Sound the horns | Chamber music celebrates 25 years

When Aloysia Friedmann decided to orchestrate the first Orcas chamber music festival, she knew it would be well received.

Now, 25 years later, it is an enduring island institution with a board of directors, full staff and a legion of volunteers dedicated to keeping the festival going strong in perpetuity.

”Aloysia never doubted it — everyone else around her did but she never did,” said Jon Kimura Parker, pianist, husband of Friedmann and Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival artistic advisor. “We got so lucky that it just so happened that Aloysia had a family connection with Orcas Island and it was the place she fell in love with early in her life. One of the things that I don’t think we quite appreciated about Orcas until Aloysia started asking people for help was how much the community would embrace an event with such high standards. The community has been so behind it from the beginning and there is no way we could have predicted that.”

The 25th season will run from Aug. 4 to 20 with intimate live and streamed indoor concerts at Orcas Center, free outdoor events at the Stage on the Village Green and a concert on Lopez Island. Titles include “A Night at the Opera,” “Czech, Please!” and “French Connection,” which will highlight the visual art of local Martha Farish. For a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets, visit

“Twenty-five years is an absolute accomplishment,” said Friedmann, who is the artistic director as well as a violinist and violist. “It is fully established with the other great chamber music festivals in the country. In the beginning, I had to really talk it up. Now artists are begging to be a part of it.”

This year also marks the festival’s return to its full format after only live-streaming in 2020 and presenting a hybrid event last year. Friedmann and Parker are particularly enthusiastic about the outdoor community offerings in the Village Green.

“Our free concerts will be exceptional in terms of the artists performing and the sound equipment,” Friedmann said.

On Aug. 5, Time for Three — two violinists and a bass player — will perform with the Sempre Sisters, a string duo, starting at 5:30 p.m.

“They have a really engaging way with music,” said Parker. “It feels more casual than a typical chamber music concert.”

On Aug. 14 at 3 p.m., “Big Band Extravaganza” will feature trumpeter Jens Lindemann, the OICMF Big Band and Parker on the piano, playing a version of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” that Orcas audiences have never heard.

“It (the song) is now part of the public domain, which means it’s free. Jens Lindemann got together with an arranger friend and wrote an arrangement for piano and big band. It is spectacular. People go crazy for it,” Parker said.

Island families can attend a free children’s concert on Aug. 10 at 1 p.m. in the Madrona Room of Orcas Center with a presentation of “Ferdinand the Bull.” Including the next generation of chamber music lovers has always been important to Friedmann.

“Over the years, I have tried to honor our relationships and families between the artists – this year we have artists bringing their entire families with them,” she said.

In reflecting on her decades of coordinating the festival, Friedmann says, “One might think every year gets a little easier but the challenges change. It’s still a lot of hard work to make it great, and I do think my programming is exceptional. I am always grateful to everyone who surrounds us. We have a hardworking staff and an outstanding board. They have the made organization solid and strong — fiscally and creatively.”

Thanks to legacy gifts and community backing, Parker says the festival “should continue forever and forever.”

“It’s very special,” he said. “There is a commitment on Orcas for things to be done well.”

Added Friedmann: “I have 25 more years of creative ideas, but for the health of the festival, I will be looking at a beautiful succession plan at some point in the future. Whoever steps into my shoes will treat it the way I have. This festival is here to stay and we’ll have to gracefully pass on the baton at some future time.”