It’s been a big summer for pop and rock concerts in Central Oregon, with more on the horizon. But tucked reliably into the local live-music schedule, as it has been for the past 38 years, is the classically focused Sunriver Music Festival.
This year’s festival will feature seven concerts — two in Bend, five in Sunriver’s Great Hall — held between Aug. 7 and 19. The schedule includes a pops concert and a family concert, and will be preceded by a dinner and auction to support the festival’s Young Artists Scholarship program on Aug. 2 in Sunriver.
The festival’s artistic director and conductor, George Hanson, sets the theme for the event; this year’s is “America the Beautiful,” with a season motto of “Something old, something new, something red, white and blue!” But Hanson’s musical selections reflect a more global view of patriotism than the theme suggests, says Pam Beezley, Sunriver Music Festival’s executive director since 2005.
“We’ve been talking about this for a couple years and (Hanson) said, ‘Let’s pull this together as a patriotic theme this year and call it America the Beautiful,'” she says. “But it involves composers who are deeply passionate about their homeland, so it’s not just American music. It involves music from all over the world.”
Indeed, the festival’s 45-person orchestra, whose membership is drawn from across the country, will perform works by Rossini and Beethoven during Classical Concert I on Aug. 9, Haydn and Mozart in Classical Concert II on Aug. 12 and Mendelssohn and Schumann in Classical Concert IV on Aug. 19. Classical Concert III, on Aug. 15, will feature works by American composers Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, among others, as well as a performance by the Central Oregon Mastersingers. Another American, Sean Chen — the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition‘s 2013 Crystal Winner — will perform Aug. 17 for the festival’s Solo Piano Concert.
Sunriver Music Festival will also host two world premieres this season. First up on Aug. 12 is Lunar Reflections, a fully orchestrated work by Heather Schmidt of Toronto and Los Angeles that started out as a piece for three pianos. The second, on Aug. 19, is Granted Passage by C.F. Kip Winger, who many may remember from his ’80s rock band Winger, which scored an MTV hit in 1988 with the song “Seventeen.”
“The two world premieres being presented this season are beautiful, accessible, powerful, meaningful and inspired works,” Hanson writes on the festival’s website.
The family concert on Aug. 10 will feature selections from the other concerts, and performances by two young artists, flutist Kyle Ruggles and violinist John Fawcett, a teenager from Bend. Children will be allowed to sit up front and performers will engage them by talking about the music and explaining what’s happening on stage.
And the festival kicks off Aug. 7 with the annual Pops Concert featuring the Mastersingers and the multimedia artistry of Westwater Arts, a company that produces dazzling visual accompaniment for live music. In Sunriver, Westwater will project photos of the Grand Canyon onto a 440-square foot panoramic screen suspended above the orchestra as its players perform Ferde Grofé‘s Grand Canyon Suite.
“It’s very visual and that’ll be very fun,” Beezley says. “We’ve never done anything quite like that before.”
The Pops Concert will happen in Summit High School’s 600-seat auditorium, the largest venue of any concert. Generally speaking, the Sunriver Music Festival sticks to smaller spaces, in keeping with its mission when it was founded nearly four decades ago.
“The whole basic premise of the music festival was to have world-class music in very small, intimate settings,” Beezley says. “We’ve stayed very true to that because we think packing the house at the Great Hall or the Tower Theatre and providing this live musical experience is so unique to what we have to offer.”
The Tower — home to Aug. 15’s Classical Concert III — seats about 400 people. The striking Great Hall in Sunriver, with its exposed wooden beams and stunning fireplaces — holds about 385.
“That’s kind of our niche here in Central Oregon,” says Beezley, “a small intimate setting with fantastic classical music.”
For more information, including a schedule of events and links to buy tickets, visit the festival’s website.