A golden anniversary deserves to be special, and Bay Chamber Concerts’ 50th anniversary Summer Music Festival promises to be just that  Bay Chamber’s season opens Thursday, July 1 at 8 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House with musical icons Shmuel Ashkenasi on violin and Peter Serkin on piano. There will be a pre-concert talk featuring these remarkable musicians at 7 p.m. in the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. Following the talk, there will be a complimentary champagne toast to the season at 7:45 p.m. for 50th Anniversary Opening Night ticketholders only. Serkin and Ashkenasi will be performing works by Dallapiccola, Busoni and Beethoven, the latter his Kreutzer Sonata.

Ashkenasi and Serkin have been part of the Bay Chamber family since the beginning, said Thomas Wolf, Bay Chamber’s artistic director and co-founder.

“Shmuel performed in our very first season, 50 years ago, and Peter in our second. I am thrilled that they agreed to open our golden anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a very special concert,” Wolf said.

Serkin has collaborated with such esteemed musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, the Budapest, Guarneri, Vermeer and Orion string quartets and TASHI, of which he was a founding member. In 1958, at age 11, Serkin entered the Curtis Institute of Music and, in 1959, he made his New York debut, followed by appearances with the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras.

A founding member of the Vermeer Quartet, Ashkenasi has performed in more than 35 seasons of Bay Chamber Concerts. The alumnus and faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras in the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union and Japan.

The 50th Season Opening Night is sponsored in memory of Anne R. & Richard W. Davidson. A post-concert reception will be held following the concert at the nearby Center for Maine Contemporary Arts and will feature refreshments compliments of Farmers Fare in Rockport.

On Thursday nights throughout July and August, Farmers Fare is offering Bay Chamber patrons a light pre-concert meal and free round-trip shuttle service in time for the pre-concert talk or for the concert. Concertgoers can avoid Rockport village parking and enjoy a delicious meal at Farmers Fare, located at 3 Cross St. off Route 90. Local foods will be featured including light fare, cheese, wine and charcuterie.

Free Doo-Wop Bash

As part of the Festival of Independence weekend, Bay Chamber will present a free outdoor concert in Camden Harbor Park Saturday, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. Emil Stuccio and the Classics return to Camden to perform with The Chiclettes in Bay Chamber’s Doo-Wop Bash concert, which will include the evening fireworks. Everyone is invited to join Bay Chamber; the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce; Camden Rotary; and downtown Camden businesses in celebrating America’s independence. Rain location for the July 3rd Doo-Wop Bash is the Rockport Opera House. The concert is sponsored by Camden Harbour Inn and Natalie’s.

Coming up next week, Bay Chamber will open its Wednesday Night series at the Strand Theatre in Rockland with Flute Feste July 7 at 8 p.m. The concert offers rarely heard, flashy and virtuosic music for four flutes with accompanying instruments.  Also, new this year, Wednesday nights will feature pre-concert Music and Art talks with Wolf; Michael Komanecky, chief curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum; and guests in the galleries of the downtown museum.

Bay Chamber will present Classical Treasures Thursday, July 8 at 8 p.m. in the Rockport Opera House. The concert will feature works by Haydn, Brahms and Spohr.

Tickets to the 50th Season Opening Night are $50. Most events in the Summer Music Festival are $30 and $40 for adults; and $8 for youth younger than 19. Discounts are available up to 30 percent off tickets for subscribers and groups of eight or more. Several events are free and open to the public. The Season Underwriter is Down East Magazine, Associate Underwriter is Samoset Resort and Media Sponsor is VillageSoup.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Bay Chamber Concerts at 236-2823 or toll-free at 888-707-2770; or online at baychamberconcerts.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.