The year of the cello

The Miro Quartet

Aloysia Friedmann says her annual music festival is the “greatest gift I can imagine.”

“I get to explore ideas and express myself,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of the people behind me and this festival: our board, our board leaders, our executive director, our office staff and the entire community. The number of volunteers who still want to be a part of this is incredible.”

The 18th annual Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival runs Aug. 6 through 22.  Artistic Director Friedmann, who is a violinist and violist, and her husband Jon Kimura Parker, artistic advisor and pianist, welcome a long list of renowned musicians to Orcas Island every year.

The 2015 season includes Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Timothy McAllister performing music by Gershwin and Metropolitan Opera’s principal oboist Nathan Hughes bringing his warmth of sound to Mozart. Conductor James Paul leads William Walton’s “Façade – An Entertainment,” narrated by Adam Stern.

“It takes someone who can really speak these words well,” Friedmann said. “It’s almost like rapping – the words are said quickly, to a rhythm.”

Fresh from the recording studio, Orli Shaham and Parker will perform John Adam’s transformative

“Hallelujah Junction” for two pianos.  Audiences will be transported to Brazil as eight cellists fill the stage to perform Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras, with soprano Sharon Abreu.

“This the year of the cello,” Friedmann said.

The Bulgarian duo of pianist Viktor Valkov and cellist Lachezar Kostov are returning to the festival. Friedmann has coined them “the bad boys of Bulgaria.” Also coming back is one of America’s highest profile string quartets: the Miró Quartet. Opening and closing weekends will feature Rachmaninoff’s music performed on two Steinways, pairing Parker with Valkov and Shaham. Also on the line-up are masterworks of Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schönberg’s haunting “Verklärte Nacht.”

Pre-concert lectures and Music Lovers Seminars are also presented for each concert pair. The programs feature highly regarded lecturers and guest artists.

Festival musicians will also be performing free hamlet concerts at three community centers throughout Orcas Island on Aug. 16, giving guests an up-close glimpse of the festival repertoire. A Children’s Concert on Aug. 12 features the “Story of Babar,” and will be performed by music educator Rachel Buchman and Valkov.

Students of all ages can learn focused technique through tune-up sessions and master classes with festival artists. An open rehearsal for seniors on Aug. 21 is a special and unique behind the scenes performance – and a musical way to say thank you!

Following the evening concerts, patrons are invited to attend post-concert receptions, where they’ll be greeted with cocktail cuisine and Thurston Wolfe wine, and the rare opportunity to mingle with the musicians.

For the complete concert schedule and to purchase tickets, visit If you have any questions, call the OICMF office at 376-6636.

“This is going to be three weeks of great concerts, fabulous musicians and new and returning artists,” Friedmann said. “And even as we speak, there are events that are being developed for the festival.”

This season also marks the first festival under the leadership of new Executive Director Leslie Rae Schmitz.

“It’s been joyful to be the facilitator of this extraordinary music, talent and artistic vision,” she said. “There is such a commitment to ensuring that the festival remains a cultural centerpiece for this island.”

Schmitz and Friedmann are thrilled to be continuing the legacy of the chamber music festival.

“We’ve received some wonderful financial gifts and endowments, and we are going to be thoughtful in moving forward with those,” Friedmann said.