It’s not just the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast and beach-town vibe that make Lincoln City a popular destination for visitors. Each year, in mid-June, people from across the globe make their way here, as if caught in a tractor beam, to attend one of the Central Oregon Coast’s premier events.
The ninth annual Siletz Bay Music Festival (SBMF), opening on Wednesday, June 19, will offer more than two weeks of concerts during which more than 65 musicians —many world-renowned artists — will transport concert-goers into the musical stratospheres of classical, jazz and musical theater.
“The Siletz Bay Music Festival invites the community to embrace it as its own,” said festival Artistic Director and Conductor Yaacov Bergman, “presenting a wide variety of musical styles on the highest and most refined performance level by musicians of the highest caliber from all over the globe.”
This is the ninth year that Bergman will oversee the festival. The world-renowned maestro, who also conducts the Portland Chamber Orchestra and the Walla Walla Symphony, has traveled the globe as a conductor. Nonetheless, he says that he has a special place in his heart for SBMF — and he’s not alone.
“Many of our musicians who play in festivals all over the world say that coming to Lincoln City is one of their favorite experiences,” Bergman said, “not only because of the quality of music making and the natural beauty of the setting, but because they are treated so well throughout the community. We rely on locals to house and feed the musicians, and many have forged lifelong friendships, with musicians returning to their homes year after year.”
And return they do. The opening night gala, set for 7:30 pm on Wednesday, June 19, at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, will feature an all-Chopin evening, performed by festival regular Mei-Ting Sun. A gold medal winner at the National Chopin Competition, and currently on faculty at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Sun is a pianist of international stature, whose performances have been described as “stunningly fluid” by the New York Times.
Also joining the stellar lineup of returning musicians is Ken Peplowski, whom some consider one of the greatest living jazz clarinetists. He has performed with the likes of Charlie Byrd, Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee and Mel Torme, and is currently the artistic director of the Newport Beach Jazz Party and the Sarasota Jazz Festival, from which he received the “Satchmo” award, in recognition of his contributions to jazz.
Acclaimed violinist Asi Matathias also returns this year to enchant audiences in a solo performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D Major.” A protégé of Pinchas Zukerman, Matathias is a frequent recitalist at New York’s Carnegie Hall and in venues throughout the world.
Four-year festival veteran Clairdee, whose sultry, high-viscosity vocals have captivated audiences here and abroad, cites some reasons that keep her coming back.
“I enjoy the excellence of the musicians and camaraderie that we share, as well as the opportunities to sing in various instrumental settings, from jazz quartet to 18-piece big band, to orchestra,” she said, adding: “And you really can’t beat the gorgeous surroundings of the Salishan Resort and Spa where many of the concerts are held.”
Other returnees include critically acclaimed violinist and Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Sarah Kwak, principal violist of the Portland Chamber Orchestra Miriam English Ward, and principal cellist of the Portland Chamber Orchestra Katherine Schultz.
Financing the dream
As with any artistic endeavor, financing is an endless pursuit. Bergman notes that festival attendance has increased yearly, boosting ticket sales. But the festival also relies on grants, donations and in-kind contributions to ensure its ongoing financial stability.
A major asset, according to SBMF Board of Directors President Charlotte Lehto, is the abundance of festival volunteers.
“I am proud of and deeply grateful to our volunteers and board for stepping up to help with production, organization and coordination of this year’s festival,” Lehto said.
This year’s benefit concert, designed to help generate seed money for next year’s festival, is “Basie, Benny and Beyond,” a big-band swing-era affair, sure to be set ablaze by Eugene’s Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra. And with Clairdee and Charles Turner on vocals, Rossano Sportiello at the piano, Gary Hobbs on drums, Dave Captein on bass, and Peplowski on clarinet and sax — well, the words “smokin’” and “hot” come to mind. Slated for Sunday, June 30, the program also offers those so inclined the opportunity to put on their dancing shoes.
According to Bergman, future goals for the Festival include expansion throughout the community and region by building partnerships and collaborating with like-minded arts groups to create world-class musical programs in tune with audience interests.
