Labor Day weekend brings to a close the current season of the popular Summer Concert Series at historic St. John’s Church in Valle Crucis with a High Country debut performance by the acclaimed Mannheim Rocket, a chamber music ensemble from northern Virginia at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1. Admission is only $5 per person with children admitted free.

A summer mission of Holy Cross Episcopal Church, the picturesque St. John’s Chapel, consecrated in 1862, is located in the Watauga County countryside and provides marvelous acoustics for music with its wooden walls and floors forming a natural sounding board for live performances.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the concerts showcase some of the High Country’s finest musicians along with regional artists of national prominence. Attendees linger until sunset to mingle with the musicians after their performance. All concerts begin promptly 5 p.m. and are approximately 75 minutes in duration, and always followed by a potluck supper.

The Mannheim Rocket is the premier period-instrument ensemble of Virginia and named for one of the musical innovations of the Mannheim School where composers introduced a number of novel ideas into the orchestral music of their day. Using instruments authentic to the period, this talented ensemble will perform a wonderfully witty program of classical chamber music titled Mozart in the Mountains. Audience members will hear “Harmoniemusik” — small wind band arrangements — of works by Viennese master Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In Mozart’s day, it was common for amateur and professional performers alike to play small chamber music versions of larger works.

The St. John’s concert includes what is believed to be the premiere performance of a new arrangement of “Gran Partita,” made famous by the 1986 film ‘Amadeus,’ and Mozart’s Wind Serenade 11, aranged for two oboes, clarinet and bassoon, each of which is played on instruments that would have been familiar to Mozart, his contemporaries and their audiences.

The chamber music ensemble is a subset of the larger Mannheim Rocket Orchestra whose members are devoted practitioners of the “period instrument movement,” in which musicians play replicas of centuries-old instruments to create the sound that their classical composers intended. Artists of the four-member ensemble performing in Valle Crucis on Sept. 1 are Sung Lee and Sarah Schilling on oboe, Kelsey Schilling on bassoon, with Dominic Giardino playing the clarinet and narrating the performance.

Mannheim Rocket’s artistic principles include the belief that great music is timeless, impacting the listener’s quality of life on an emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual level, all within a communal context.

Summer concert attendees traditionally bring at least one dish to share during the potluck supper on the lawn that follows every performance, with dozens of folks arriving early to begin the social aspect of the evening’s festivities. Many audience members prefer to set up lawn chairs near the open windows of the chapel and listen to the music as it resonates throughout the valley, aided by microphones and speakers placed strategically in and around the landmark. All are welcome as local residents mingle with newcomers and visitors to the melting pot that is historic St. John’s.

This concert is performed in St. John’s Chapel, located at 645 Herb Thomas Rd., off of Mast Gap Road in the Sugar Grove community near Valle Crucis. Signs are posted throughout the valley directing audience members to the concert location. For more information, please visit the concert website at or call (828) 963-4609.

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