Round Top, Texas: a Pastoral and Cultural Delight

~ posted by Renee Beale, KMFA announcer

We stumbled upon Round Top quite by accident the first few months we moved to Austin. Who knew just a few miles east of the Music Capital of the World, sits a charming diminutive Garden of Urbanity? With just 77 residents, it’s surrounded by nature’s unsparing splashes and variant hues of viridian and burnt sienna as its backdrop.  When there, I feel as though I could be standing inside the Rubens’ painting, Landscape with the Chateau Steen.

What is absolutely astounding to me is that, while Round Top may be small, it more than makes up for it with its copious appetite for culture.  Sure there are a few shops and art galleries to enjoy, the Henkel Square Museum Village, Royers Round Top Café, the Stone Cellar and plenty of antiques, but this isn’t the reason we keep going back.  We go there for the idyllic Elizabethan playhouse experience at Shakespeare in the park in Winedale and Festival Hill.  The Shakespeare productions are performed in a barn and the surroundings are magnificent.  The Shakespeare program is part of the UT English Department and the students live there on the grounds at Winedale for about six weeks during the rehearsals and performance schedule.

This brings me to Festival Hill.  It’s a beautiful structure that rivals anything I’ve seen.  It’s hard to imagine this architectural masterpiece was just recently finished in 1997.  The craftsmanship of this commanding design belies its date of construction. There are no words for the beauty of the theatre.  Every time we take a drive to Round Top, we make a point to stop at Festival Hill, if nothing more than to gawk. This Saturday, July 3rd was no exception.  We were able to catch a rehearsal of that night’s performance by the young musicians making up the Festival Hill Music Festival.

As I stood there watching these young performers, I wondered if they realized just how stunning the institute’s surroundings are, and if they fully grasp the awe-inspiring radiance of the concert hall?  I’m amazed each time I enter the concert hall, admiring its handcrafted woodwork, hardwood flooring, and exclusively designed custom seating.  The institute brings talented young artists from around the world along with accomplished faculty and conductors, and the results have been stunning.  The Round Top Festival Institute alumni perform in symphony orchestras, teach at conservatories and universities, and collaborate with other distinguished musicians on six continents.  All happening right in our very own back yard!

“Keep it alive.  Introduce a child to the arts.”

~ posted by Renee Beal, KMFA announcer

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