“Food for the Soul”: Experiencing Chamber Music with Garth Newel Music Center


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Kendal at Lexington resident Sarah Giddings might not have an official role with Garth Newel Music Center, but she cheerfully refers to herself as the “chief enthusiast.”

“It’s just truly amazing,” she says of the chamber music venue.

Sarah began attending Garth Newel performances shortly after she moved to Kendal at Lexington in October of 2000. “I just fell in love with the people and the music,” she says.

Founded in 1973, Garth Newel Music Center is located a little over an hour from Kendal at Lexington in Bath County. The venue offers around 50 concerts each year and the performances are often paired with a gourmet meal or picnic. And while Sarah may be the chief enthusiast, she is far from the only Kendal resident who enjoys the unique performances.

“I don’t like driving long distances, so we started encouraging Kendal to take a bus whenever possible. If we can get seven people to sign up, we can get a driver, so we started going several times every summer,” Sarah says.

But the connection between Garth Newel and Kendal doesn’t stop there. Just this past July, Sarah helped coordinate the 14th annual emerging artist performance on the Kendal grounds for all the residents to enjoy. The Garth Newel Emerging Artist Fellowship Program is an intensive four-week workshop for college students. Kendal at Lexington was lucky enough to be their first outside performance of the summer.

Another small connection, which Sarah calls “absolutely wonderful,” comes from a fellow longtime fan: former Kendal Corporation CEO John Diffey, who now serves as chairman of the board at Garth Newel. Of the many connections between Kendal and Garth Newel, Sarah says, “It’s a close relationship, but it’s not an official relationship in any way. It’s just that we have a group of people who are very enthusiastic.”

As for her own personal devotion, Sarah says enjoying the social connection comes in close second to enjoying the music. “I have a number of friends that I only know from seeing them at Garth Newel and I usually have no idea what their profession is or anything about their families — they’re just my music friends,” she says.

While Sarah admits that chamber music might be an acquired taste for some, she credits her involvement with Garth Newel with helping to keep her active and engaged in the Kendal community. “When the summer schedule first comes out, I make an announcement to decide which concerts we want to get buses for. It’s my baby. If people have questions about Garth Newel, they come to me,” she says proudly. Plus, in addition to the summer concerts, Sarah has also traveled the world with Garth Newel, including trips to Sicily and Scotland.

The experience of attending the performances is something Sarah describes as “spiritual,” adding, “The sense of peace that comes to you when you hear something that speaks to your heart and soul — I need it,” she says. “It’s like food for the soul.”

If you’ve been considering attending a Garth Newel performance, but haven’t yet, Sarah says she encourages all of her fellow residents and those outside of Kendal to check it out:

“You’ll have a wonderful time, you’ll meet wonderful people, and you’ll have an amazing musical experience when you get there.”

Lean more here.

Residents at Garth Newel Music venue

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