The Village Green Commons Hall (image: MoreSun Timber Frames)

Escape to the Mountains: Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival celebrates 40 years, return to live concerts

EarRelevant Staff | 2 JUL 2021

The Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival returns to live in-person concerts this summer as it celebrates its 40th anniversary season. Led by artistic director William Ransom, who is also artistic director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta, the Festival features many favorite Atlanta musicians among its roster of national and international artists. The 40th Anniversary Season- runs from June 27 through August 8, 2021.

The concerts, held in Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina, are only three-hour drive from in-town Atlanta in the popular summer travel mountain region of western North Carolina. The area’s ties with Atlanta are numerous, as it is historically a place where well-to-do Atlanta residents have summer homes to cool off and relax in the area’s much higher elevations. Atlanta is around 1000 feet above sea level on average, Highlands officially sits at 4,117 feet.

Spivey Hall 2021-22 Season (ad)

The season has already kicked off with a special event on June 27 at The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts, an exhibit of original art created for the Festival’s program book covers and posters over the last 20-pus years paired with a performance of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” transcribed for string quartet, in the Center’s galleries.

The regular concert season, however, begins this Monday, July 5th with the legendary violinist Pinchas Zukerman performing a special one-time-only concert with his wife, cellist Amanda Forsyth, and rising star pianist George Li. That concert is sold out, and has been for weeks.

The season closes on August 8th with the Gershon-Cohn Gala in Highlands, which brings together Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” performed by violinist David Coucheron and the Festival Chamber Orchestra, interspersed with Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” performed by the Eroica Trio, followed by dinner at the Wildcat Cliffs Country Club, six miles northeast of down town Highlands and halfway to Cashiers.


The rest of the Regular Concert Series performances are held Fridays and Sundays at the Highlands Performing Arts Center at 507 Chestnut Street; Saturdays and Mondays will be performed at a new and impressive venue in Cashiers, The Village Green Commons Hall on Frank Allen Road, a 5800 square foot timber frame indoor events venue with two garden courtyards and an attached open-air amphitheater. The hall features 30-foot ceilings and massive hand-carved beams connected with mortise and tenon joinery.

Here’s a complete rundown of the concerts in that series:

  • Monday, July 5 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    Opening Concert (SOLD OUT)
    “The Pinchas Zukerman Trio”
    Pinchas Zukerman, violin; Amanda Forsyth, cello; George Li, piano
    SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67
    TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50
  • Friday, July 9 @ 6pm, Highlands
    Saturday, July 10 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “Cho-Liang Lin & Friends”
    Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Alice Hong and Jessica Wu, violin; Yinzi Kong, viola; Charae Krueger and Guang Wang, cello; Scott Rawls, violin; Eric Pritchard, violin
    MENDELSSOHN: Octet for Strings
  • Sunday, July 11 @ 5pm, Highlands
    Monday, July 12 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “Rasa Quartet” – Maura Shawn Scanlin & Kiyoshi Hayashi, violins; Claudia Do Minh Ramos, viola; Eunghee Cho, cello
  • Friday, July 16 @ 6pm, Highlands
    Saturday, July 17 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “Founders Celebration”
    In honor of Dr. Lucas Drew
    Amy Moretti, violin Luke Fleming, viola; Khari Joyner, cello; Julie Coucheron, piano; Janet Clippard, bass; William Ransom, piano
    SCHUBERT: Trout Quintet
    BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata #10 in G Major
  • Sunday, July 18 @ 5pm, Highlands
    Monday, July 19 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “Sonata Mulattica”
    Amy Moretti, violin; Luke Fleming, viola; Khari Joyner, cello; Chris Rex, cello; Margeaux Maloney, violin
    BEETHOVEN: Kreutzer Sonata
  • Friday, July 23 @ 6pm, Highlands
    Saturday, July 24 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “The Enchanted Harp”
    Bridget Kibbey, harp; Charae Krueger, cello; Christina Smith, flute
  • Sunday, July 25 @ 5pm, Highlands
    Monday, July 26 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “The Virtuoso Piano”
    Michael Gurt, piano
  • Friday, July 30 @ 6pm, Highlands
    Saturday, July 31 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    “Sibling Rivalry”
    Zuill Bailey, cello; Allison Bailey, violin; Helen Kim, violin; Michael Kim, piano; Kate Ransom, violin; William Ransom, piano
  • Sunday, August 1 @ 5 PM, Highlands
    Monday, August 2 @ 5 PM, Cashiers
    “Concerto Night”
    Zuill Bailey, cello; Helen Kim, violin; Jasmin Arakawa, piano
  • Sunday, August 8 @ 5pm, Cashiers
    Gershon-Cohn Final Gala Concert and Dinner Party
    “The Eight Seasons”
    David Coucheron, violin; The Eroica Trio; The Festival Chamber Orchestra
    VIVALDI: Four Seasons
    PIAZZOLLA: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
    Dinner follows at Wildcat Cliffs Country Club

In addition to the regular concert series, the 40th anniversary season also offers multiple special programs such as “Festival Feasts,” more intimate “Salons,” an “Interlude Concert” and a Family Concert and ice cream social after featuring “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by Lois Reitzes, host of the City Lights public radio program on Atlanta’s WABE-FM 91.1The home page of the Festival’s website states clearly its current COVID protocols for the safety of attendees: “Masks will not be required for any concert attendees who provide at the door proof of being fully vaccinated for Covid 19. Anyone who cannot provide such proof will be required to wear a mask. Masks will be available at the door for anyone requiring a mask who did not bring one. Vaccinated attendees who prefer to wear a mask are welcome to do so.” Also, according to Ransom, all performers have been fully vaccinated.

Complete information on the season is available online at

Highlands, North Carolina, as seen from Sunset Rock.

Highlands, North Carolina, as seen from Sunset Rock.