ORKNEY SPRINGS, VA. -- As dusk falls over this Shenandoah Valley town nestled against the West Virginia border, the lights in the music pavilion illuminate a gallery of composers who sternly preside over the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival.
Bach, Brahms, Haydn and their counterparts would be pleased to hear such fine music rising out across the valley from the rustic, open-air concert hall.
Now in its 25th year, the festival has changed greatly from the series that began as an offshoot of the American Symphony Orchestra League's Eastern Institute of Orchestral Studies, held at Orkney Springs.
In 1963, the summer music school added public concerts to its educational programs, but by 1978 the costs of these concerts had become prohibitive.
"As a poor, agricultural county, we were already paying for more than the cost of the public concerts, and so we were subsidizing the school," said John Fishburn, then-president of the music festival.
The festival and the league parted company when the league requested more funds from the festival board for the summer of 1979.
Since then, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been the mainstay of the festival.
This summer, the symphony orchestra has scheduled five performances in Orkney Springs, including concerts tomorrow and Saturday evening.
The orchestra's music director, William Hudson, carries with him experiences and traditions from the earlier festivals, when he was a conducting student of the late and legendary Dr. Richard Lert.
For years, young conductors and accomplished musicians would come to the Shenandoah mountains to study with the aging Viennese maestro, the musical opportunities far outweighing the discomfort of the antiquated accommodations at the Orkney Springs Hotel.
In 1979, the Civil War-era resort was bought by and incorporated into Shrine Mont, a conference center owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Under the watchful eye of Wilmer Moomaw, a 59-year employe of Shrine Mont, the entire resort has been restored.
The cottages were reconditioned first, followed by two large buildings, including one that was used as an infirmary during the Civil War.
Last to be restored was the the stately Virginia House, the resort's central building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
Restoration of the complex -- which Moomaw says "will always be known as the Orkney Springs Hotel" -- included major structural repairs as well as elaborate detail work to re-create the ambiance antebellum hospitality.
Moomaw says Orkney Springs is now prepared for the more than 16,000 people expected to visit the quiet retreat this year, some of them familiar faces who return year after year.
"I know them when they walk in the door," he said. "That's the most satisfying part of this job."
Some visitors come to sample the waters that gave the village its name and were reputed "to cure all ills, stop you from strong drink and even make childbirth a pleasure."
But most visitors come here for the peaceful quiet of the town or the joyful noise of the music festival.
"Night life in Orkney Springs is not too rambunctious," Moomaw said. The resort closes from November through March.
The peak of summertime excitement here coincides with the festival.
In addition to the symphony concerts, this year's performers include The Irish Breakdown, which performs mainly in Alexandria, the City of Fairfax Band and the Dennis Reaser Orchestra.
Tomorrow night's Fairfax Symphony Orchestra concert will feature popular songs, and Saturday's program will include symphonies by Brahms and Schubert.
Also Saturday, television journalist Roger Mudd will narrate Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait."
Lincoln's stirring words are sure to evoke strong sentiments in a setting that harkens back to the war he so unhappily oversaw.