Violist Richard O’Neill is expanding his local music festival this summer. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz

Violist Richard O’Neill is expanding his local music festival this summer. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz

Music on the Strait festival grows to two weekends this summer

Richard O’Neill, the Sequim-bred musician who is known around the world, has expanded his local music festival.

Music on the Strait, a chamber music series that made its debut last summer, is growing from one weekend to two this year. The nonprofit festival, operating under the Port Angeles Symphony umbrella, will have five performances including a pay-what-you-wish community concert finale.

O’Neill and Port Angeles-born violinist James Garlick, as co-artistic directors, have assembled the players for recitals and concerts Aug. 23-25 and Aug. 30-31 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and at Peninsula College’s Maier Hall. Ticket packages will go on sale June 20; then, on July 1, single tickets will be available via MusicontheStrait.com.

“We were so blown away by the community response last year,” said Garlick. He added that all of the inaugural Music on the Strait events sold out — most of them weeks in advance.

This year’s quintet of performances includes four evenings, Aug. 23, 24, 30 and 31, plus a matinee with guest artists Stefan Jackiw and Orion Weiss on Aug. 25. Each performance will have a pre-concert talk by Lisa Bergman, a pianist, music scholar and speaker from Seattle’s KING-FM. Bergman gave these talks last year too, and “people loved her,” said Garlick.

Maier Hall is a performance space with acoustics ideal for chamber music, Garlick said — and he expects its 130 seats to fill fast again. Holy Trinity Lutheran is larger, with a capacity of 350, so it works for the community concert showcasing all of the festival’s musicians.

Garlick, a violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra who travels to places such as Cuba and South Africa, has kept strong ties to the Port Angeles Symphony, the orchestra in which he grew up. He and O’Neill, a violist, used to play duets while taking the MV Coho ferry to music lessons in Victoria, B.C.

Today O’Neill lives in Southern California but travels almost constantly, playing with orchestras from South Korea to New York City. He also, like Garlick, performed as a guest soloist with the Port Angeles Symphony earlier this year.

Both will play in their summer festival alongside equally peripatetic pianist Weiss and violinist Jackiw (pronounced jah-keev). The four men have been friends and collaborators for years, with connections going back to their student days at New York City’s Juilliard School.

Also set to participate in the second annual Music on the Strait: double-bassist Stephen Schermer, a Port Angeles-raised musician who plays with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra in Seattle; violinist Kyu-Young Kim, artistic director and principal violinist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; violist Maiya Papach, also from St. Paul; Korean-Canadian clarinetist Yoonah Kim, who is based in New York City, and Icelandic cellist and University of Washington music professor Saeunn Thorsteindottir.

Ani Aznavoorian, the cellist who performed in the first Music on the Strait festival, will return this year, as will Lisa Bergman, the classical music scholar and speaker who will give pre-concert talks about the featured music.

These artists “are great collaborators,” Garlick said, “who love working together and sharing each other’s energy … They are also some of the most interesting and insightful interpreters of chamber music.”

O’Neill, for his part, added that the works chosen for the festival range from beloved masterpieces to more recent groundbreaking music.

Music on the Strait’s opening weekend brings Schubert’s cello quintet, a piece Garlick calls “just transcendent;” a little-known piece by the Romantic composer Amy Beach, and Shostakovich’s cello sonata featuring Aznavoorian.

The fest’s second and final weekend promises Schubert’s famous Trout Quintet, Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet and two 20th century masterpieces: “Different Trains” by Steve Reich and the “Quartet for the End of Time” by Olivier Messiaen. That work, written in 1941 while the French composer was in a German prisoner of war camp, is an unusual blend of clarinet, violin, piano and cello.

“It is so meaningful to both James and myself,” said O’Neill, “to share this music with the community that gave us our beginnings. I think that the audience will really love both the repertoire and the roster of amazing artists that have signed on.”

Jackiw, for his part, said he wanted to fly out to this part of the country not only to play the pieces he loves — the Messiaen and Reich are “a powerful, emotional ride” — but also to make music with people who are dear to him.

Garlick and O’Neill “are two of my favorite musicians and people in the world,” he said.

“I’ll also be playing Brahms’ clarinet quintet, one of my desert island pieces, and it will be all the more special for me because the clarinetist in this performance, Yoonah Kim, also happens to be my fiancée.”

Music on the Strait continues to rely on sponsors, Garlick said, adding that the festival got started only because there were donors who believed in it. This year, those who contribute $250 or more will enjoy early access to single tickets as of June 20, and a commemorative festival poster designed by Tom Eykemans, a Seattle artist who is from Port Angeles.

Single tickets will be $35 — or $5 for students — at MusicontheStrait.com. Subscriptions including all four concerts in Maier Hall are $105, a 25 percent discount off the single-ticket price.

For the Community Concert finale at 7 p.m. Aug. 31, tickets will be available at the door of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Lopez Ave. It’ll be open seating and admission by donation, Garlick said. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

He added that he’s grateful to the Port Angeles Symphony and music director-conductor Jonathan Pasternack for their support.

“It’s great to see arts organizations working together,” he said.

“The more we all do, the more it will benefit the town.”

Lisa Bergman will return for pre-concert talks at this summer’s Music on the Strait festival. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz

Lisa Bergman will return for pre-concert talks at this summer’s Music on the Strait festival. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz

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