The Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival will be offering six concerts of inspiring live music this June, after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic.
Loyal concertgoers will find the impeccable musicianship and electrifying performances they’ve come to expect since the festival was launched in 1996. They’ll also see some changes, including a new concert venue.
Festival Artistic Director Kevin Krentz said he is exhilarated to be gathering musicians and planning concerts after the long break.
“We’re really, really looking forward to returning to the celebratory feeling of everyone being together after two years off,” Festival Executive Director Rebecca Lundquist said.
Audiences will see familiar faces on stage, including Krentz on cello, but that stage will look different. This year, concerts will be at the Twisp Terrace Lodge, which provides a beautiful space, with high ceilings, a dramatic wall of windows and great acoustics, Krentz said.
Krentz and the festival board considered about 20 new venues, and Krentz and his wife, cellist Haeyoon Shin Krentz, played their instruments to test sound quality and ambience at half a dozen finalists, Krentz said.
“A single note must be beautiful,” Krentz said. “The acoustics at Twisp Terrace Lodge were beautiful from the start.” The more intimate space lends exquisite detail to the sound, he said. Another attraction of the space is its climate-controlled environment, Lundquist said.
In addition to the change in venue, the festival has revamped the concert schedule. This year, they’re offering a total of six concerts for two consecutive weeks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each week, the Thursday and Saturday concerts will be completely different, offering four unique programs. Each Friday concert will combine selections from the other two nights that week, Krentz said.
The change in schedule will give people more opportunities to experience varied selections of music. It will also accommodate concert-goers in the new venue, which has a smaller capacity than the previous location, Krentz said.
Krentz is still assembling the roster of musicians. He’s planning strings and piano, plus a “flavor instrument” such as a woodwind or percussion. Returning musicians include Mikhail Shmidt on violin, Zhenni Li on piano, and Christine Grossman on viola.
Krentz vows to keep the festival’s tradition of featuring virtuosic musicians who are passionate about the music – but who are approachable and don’t take themselves too seriously, he said.
Krentz is programming chamber music masterworks that allow the musicians to shine in soloistic roles. There will also be some contemporary repertoire, including arrangements of Scandinavian folk tunes by the Danish String Quartet, which captivated Festival audiences several years ago.
The festival will also continue its outreach to up-and-coming talents, but with a different focus this year. In the past, the festival brought in a quartet of university-level musicians who performed throughout the valley and often worked with local music students.
This year, the festival will focus on an internship program for people studying to be stage managers and lighting and sound technicians. The college-level students will work with the festival’s professional staff to learn behind-the-scenes technical skills, Lundquist said.
While they hope to be able to offer informal concerts at different locations throughout the valley, they’re holding off on making firm plans because of the uncertainty about COVID restrictions, Lundquist said.
Lundquist and the board are also exploring ways for people to listen to the concert outside on the grounds at Twisp Terrace Lodge, for those who want a less formal outdoor experience or who aren’t comfortable being in an indoor setting.
Twisp Terrace Lodge proprietors Eric and Beth Blank will be offering a delectable boxed dinner that people can order for a pre-concert picnic, Lundquist said.
Lundquist has been with the festival since 2015, as summer festival director and volunteer coordinator, among other roles. She was named executive director by the board this month.
Liz and Howard Johnson, who owned Signal Hill Ranch, where the festival was held since 2009, have moved out of the area, Lundquist said. The Johnsons devoted years of professionalism and energy to the festival. Liz was executive director and Howard designed acoustical enhancements for the festival barn and implemented many other innovations at the venue.
“The work they have put into the festival, cultivating a great relationship with donors, elevating the concert experience for our attendees, and building a magnificent board, has put us in the best position possible as we transition into this next phase,” Lundquist said . “We will miss them.”
This year’s festival will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 16, 17 and 18, and June 23, 24 and 25. Tickets will be available on the music festival website at methowmusicfestival.org in early April.