Clallam-born chamber music festival set to return

Richard O’Neill, the Grammy-winning violist originally from Sequim, is joining co-artistic director James Garlick in bringing back Music on the Strait, the chamber music festival at Peninsula College this summer.

The lineup of five live concerts, one world premiere and 12 performing artists has just been announced for the festival at the college’s Maier Performance Hall.

While all of the concerts — including a recital and author talk by New York City-based pianist Jeremy Denk — will be in person, music lovers who aren’t able to attend can watch at home, as each event will be livestreamed via

The nonprofit festival will again run two weekends: Aug. 26, 27 and 28 and Sept. 2 and 3, while information about tickets, concert programs and artists can be found at The site also has details about discounted tickets for donors, which were available to contributors on July 1.

Music on the Strait tickets went on sale to the general public July 20.

O’Neill and internationally known violinist James Garlick, who grew up in Port Angeles, have invited a variety of new and returning performers to this fourth festival.

When asked what he looks forward to most, O’Neill immediately replied that playing the world premiere of a duo for violin and viola by Paul Seiko Chihara is it. Chihara, 83 and well-known for his movie scores and classical works, will be in attendance, “and I’m thrilled,” O’Neill said.

Born in Seattle, Chihara was among the thousands of young children incarcerated with their families in camps during World War II. He spent three years of his childhood confined at Minidoka, Idaho.

After the war, Chihara went on to high school and then to the University of Washington and Cornell University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature; he then served as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the San Francisco Ballet, among other positions. His many works include commissions from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony and the London Symphony.

Newcomers to Music on the Strait (MOTS) also include pianist George Li, silver medalist in the international Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, who will appear Aug. 27. The Turkish cellist Efe Baltacıgil, who joined Garlick for a day of music at Port Angeles’ Dry Creek Elementary School last year, will also take the Maier Hall stage, as will violist David Auerbach of the Minnesota Orchestra and Music on the Strait’s first flute soloist, Demarre McGill.

“He is one of the greatest flautists of his generation,” Garlick said of McGill, who is principal flute with the Seattle Symphony. McGill will appear on opening night, Aug. 26, in a program of music by Debussy and Amy Beach, plus Cesar Franck’s fiery Piano Quintet.

Garlick and O’Neill have similar admiration for Denk, the MacArthur “genius” grant recipient who has just published “Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons.” The best-selling book, in which the pianist remembers his teachers as well as the struggles of loving classical music as a kid, gets its title from the device — “every good boy does fine” — that helps new players learn the E, G, B, D, F notes on the treble clef.

Photo by Josh Goleman / Pianist and best-selling author Jeremy Denk will appear at this summer's Music on the Strait festival.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Denk will give a recital and reading from his memoir, including a performance of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata with O’Neill on viola.

“This will be a musical afternoon like no other,” Garlick said.

Denk joins five other artists returning to Music on the Strait: violinists Kyu-Young Kim and Elisa Barston, Metropolitan Opera oboist Nathan Hughes and Icelandic-American cellist Saeunn Thorsteindottir.

Also coming back to Port Angeles after two years away: pianist, educator and Classic KING-FM announcer Lisa Bergman. She’s creating short pre-concert lectures for Aug. 26 and 27 and Sept. 2 and 3.

As with every year since MOTS’ 2018 debut, there’s a commemorative poster by a local artist. 2022’s poster features a painting by the late Dorothea Morgan of Port Angeles, a devoted supporter of the arts until her passing in 2019 at age 94.

“The legacies of Dorothea Morgan, as well as the generous contributions of Deborah and Phil Morgan-Ellis, have immeasurably enriched the arts community of the Olympic Peninsula, and MOTS is looking forward to honoring Morgan’s life and work in this year’s poster,” said Garlick.

O’Neill, for his part, added that he feels a deep connection to the Olympic Peninsula.

“We are honored and excited to bring some of our favorite music and musicians to Port Angeles every summer,” he said.

“With the return to live music in full swing across the world, we look forward to having people join us.”