To that end, incoming festival Executive Director Karin Moss is likely in her element. Moss is no stranger to helming major events. Her background in corporate and nonprofit leadership, in markets as large as those in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, is bound to come in handy for the fine art of fundraising.
“As an urban person,” says Moss, “it is an absolute ‘bucket list’ goal to have secured a job in such a beautiful setting where I will also have the opportunity to promote the types of world-class musical experiences that can only be found in major cities. This is the best of all circumstances.”
The SBMF enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the Lincoln City community, in which its heart resides, along with a belief that music education should remain available in local schools for K-12 students. In fact, a large portion of the festival’s raison d’etre has to do with reinstating music in local schools after spending cuts for the arts decimated those programs.
It’s a mission that was realized five years ago when the festival teamed up with the Lincoln City Cultural Center and local schools to obtain a $280,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation to restore music education. The upshot was the creation of an instrument library and mandatory music education for all students in grades K-12.
“It is the SBMF’s deep commitment from its inception to involve and expose kids to the festival’s activities,” Bergman said, adding that this includes performance attendance, having them play side-by-side with the festival’s eminent musical artists and involving them in all technical and managerial facets of the festival.
Besides introducing area children to high-quality concerts and a variety of musical genres, Lehto explains, “The festival brings tourist dollars to our local restaurants, hotels, and motels. This strengthens local business with increased exposure and foot-traffic.”
Four venues, including Salishan Resort and Spa, Lincoln City Cultural Center, the Congregational Church of Lincoln City and Eden Hall in Gleneden Beach, will house concerts. The lineup woven into this year’s festival ranges from the works of classical heavy hitters such as Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak, to classics from the jazz end of the spectrum. Among the more unique presentations, award-winning composer Ofer Ben-Amots will discuss his new work, “Montage Music,” inspired by Bebe Krimmer, who was a Santa Fe-based visual artist, and whose works will be shown during the performance.
Also scheduled is Ernest Bloch’s “Prayer” for cello solo played by Katherine Schultz. His “Piano Quintet” will be offered as a special tribute to the famed composer, who resided in Newport’s Agate Beach, and to his grandson Ernest Bloch II, an avid supporter of the Oregon music community, who passed away last fall.
“Musical Tapas” is back for its ninth season. And due to its popularity, a second night has been added, pairing classics and jazz with decadent desserts. Held at Eden Hall, these events offer food, music and fun in a relaxed setting.
The festival culminates on Independence Day with a Fourth of July Concert, brimming with Americana, from a Nat King Cole tribute to a solo performance of Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” by jazz pianist Sportiello. The grand finale will also feature the world premiere of “Siletz Bay Serenade” by composer Charlie Creasy, accompanied by a visual presentation illustrating the many moods of Siletz Bay by Gleneden Beach videographer, Barbara Fox.
While concert tickets start at $25, three free concerts are scheduled. One, the “Young People’s Concert,” will feature Joan Behrens Bergman narrating Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Though there is no charge, ticket reservations are highly recommended, as these events fill up fast, and ticket holders are given priority.
If you stop and think about it for a nanosecond, you realize just how amazing it is for such a small, relatively rural community to play host to two weeks’ worth of such worldly talent — and not a skyscraper in sight.
“The Siletz Bay Music Festival brings to our community beautiful and dynamic musical performances often available only in larger metropolitan areas,” Lehto said. “The world-class musicians who perform during the festival share their talents with a smaller audience eager to experience the music in such an intimate environment. Where else can audience members commune one-on-one with so many accomplished artists in such an idyllic and peaceful setting?”
Bergman agreed, adding: “As one of our musicians said, ‘This is the kind of musical menu you find only in a place like New York.’”
Well, that’s apparently no longer the case, as the Siletz Bay Music Festival gets set to serve up its ninth season right here, on the Oregon Coast, where the forest meets the sea.
For more information on the Siletz Bay Music Festival, a calendar of events and to purchase tickets, go to http://siletzbaymusic.org or call 541-264-5828 or 704-813-5510.