By Marcy Stamper
Fans of chamber music wouldn’t be surprised to hear a string quartet, but fans of the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival have learned that the festival is not inhibited by traditional labels.
This year’s Valentine concert on Feb. 13 is no exception — the accomplished string quartet will be paired with a stunning five-octave marimba and a vibraphone.
Two original compositions by marimba virtuoso Mark Goodenberger will be featured in the concert, along with classic repertoire by Franz Schubert and Sergei Rachmaninov.
Goodenberger, a professor at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, wrote Schism for solo marimba when he was living hours away from his young daughters. The piece is his musical rumination on the varied landscapes of the Northwest that he experienced on his weekly drives to see his family. He describes it as “a haunting reflection on the loneliness of separation.”
Goodenberger and violinist Grace Park team up in Goodenberger’s Phantom Train for violin and vibraphone, which depicts a runaway train and the rhythms and whistles that accompany it.
The full ensemble takes the stage in a composition for marimba and string quartet by contemporary composer Andy Akiho that exploits the acoustic possibilities of all the instruments.
Schubert’s powerful and moving string quartet Death and the Maiden and the lyrical Romance from Rachmaninov’s unfinished first quartet round out the evening.
Park and Goodenberger are joined by violist Amber Archibald, who performed in the summer festival several years ago, and by festival artistic director Kevin Krentz, who will play cello with his characteristic passion. Award-winning Serbian violinist Ervin Luka Ses˘ek appears with the other festival musicians for the first time.
These musicians are known for their well-rounded approach to music. Archibald has built on her interest in her Dominican Republic and Panamanian heritage by researching and performing music by African-American, Afro-Latino and Spanish composers. Ses˘ek inspired hundreds of musicians to play on the streets of Belgrade last year to raise money for those affected by devastating flooding there.
Park has premiered compositions by several contemporary composers — including Akiho — and has brought her music to concert halls around the world as well as to inner-city schools. Goodenberger specializes in everything from baroque to contemporary music. His compositions often combine theater, dance, and vaudeville with percussion.
In a tradition that began at the music festival’s Valentine’s Day concert last February, audience members will have an opportunity to contribute their own creativity to the evening by writing original limericks and haikus inspired by the music. The host for the evening, Spokane Public Radio’s Verne Windham, will read a selection of the inventive poetry.
The concert, entitled “Romantic Moods,” is at 7 p.m. at the Merc Playhouse in Twisp. Tickets are available at www.methowmusicfestival.org. The concert organizers remind music lovers that last year’s Valentine’s Day concert sold out two weeks in advance.