Classical music has always impressed me.Â I tend to study the performers while they play. I enjoy seeing the differences between them, the passion and focus of each artist, and how they deliver the emotion of each piece through their craft.
So many talented musicians coming together from diverse backgrounds, sometimes with little rehearsal, under the direction of a masterful conductor, to present timeless pieces that have withstood the test of decades or even centuriesâ€”without a noticeable mistakeâ€”a true feat.
Since 1993, theÂ Bellingham Festival of MusicÂ (BFM or Festival) has done just that with both local and internationally-celebrated guest artists to present the Festival Orchestra and Chorus, creating unforgettable musical experiences for a generation of audiences. This year is extra special. Celebrating their Silver Anniversary season this summer, the natural beauty of Bellingham will be the backdrop for a host of stunning musical performances. Highlights include the premiere of Aaron Jay Kernisâ€™ Fourth Symphony, nine BFM First Performances, and three debuts by guest soloists.
A Proud History
The Festival was Co-founded in 1993 by American conductor and Artistic Director Michael PalmerÂ and renowned cellist, Robert Sylvester (at that time Dean of The College of Fine and Performing Arts and Director of Cultural Affairs of Western Washington University). This year, Palmer celebrates 50 years as a conductor. Each year, talented musicians from all across the United States and Canada, many of whom are principals in orchestras such as New York Philharmonic and the Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta Symphonies, along with well-known soloists and groups, share their craft before sold-out audiences.
The Festival’s dedication to excellence has been noticed and recognized throughout the country. Their art has been aired by NPR and American Public Media. They also received consecutive National Endowment for the Arts grants in 2009 and 2010 due to the quality of the Festival and its value to the national cultural tapestry. We are so fortunate to have such talent just down the street each year.
What to Expect
- There will be seven special guest artistsÂ this season performing with theÂ Festival OrchestraÂ andÂ Chorus.
- All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. atÂ Western Washington University Performing Arts CenterÂ except for the July 8 Chamber by the Bay which begins at 4:00 p.m. at theÂ Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
- Pre-concert talks happen an hour before each performance (except on July 1 and 8). Get your tickets early as some events sell out.
Festival Orchestra and Chorus
The Festival Orchestra is made up of more than 80 accomplished, award-winning musicians who’ve performed all over the world. Many play regularly throughout the Pacific Northwest including Seattle and Vancouver while others are also faculty at prestigious universities across the country and around the world. Some variation of this group will perform a wide range of pieces at each of the live performances scheduled June 30 – July 20, 2018.
Several members will be spotlighted in solo and chamber music performances.Â Principal Cello Steven Thomas and Principal Viola Christian Colberg will take on the solo roles of the Don and Sancho Panza in Richard Straussâ€™ tone poem Don Quixote. Concertmaster Richard Roberts will be the violin soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williamsâ€™ The Lark Ascending, in a performance honoring the late Frances LeCocq, a longtime friend and supporter of the Festival. Other Principal players will take part in the popular Chamber by the Bay concert at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal on Sunday, July 8, 2018, which usually sells out.
The Bellingham Festival Chorus brings together some of the finest singers from Whatcom County who rehearse for more than a month under the direction of Maestro Palmer to polish performances for each seasonâ€™s choral finale, this year on July 20 in a celebratory performance of the PoulencÂ Gloria. Festival audiences appreciate this dedicated group of highly skilled singers willing to donate their time and talent to present choral masterpieces.
2018 Guest Artists
Each guest artist is world-renowned and brings their own rich experience to their work
ViolinistÂ Stefan Jackiw
Saturday, June 30, 2018
Jackiw will perform KorngoldÂ Violin Concerto. He appeared as a soloist with the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, among others. He recentlyÂ toured Australia playing Mendelssohn with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and appeared with the Detroit Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, Philharmonische Orchester Heidelberg, Orquesta SinfĂłnica de Galicia de la Coruna, Dortmunder Philharmoniker, and Tampere Philharmonic.
Sunday,Â July 1, 2018
The Calidore String Quartet will perform a full recital. They regularly perform in the most prestigious venues throughout North America, Europe and Asia such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, Berlin Konzerthaus, Cologne Philharmonie, Seoulâ€™s Kumho Arts Hall and at many significant festivals, including Verbier, Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, Music@Menlo, Rheingau, East Neuk and Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Within two years of their founding, they won grand prizes in virtually all the major U.S. chamber music competitions, including the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, and Yellow Springs competitions and top prizes at the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition and Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition. They are made up of Jeffrey Meyers and Ryan Meehan on violin, Jeremy Berry on viola, and Estelle Choi on cello.
PianistÂ Inon Barnatan
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Isreali pianist Barnatan will performÂ Saint-SaĂ«nsÂ Piano Concerto No. 2. He is a recipient of both a prestigious 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant and Lincoln Centerâ€™s 2015 Martin E. Segal Award, and has debuted with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and Chicago, Baltimore, and Seattle Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the London and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestras.
Cellist Narek HakhnazaryanÂ and West Coast Premiere of Kernis’Â Symphony No. 4Â Chromelodeon
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
At the age of 22, this Armenian cellist won the 2011 gold medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition. He will perform TchaikovskyÂ Rococo Variations. He is knownÂ internationally as one of the finest cellists of his generation. He has performed with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio, NHK Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic orchestras, and with conductors such as Gergiev, Hrusa, Koopman, Neemi JĂ¤rvi, Pletnev, Slatkin, Sokhiev, Robertson, BÄ›lohlĂˇvek, and Guerrero.
This performance also marks the West Coast Premiere of Composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Symphony No. 4Â Chromelodeon.Â Kernis wrote on a joint commission from the Bellingham Festival of Music, New England Conservatory, and the Nashville Symphony.Â Kernis is the winner of the 2002 $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and 2011 Nemmers Award, and serves on the music faculty of Yale University.Â He will be in attendance at the Bellingham performance.
Violinist Simone Porter
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Porter will performÂ ProkofievÂ Violin Concerto No. 1. She made her professional solo debut at age 10 in 1996 with the Seattle Symphony and her international debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London at age 13.Â In the past few years, Porter has debuted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and with renowned conductors, including Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Yannick NĂ©zet-SĂ©guin, Nicholas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot and Donald Runnicles.Â In 2015, Porter was a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Soprano Maria Valdes
Friday, July 20, 2018
Valdes will return to the festival to perform Poulenc:Â Gloria. This past season, the Atlanta, GA native hasÂ debuted with Opera San JosĂ© as Despina inÂ CosĂ¬ fan tutteÂ and Lisette inÂ La rondine as well as a company debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Amore in Gluckâ€™sÂ Orfeo ed Euridice. On the concert stage, Valdes performed Mahlerâ€™sÂ Symphony No. 4Â and Barberâ€™sÂ Knoxville: Summer of 1915Â with the California Symphony. She will also be heard with the Phoenix Symphony as the soprano soloist in Brahmsâ€™sÂ Ein deutsches Requiem.
Planning Your Visit
The Festival has arranged incredible discounts for attendees. Whether you’re from out-of-town or looking for a night out, they have arrangedÂ hotel packagesÂ just for you. Their travel guideÂ is also handy to help you get to Bellingham.
This event is perfect for those exploring classical music for the first time or those who are distinguished enough to hear the quality and perfection of these esteemed musicians and performers. Each performance will be a once-in-a-lifetime event because of the talent amassed for these single live performances. Get tickets now to ensure your front-row seats.