With a luminous octave ‘C’, it was over. Not just the magnificent 50 minute long String Quintet of Franz Schubert, but my season with the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival. The music was of course vital to the experience, but not necessarily central to it. Because chamber music is, above all, about the musicians. How they interact both onstage, in the rehearsal period, and in those many informal moments shared over a simple meal, a glass of wine, and warm evenings on a porch.
I can’t think of a festival where I have felt quite as welcomed and ‘at home’ as I have here. It’s a family affair – husband and wife team Leo Eguchi and Sasha Callahan, Sasha’s mother Susan, and father John; and her sister Eve, and her husband Scott. They have all made this festival so very special, along with their friends, especially winemakers Jay Somers and Ronda Newell-Somers of J. Christopher Wines, who made their extraordinary barrel room available for two entire weekends.
What I love the most about chamber music is that making it well gets you inside of someone’s head – that you’ve never met before, or maybe knew but not very well – in a way that for non-musicians can take years to happen. There’s an intimacy there, and it’s no accident that one of my teachers, the late, great Michael Tree, said that a string quartet is a marriage with four partners. So, I feel extraordinarily lucky that I got to mind-meld with Leo, Sasha, Megumi, Greg, Kenji, Amelia, and Marilyn over these past three weeks. It made my already full and good life an even better place.
Thank you, all, my friends!
Note: click on a photo to see a larger slide show!
Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi.
Viola and wine, not too shabby!
Lovely landscape outside of the J. Christopher tasting room.
The barrel room at J. Christopher Wines.
Megumi Stohs Lewis and Sasha Callahan rehearsing Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins. Photo: Stephanie Noble
Performing Kenji Bunch’s “String Circle”.
Amelia Lukas performing Joan Tower’s “White Water”.
Charles, Greg and Kenji before a concert at J. Christopher Wines.
String Circle plus Eve.
Saying farewell to J. Christopher for this year.
One of our week three venues.
Sasha and Marilyn at Sokol Blosser.
Warming up for Schubert’s great Cello Quinetet at Sokol Blosser.
Sasha and Leo playing Philip Glass at Sokol Blosser.
Wine and chamber music share center stage!
Amelia, Marilyn and Leo at the wrap party.
Meeka and Jesse at the wrap party.
Bromance is in the air! Greg, Charles, Josh, and Leo at the wrap aprty.
Susan and Amelia share a secret at the wrap party.
Toasting Susan for her awesome hosting these past three weeks!
Eve and Sasha, sisters extraordinaire!
Music and wine pairings.
It’s a family affair at this festival!
Our other fantastic week three venue, Elk Cove Vineyards.
Evan Kuhlmann, OSO Assistant principal bassoonist/contrabassoonist has won a highly coveted position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which I was able to confirm with him today. No word on when Evan will begin work in LA. Most position start dates are set at the mutual availability and convenience of both the orchestra and the audition winner. In addition to his work with the Oregon Symphony, Evan is also a brilliant composer and arranger, and is a member of the Arcturus Wind Quintet and 45th Parallel Universe.
Evan’s bio from the Oregon Symphony website:
Evan Kuhlmann was born in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy with Honors in Bassoon and English and The Juilliard School; where he earned a B.M. in Bassoon Performance with Scholastic Distinction as a student of Frank Morelli, a Graduate Diploma in Music Composition as a student of Robert Beaser, and the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. Evan also studied bassoon with Francine Peterson, Barrick Stees, and Eric Stomberg; and composition with Samuel Jones, Stanley Wolfe, and Philip Lasser.
As assistant principal bassoon and contrabassoon with the Oregon Symphony, he has been praised for his “outstanding” playing (The Oregonian) and can be seen “rocking out” on a regular basis (Seen and Heard International). He has performed with numerous orchestras internationally including the St. Louis, San Diego, and Seattle Symphonies, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, All-Star Orchestra, and Orchestra of the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.
In 2000, Evan made his solo debut with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall. He has also performed as soloist with the Marrowstone Festival Orchestra, and with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and the Oregon Symphony. Evan makes frequent appearances as a guest artist on local chamber and contemporary music series, as well as music festivals in the Northwest and beyond. As principal bassoon of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, he has performed countless premieres, including works of John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, James MacMillan, and Christopher Rouse.
A dedicated teacher, Evan is a faculty member at Portland State University and Woodwinds @ Wallowa Lake, and maintains a private studio. He has also taught at the Marrowstone Music Festival and coached the bassoonists of the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and Metropolitan Youth Symphony.
A bit of backstory: for the past twenty-odd years or so, my summers have followed a pretty stable pattern of festival-hopping. Some years I’ve done five festivals in a summer. I spent much more time on the road and in a homestay or dorm room than at home. I’d come back home and feel pretty burned out – just in time for the Oregon Symphony season to start. This year, feeling as tired as I ever have at the end of the ‘regular season’, I made a last-minute decision to take a leave from one of my favorite festivals, the Sunriver Music Festival. Not long after that happened, I was contacted by Leo Eguchi, the co-founder and cellist of the festival. I had heard from Oregon Symphony and 45th Parallel Universe colleague Greg Ewer that Leo and his wife, violinist Sasha Callahan, were wonderful people and great musicians. So the four factors that made it impossible to turn down: great chamber music, fantastic musicians, great wine, and sleeping in my own bed, . This was surely the burnout remedy that I needed!
This is the third summer for the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, and in its first two years the festival has had a strong commitment to the music of living composers, with a featured composer-in-residence each summer. The first composer was Portland resident (and FearNoMusic artistic director) Kenji Bunch, followed in the second season by the fantastic Californian Gabriela Lena Frank (by the way, the festival recorded several of her wonderful quartets last year and is crowd funding to raise the money to release them commercially – please help if you can!) In its third year, the festival has attracted Joan Tower – one of the leading composers in America – who is celebrating her 80th birthday year.
Joan Tower will be on hand for the first weekend’s concerts (August 11-12). Two of her works will be featured on the program, one each on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon’s program, it will be Tower’s Rising for Flute and String Quartet, with Portland flutist Amelia Lukas. On Sunday afternoon, it will be her String Quartet No. 5, White Water. Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33 no. 2 “The Joke” and Beethoven’s mighty Op. 59 no. 2 “Rasumovsky” will round out the program on both dates.
The first week’s concerts both take place at J. Christopher Wines in Newberg. I’m looking forward to these concerts very much, because not only does this winery have exceptional wines, but also incredible chamber music acoustics in their subterranean barrel room!
Saturday’s concert is selling well, but there is still good availability for Sunday’s concert. Tickets are available at the festival’s website here.
As rehearsals progress this week, I’ll chime in with new posts that just might have some surprise content, so keep checking in, or enter your email address and click the “Subscribe” button on the upper right column to be notified of fresh updates!