Spoleto Festival mourns passing of Geoff Nuttall

Geoff Nuttall, left, performs with the St. Lawrence Quartet at Dock Street Theater in Charleston. William Struhs/Spoleto Festival USA photo provided.

Last week, South Carolina’s arts community lost one of its brightest lights as it was announced Geoff Nuttall passed away at 56.

Though not native to the state, Nuttall had tremendous staying power as the director of Spoleto Festival USA’s chamber music series. He began welcoming Spoleto festival audiences to chamber concerts at Dock Street Theater in 2010, taking over for the formidable Charles Wadsworth—who invited him to the role. Nuttall’s charisma and charm enabled him to make the role his own. As director, he curated each of the 33 annual concerts and performed on many as a violinist and founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Spoleto’s quartet-in-residence.

“This is a loss not just for Spoleto Festival USA, but for music lovers around the world. Geoff was classical music’s greatest showman, eliciting a rowdy, raucous reception to Haydn that would sound more at home in a club than a concert hall. He didn’t care if people were clapping between movements; he didn’t care that people wore shorts and sandals to performances; he didn’t care for the rigid social formalities that govern classical music performance. All he cared about was the communitarian, cathartic power of music. And because of that, he changed chamber music in America,” festival General Director Mena Mark Hanna said in a statement.

Nuttall was claimed by pancreatic cancer and passed away Oct. 19 at his home in California.

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