COVID-19 considerations force cancellation
The Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival came back strong from the 2014 wildfires that forced its cancellation that year. In 2015, the Twisp River Fire was a threat the festival survived. And the festival successfully shifted its schedule last season to avoid late-summer smoke.
But like so major events on the valley’s calendar this year, the annual 10-day celebration of world-class chamber music fell victim to the coronavirus and has been canceled for 2020.
The festival’s board of directors met Saturday (May 2) — some in person, properly distanced, others remotely — and came to what was ultimately a predictable decision, Executive Director Liz Johnson said in a press release.
“Naturally we are very saddened and disappointed,” Johnson said in the release. “But after Gov. Inslee extended the stay-at-home order to May 31, it was inevitable.”
Johnson also noted that it was probable that logistics would have caused problems for the performers in any event. “We’re not even sure some of them [the artists] could have gotten flights,” she said.
Johnson also pointed out that the festival audiences’ age demographics tend toward people who are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease.
The festival, scheduled for June 18-27, would have celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Johnson said the quarter-century celebration will just have to be put off until 2021.
Johnson said all seven board members participated in the Saturday meeting as well as artistic director Kevin Krentz. Although the circumstances indicated a certain outcome, Johnson said it was important for each board director to have their say — “even though I knew in my heart for several weeks” that cancellation was likely.
Last year, the festival dates were scheduled in June, earlier than in the past, to avoid possible wildfire smoke later in the summer. Between the cancellation of 2014 and 2018, Johnson said, “three out of those four years we had terrible problems with fire and smoke” in July and August.
Growth and stability
Johnson said the festival is financially stable. “After the Carlton Complex Fire of 2014 forced the first-ever cancellation of the summer concerts, the festival started a rainy day fund and now has several months’ worth of expenses in the bank,” Johnson said. “We’ve been managing our expenses tightly ever since this thing broke in mid-March. We’ll be OK.”
Johnson took over as executive director in 2015, after holding that position on an interim basis since 2014. She and her husband, Howard, are also hosts of the annual event at their Signal Hill Ranch, off of Highway 20 between Twisp and Winthrop.
The festival got its start in 1996 in a meadow near Mazama. Violinist John Konigsmark organized the outdoor concerts with co-founder Dr. Gerald Sparling. Pianist Lisa Bergman became the artistic director in 2003 and began bringing renowned performers to the valley. Krentz, an accomplished cellist, succeeded her as artistic director in 2008.
In recent years the festival’s offerings have included free “outreach” concerts at various locations around the valley, and free admission to rehearsals by Center Stage performers. The festival has also hosted an annual Valentine’s Day concert as a fundraiser.
The festival moved to Signal Hill Ranch in 2009, where performers and audiences enjoy a professionally designed musical environment in a scenic setting.