The weekend of April 5-7th is bringing the tenth-annual DoCha Festival to downtown Champaign. DoCha (so-called as a shortened version of DOwntown CHAmpaign) features world-class musicians, and endeavors to engage viewers of all ages in music performances throughout the weekend. Below, DoCha's executive director Paul Redmond answers a few questions about the festival to give readers background on the festival, and shares what festival-goers can expect from performances. A full schedule of events can be found here.
Photo credit: Craig Pessman for DoCha, 2016
Smile Politely: DoCha has been going for ten years, is that right? How has it transformed over that time?
Paul Redmond: Yes, DoCha is celebrating 10 years of bringing world-class music to the downtown community. The first year our shows were presented in individual establishments that were popular at the time, Jim Gould’s, Radio Maria and Cakes on Walnut. The idea, which is still core to our mission, was to offer music in intimate settings, allowing the audience to be up-close and personal with the performers. The concerts were all standing-room-only, given the demand there was a need for a slightly larger venue. Still downtown, we moved to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in our second year and have continued, transforming this former vaudeville theater into a cabaret-style live music venue. With about 200 seats set-up it is still a warm environment.
What also has transformed over time is that our audience continues to become more diverse. DoCha attracts an audience that is a wonderful blend of our community at large with young and old alike taking advantage of the affordability and uniqueness of our offerings. We offer all our performances with no admission charge and with no tickets required, to make it attractive to all in our community.
SP: What is the vision for the festival? What do you hope to add to the community by putting it on?
Redmond: Our vision is for an inclusive weekend of music making, which allows the audience an opportunity to experience live music up close so that they may experience the special communication and relationship between performers. We hope that by bringing world-class music to downtown that we are adding to the incredible energy that is growing downtown. We also desire to provide an opportunity for the community to experience something is perhaps not something that they would ordinarily experience.
SP: Is there a particular reason it’s held at the Orpheum?
Redmond: We originally moved to the Orpheum as the festival wanted to remain downtown, but had outgrown the individual venues from our first year. As all of our programming is family friendly, we found that the Orpheum were great partners in delivering on our educational mission. We offer two family concerts in which we present a musical play, which is fun, engaging and educational. This year’s play is entitled, Musical Moods, it is an opportunity for families to get out of the house, experience live music and theatre, ask questions of the musicians and additionally check out the Children’s Science Museum.
The Friday morning 10am show is also a wonderful opportunity for elementary school teachers to expose their classes to live music making as well as learn how composers use music to express moods. We do ask that if a school would like to attend that they communicate with us in advance so that we can ensure that we have the hall set-up to accommodate their group.
SP: What can folks expect when they attend the festival?
Redmond: Folks can expect free, high-quality music in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. We interpret Chamber Music broadly, so our program offerings are varied with something for everybody to enjoy. This is not a “stuffy concert venue” but rather an opportunity to come on out with the family for an enjoyable evening or afternoon. Each of our concerts last about 75 minutes. People are free to come and go as they wish – and with the Children’s Science Museum, there are added attractions for our younger guests to occupy themselves if need be.
SP: What act(s) are you particularly excited for this year?
Redmond: Each show is special in its own right. The Jupiter String Quartet on Saturday evening; Yvonne Redman (former Metropolitan Opera soloist), Bernhard Scully (former Canadian Brass member) and Stefan Milenkovich (world-renowned violin soloist) on Sunday; Lyric Theatre Illinois’ Friday evening classic Broadway cabaret after their very successful performances at the Allerton Mansion. Two family concert performances of Musical Moods featuring live actors and musicians.
SP: What do you most want readers to know about the festival?
Redmond: It is a community celebration – celebrating artists who chose to make Champaign their home – adding to the positive energy of Downtown Champaign – FREE – high quality live music performances – Family friendly environment – a relaxing night out.
All photos from DoCha Facebook event page