It began with a handful of musicians and just a few concerts.
Twenty years later, the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival spans more than two weeks and employs a year-round staff.
“It’s pretty awesome to think how far we have come,” said founder and artistic director Aloysia Friedmann. “It’s been so well received by the community and on an international scale.”
The festival will run Aug. 5 to 20 and is featuring four of the six original artists from the very first festival: Friedmann, who plays the violin and viola, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist William Preucil and cellist Desmond Hoebig.
There are still a few tickets remaining for the 2017 season, which includes such presentations as “Mad About Mendelssohn,” “Schubert’s Trout Quintet,” “Sax and Violins!” and “Orcas-trations: Miró and Friends.” For a full lineup, visit www.orcascenter.org.
“Know the Score” lectures will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. Francis Catholic Church and include a trip to the dress rehearsal for the concert being discussed. Saturday, Aug. 5: “Mad About Mendelssohn,” Lisa Bergman; Wednesday, Aug. 9: “Trout Quintet,” Svend Rønning; Friday, Aug. 11: “Sax and Violins!” Jonathan Pasternack; Monday, Aug. 14: “Orcas-trations – Miró & Friends,” Jeffrey Kahane; Saturday, Aug. 19: “Earthrise,” Melinda Bargreen.
The Robert Henigson Concert on the Village Green: Rhapsody in Blue is a free event for the community on Sunday, Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. Part one contrasts the brilliance of Vivaldi’s concerto writing, featuring festival favorite Anne Martindale Williams and Orcas Island’s own Oliver Aldort, and Gershwin’s jazzier approach to the piano concerto with Jon Kimura Parker as soloist in “Rhapsody in Blue.” In Part 2, Parker is joined by former “The Police” drummer Stewart Copeland and three colleagues in “Off The Score,” a unique take on everything from classical and blues to jazz and rock. Copeland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the The Police in 2003. In 2016, he was ranked 10th on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.”
“It’s quite a gift to the entire island,” said Friedmann. “Anyone who wants to come to the village green will be treated to an exciting, upbeat, remarkable program.”
A children’s concert, “Scenes from Childhood” will be presented on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. on the Orcas Center Main Stage. This program of musical stories includes “Owl and the Moon,” featuring Rachel Buchman as narrator. She also leads children dancing to Schumann’s Kinderszenen performed by pianist Jeffrey Kahane. Other artists participating are clarinetist Michael Collins, violinist Martin Chalifour and cellist Oliver Aldort. Seniors can enjoy an open rehearsal of one of the festival concerts on Friday, Aug. 11 at 1 p.m. It is a chance to hear the playing, discussing, and interpreting that is the heart of what makes chamber music performances so special and collaborative. Both of these concerts are free but tickets are required at www.orcascenter.org.
In the Aug. 19–20 final offering of the festival, “Earthrise,” festival executive director Anita Orne will play with the Miró Quartet on a piece of music written by Jake Heggie in honor of former astronaut William Anders, who took the iconic photo of planet Earth from the moon during the Apollo 8 mission. Fiber artist Geoffrey Shilling has woven 10 panels in homage to the photo; they will hang behind the musicians. Orne will be playing the musical saw for this piece. “Earthrise” will also be performed on Lopez on Aug. 18. Also a festival first: new guest violinist Benjamin Beilman joins Jon Kimura Parker in the Schubert “Fantasie.” The festival concludes in grand fashion with Tchaikovsky’s triumphant “Souvenir of Florence!”
“I am artistically proud that I have been able to bring some of the world’s most incredible musicians to Orcas. It’s really pretty impressive – from composers to unusual instruments to dancers to film. I never dreamt these artists would step foot in our backyard,” said Friedmann. “The festival has thrived and been embraced by the community … at some point, it took on a life of its own.”