New venue, more options — and some familiar faces
String and piano virtuosos with the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival perform revered chamber works and exciting new music in six concerts this month, after a three-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Long-time festival-goers will recognize returning musicians Tanya Gabrielian and Zhenni Li-Cohen on piano, Mikhail Shmidt and Grace Park on violin, Mara Gearman on viola, and festival Artistic Director Kevin Krentz on cello. The roster also includes dazzling players who’ll be appearing on the Methow stage for the first time.
Also new this year is a change in venue. The festival will be at the Twisp Terrace Lodge, in an intimate setting with high ceilings, a dramatic wall of windows, and great acoustics. “It sounds beautiful in there — we’re so excited,” Krentz said.
Concerts are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 16, 17 and 18 and June 23, 24 and 25. Grounds open at 5 p.m., with a pre-concert lecture and recital at 6:30 p.m. and the Centerstage concert at 7:30 p.m. The traditional afterglow party, where audience members can meet the musicians, will follow each concert.
The concerts feature masterworks by Mozart, Grieg and Debussy, and music for strings and piano by Shostakovich, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Fauré. There’s also sensational music by lesser-known composers, including cellist Giovanni Sollima and minimalist composer Terry Riley. In his Credo for String Quartet, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Kevin Puts captures the solace he drew from scenery along a jogging path and from watching a mother teach her child to dance.
Several of the pieces draw on folk influences, such as arrangements of traditional Scandinavian music by the Danish String Quartet and a duo for violin and cello by Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.
The festival is offering an “Alla Natura” option, where people can rent individual high-fidelity headphones and enjoy an immersive concert experience from the meadow outside the concert hall. The headphones transmit the sound live via radio signals, enveloping listeners in their own world of chamber music while blocking extraneous noises. Outdoor concertgoers will be able to watch a live feed of the performance on an outdoor screen.
The outdoor option lets the festival welcome a larger audience (the concerts have historically sold out) and provides a comfortable alternative during COVID. The headsets will also be available to indoor audience members who want additional amplification.
Each week, the Thursday and Saturday concerts will have different programs, and the Friday concerts will present a selection of music from those two programs.
The festival is also putting a new spin on its long tradition of pairing music and visual art. This season, in addition to an art exhibit with works for sale, artists will be creating art inspired by the music as they listen to the concerts outside the lodge. Concert-goers will have the opportunity to observe the creative process.
Open rehearsals, lectures
In addition to the evening concerts, there are free, open rehearsals each concert morning, which provide a fascinating glimpse into how the performances come together.
The festival has always had an educational component. In the past, they’ve sponsored young musicians who’ve given informal concerts around the valley and coached local musicians. This year, the festival has an internship program for sound and light technicians and stage managers to help them master the behind-the-scenes magic that’s key to a successful chamber music festival.
Twisp Terrace Lodge owners Eric and Beth Blank are offering a selection of sandwiches, cheeses and charcuterie for pre-order, which people can enjoy before the concert or — if they have an Alla Natura ticket — during the performance.
Picnics must be ordered in advance and people cannot bring their own food or beverages to the venue. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase at each concert.
Indoor tickets are $40 and outdoor (Alla Natura) tickets are $25. For information about the program and to purchase tickets and order a picnic or wine, go to methowmusicfestival.org.