The Bellingham Festival of Music opened this weekend in Bellingham with a concert featuring pianist Jeremy Denk performing a Mozart Piano Concerto. This evening, the second in the two-week series of performances takes place with the renown violinist, Joshua Bell, soloing in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14. To have two concert artists of this caliber playing nearly back to back in a city the size of Bellingham is one of the reasons the Bellingham Festival is so incredible.
The Festival, now in its 19th season, is, in fact one of the reasons that my husband and I chose Bellingham when we decided to relocate from Los Angeles. Bellingham has many amazing amenities and for us, the Festival was one of the most amazing. Each year, musicians occupying prinicipal chairs from major orchestras around the country–including former New York Philharmonic prinicpal oboist Joseph Robinson– come to Bellingham to be part of the Festival’s orchestra led by conductor Michael Palmer.
And, each year, maestro Palmer does an astounding job of bringing these players together with a short amount of rehearsal time to become one of America’s finest festival orchestras. To top it off, world-class soloists, such as Bell and Denk this year, and pianists Garrick Ohlssen and Horacio Gutierrez, violinist Stefan Jackiw and vocalists Heidi Murphy-Grant, Josie Perez and Katie Van Kooten, appear with the orchestra as guest artists. The Festival is a summer treat for Bellinghamsters and visitors alike who, over the years, have made it part of their summer schedule. My husband and I are among them. Many of the concerts take place at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center, just a short walk from my studio. On more than one occasion, when sitting in the audience, I have to remind myself that I’m in Bellingham listening to this outstanding music and not in a concert hall in Seattle or New York or Los Angeles.Consequently, I try to support the Festival however I can. This year, I was among many donors to its annual fund-raising auction. I gladly gave a family group portrait as part of the evening’s offerings. And I was lucky enough to join other Festival supporters and musicians for a Fourth of July cruise in Bellingham Bay, courtesy of two other auction donors, Carol and Bob Snowball. The Snowballs hosted 18 of us on their beautiful boat. With clear skies, calm waters and warm temperatures, the conditions, and the company couldn’t have been more perfect.
Like myself and the Snowballs, the Festival brings terrific music to our doorstep and we are grateful for it.
You can learn more about the Bellingham Festival of Music at its website: www.bellinghamfestival.org. Hope to see you at a concert!