The 20th edition of the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival had been scheduled for last year, and the symmetry would have been perfect: Celebrating 20 years of music in 2020.
You know what happened with that: The 2020 festival was canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
That potential 2020 symmetry is gone, but the festival returns to the mid-valley this week, holding its 20th edition in a new location – Tyee Wine Cellars, south of Corvallis. This year’s season features four concerts, scheduled for July 30 and Aug. 1, 6 and 8. (See the bottom of this story for concert and ticket details.)
Even though the pandemic has relented enough to allow the festival to resume this year, it’s played a role in shaping this year’s season, as festival founder Erik Peterson explained. For starters, he said, as organizers carefully tracked the number of COVID-19 cases, they thought it would be best to push the 2021 festival, usually held in June, to the end of July, “just to be as safe as possible for the audience and musicians.”
That switch also facilitated another big change for the festival: This year, all four concerts will be held outdoors. Peterson reached out to Tyee’s Margy Buchanan, who was immediately enthusiastic. “She just jumped right on board and said, ‘Yeah, this would be great. Let’s do it.’”
Once the venue was settled, Peterson turned his attention to building this year’s program, and his first priority was the safety of the musicians. That prompted him to program this year’s festival in a different way.
“Usually, in the past, I would pick pieces and we’d have various people coming in and out of those groups to perform them,” he said, but that’s an approach that maximizes the contacts among a wide circle of musicians – and potentially could increase the risk of COVID transmission.
For this year’s festival, Peterson sought to feature one set group of musicians for each concert. It worked like this: Peterson would approach a musician he wanted to engage for the festival and would ask this question: “Who would you feel comfortable playing with?” He then would ask the musicians what pieces they wanted to play, and gave them wide latitude in making their choices, although he encouraged them to consider diversity among composers.
The process virtually ensured that some of his musicians would select works Peterson had never heard of beforehand, and he was fine with that.
For example: When Peterson asked pianist Monica Ohuchi, a festival favorite, whom she wanted to play with at the festival, her answer was quick: Her husband, violist Kenji Bunch. And she wanted to play “BQE” (“Brooklyn-Queens Expressway”), a work by Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara. (By the way, Uehara was a performer at the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.)
Here’s another example: Peterson didn’t know about Emilie Mayer’s String Quartet No. 1 until violinist Jessica Lambert and cellist Anne Ridlington brought it to his attention; now, the work is on the program for this year’s festival.
Other times, though, Peterson finds works by lesser-known or contemporary composers through his own research or listening – and then waits for opportunities to showcase them. For example, two works by female composers, “Shades” by Daijana Wallace and “Moerae” by Mary Kouyoumdjian, are on the program for the festival’s Aug. 6 concert. But Peterson also has programmed Beethoven’s well-known Kreutzer Sonata as part of that concert, and he said Chintimini audiences are sophisticated enough to enjoy that blend of familiar and newer works:
“One thing that I feel with Chinitimini is that we have an audience that loves the classic chamber music but is also willing to come in and try new things and listen to new things and experience music in a different way sometimes.”
The drive to create that experience, for musicians and audiences alike, has been at the heart of the festival since its first notes sounded in 2000. Peterson still feels that drive today.
“I look at every year as an opportunity to come together, musicians and audiences, to share great music, to learn more about music, and to learn more about each other,” he said. “I never really look further.”
Chintimini concert schedule
All concerts are at Tyee Wine Cellars, 26335 Greenberry Road south of Corvallis.
Tickets are $25 for a single concert; $90 for the series. Students are free. Click here for ticket information.
Friday, July 30, 6 p.m.: “Asian Joy”
Hiromi Uehara, “BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway)”
Other selections to be announced from the stage.
Performers: Kenji Bunch, viola; Monica Ohuchi, piano
Sunday, Aug. 1, 2 p.m.: “Takes Two to Tango”
Franz Schubert, Arpeggione Sonata
Manuel De Falla: Siete Canciones Espanolas; Primera Danza Espanonola
Astor Piazolla: “Inverno Porteno;” “Café 1930”
Performers: Victoria Wolff, cello; Cameron O’Connor, guitar
Friday, Aug. 6, 6 p.m.: “Fates”
Daijana Wallace, “Shades”
Mary Kouyoumdjian, ”Moerae”
Ludwig van Beethoven: Kreutzer Sonata
Performers: Erik Peterson, violin; Noah Seitz, cello; Sunghee Kim, piano
Sunday, Aug. 8, 2 p.m.: “Time to Get Bax to Bingen”
Emilie Mayer, String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 14
Hildegard von Bingen: Three Antiphons (arranged for string quartet by Mariann Pfau)
Arnold Bax: Oboe Quintet
Performers: Lara Wickes, oboe; Jessica Lambert and Matthew Fuller, violins; Lilli Manis, viola; Anne Ridlington, cello