Spokane Youth Orchestra conducted by Spokane Public Radio's Verne Windham, will provide an evening of musical storytelling. Ballet dancers will jump and twirl to Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty and Tim Behrens will act to Patrick F. McManus's "The Deer on the Bicycle."
"If McManus has one signature piece, this would be it," Behrens says.
Local award-winning composer William Berry set McManus' story to music.
The storytelling not only involves musicians accompanying performers, but the orchestra will become part of the acting too. "They gaggle and hoot and holler. It's very active and funny," Behrens says. "It's kind of like Peter and the Wolf, just more active."
Memorial Field in Sandpoint provides a very intimate way to experience music. Vendors provide food on the Festival Street. Picnickers bring in their own food and enjoy it on the lawn. Windham has performed at the festival for years. "It's just a great place," he says, "It just feels nice. The sense of event with the people sitting on the lawn and the face-painted kids. It's everything a festival should be."
The gates will open at 4:30; before the concert, children can visit the Classical Instrument Petting Zoo and try playing different instruments. Clowns will wander the grounds, and children can have their faces painted and play games. Tickets are $5.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hursday, Aug. 9, will bring Reckless Kelly and Robert Earl Keen. On Aug. 10, Jackie Green will open for Los Lonely Boys. That Saturday Josh Ritter and Madeleine Peyroux perform. The Grand Finale on Sunday will feature the Spokane Symphony Orchestra with world-renowned fiddler Mark O'Connor. The festival will close with a fireworks show.
Festival at Sandpoint * Through Sunday, Aug. 12. * Tickets Vary * Visit www.festivalatsandpoint.com. * Call 888-265-4554 or 325-seat * Watch for more Festival at Sandpoint coverage next week in The Inlander's Music section.