Behind the Scenes at The 11th Annual Southern Illinois Music Festival

Jun 19, 2015


This weekend wraps up the 11th annual Southern Illinois Music Fest.

This year’s theme is great Russian Masters with a Ballet on Friday and Saturday and Opera Gala Saturday night.

There’s only a few days left for this year’s Southern Illinois Music Festival.

And very little time to rehearse.

The orchestra gathered in Carterville this week prepare for Saturday’s Opera Gala.

Festival director and conductor Ed Benyas needs a lot of musicians to pull off a festival of this size, and it also helps the area in more than one way.

“About 75 professional musicians come from around the country and they spend two and a half weeks here in Southern Illinois and help our local economy out.

Most of the musicians, dancers and singers may look familiar to the audience, especially at the opera gala.

“We have three fabulous singers Brian Cheney, Laura Portune and David Dillard, they’ve all sung in major rolls in the festival in years past.”

This is the third year that  Opera Tenor Brian Cheney to journey to our region.

One of the reasons he and the other musicians return every year is due to the relationships that are created in Southern Illinois, because of one man.

“I love the people here it’s a great family type of feel because everybody knows each other, its really because of Ed, Ed Benyas brings all these great people together and everybody wants to come.”

Having the same musicians working together year after year can lead to a better performance.

“I think it makes a difference because we all know and get a feel for each others musical sensibilities.”

 And that sense and knowledge of each other is that special ingredient that keeps this group and the audience coming back year after year.

“Being a soloist in the program, its really great when you know that the conductor and the orchestra is really feeling the music along with you and it’s a real collaboration.

“Everybody has known Ed for a quite sometime and so its really one of those things that everybody wants to do, we all want to be here to support the arts in Southern Illinois, but we also want to support Ed and his vision with the festival.”

The Fest concludes on Sunday with a concert at the United Methodist Church in Carbondale and a later performance at Alto Vineyards.