Arts and Entertainment

‘Classical music with a view’: Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival

The 2010 Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival schedule. - contributed photo
The 2010 Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival schedule.
— image credit: contributed photo

How does Aloysia Friedmann create programming for the acclaimed Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival?

She brings together musicians who will have chemistry, and chooses compositions that stimulate her.

“Something I always have to take into consideration is not just the artists’ talent, but how they fit personally with the other artists,” Friedmann said. “It would not be fun if someone came and was a prima donna. Everyone who comes to the festival has a joie de vivre and a great sense of humor. It will result in exciting performances.”

Now in its 13th year, the festival has become legendary for its incredible classical music presented in an intimate setting.

Friedmann, a Juilliard-trained violinist who had been playing informal concerts with her family on Orcas for years, launched the first festival in 1997 with just three performances. Since then it has grown to 17 days of music and seminars from some of the nation’s most celebrated musicians.

The festival is now run by a full-time executive director, Victoria Parker, and encompasses “Musician in Residence” events throughout the year with local schools. Friedmann’s husband, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, serves as the artistic advisor.

From August 12 to 28, the festival is offering concerts, pre- and post-performance talks, Music Lovers’ Seminars, and a children’s concert. For the full schedule, see the sidebar below.

“I wanted to be able to invite some new artists, as I try to do every year,” Friedmann said. “Several of these artists I have asked in past seasons, and they have been unavailable.”

Among the new performers are violinist Martin Chalifour, who Friedmann and Parker first met at Juilliard, brothers Benny Kim (violinist) and Eric Kim (cellist), husband and wife musicians James and Deborah Dunham, who play the viola and bass, respectively, and Rice University doctoral student Andrew Staupe, who plays the piano. In a break from traditional classical chamber music, Friedmann has invited two internationally known classical guitarists: Eliot Fisk and his wife Zaira Meneses, who plays with a Latin American flair.

Returning artists are bassoonist Arthur Grossman, clarinetist William McColl, violinist Chee-Yun, the Miró Quartet, and Toby Saks, a cellist and artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, who is retiring from both vocations in 2011. Her Orcas appearance will be one of her last.

“I always admired Toby Saks for how she ran the Seattle festival, and I tried to emulate how her artists were treated,” Friedmann said.

Friedmann’s mom, oboist Laila Storch, will be giving several pre- and post-concert lectures on German composers Robert and Clara Schumann.

“My mom is so full of information, it’s amazing,” Friedmann said. “I admire her ability to know this history.”

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Robert’s birth. While he is revered for his piano compositions, his wife Clara was a musician and composer in her own right. Friedmann and Jon will be performing one of Clara’s pieces.

“It’s a large, lengthy work,” she said. “It’s rare for us to perform together, just the two of us. It’s even rarer for me to be playing the violin. It’s a passionate, romantic piano and violin work.”

In return for performing world-class music on Orcas, the artists receive after-concert meals prepared by a dedicated corps of volunteers. Each group leader brings a crew to whip up scrumptious lunches and dinners. Friedmann and Jon introduced that aspect after recalling all the times they played their hearts out at a concert and then searched the area for a place to eat.

A legion of other volunteers support the festival by doing everything from flower arrangements, hosting musicians in their homes, taking photographs, and helping with administrative tasks.

As the festival nears, Friedmann is feeling the anticipation.

“Every year I struggle to develop programs that I am excited about, and when I finally figure it all out, I feel really good,” she said. “I know when it’s going to work because I feel excited about it. Once again, we will have a festival that everyone will enjoy. We’ll have new experiences with new artists, and wonderful meetings with old artists.”

Tickets for the 2010 Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival

All Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival concerts are held at Orcas Center. For more information and to buy tickets, visit or call 376-6636.

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