PORT TOWNSEND — The inaugural season of the Olympic Music Festival at Fort Worden State Park comes to a close this weekend with two performances by multi-Grammy nominated pianist Fred Hersch.
This is the 33rd season since the festival was founded. For the previous 32 seasons, the festival was held in a historic Quilcene barn.
Hersch’s performance is the cherry on top of a successful season at a brand new venue, which began in July, said Julio Elizalde, OMF artistic director, on Tuesday.
“If I were to name my top five pianists on the planet, Fred Hersch would be one of them without question,” Elizalde said.
“The great composers of the past such as Mozart and Beethoven were famous improvisers and Fred is a critical part of that tradition — he’s a magician and poet at the piano who somehow understands how to stop time.”
Hersch declined to comment for this article.
Eight Grammy nominations
Hersch — who has received eight Grammy nominations, according to a news release — will perform at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Fort Worden’s 275 seat Joseph F. Wheeler Theater, 25 Eisenhower Way.
Hersch will announce his program from the stage. The performances will include a 20-minute intermission.
He will sign his CDs for attendees following both performances.
Tickets for those 13 and older are $33 or $40 depending on seating location, and free for youths ages 7 to 12, although reservations for them must be made in advance. Tickets can be purchased online at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-OMF-Hersch.
Olympic Music Festival performances formerly were hosted inside a century old barn located on an idyllic 55-acre farm about 18 miles south of Port Townsend at 7360 Center Road.
It was founded in 1984 by Alan Iglitzin, a former violist with the Philadelphia String Quartet, according to a news release.
The property originally was owned by the Iseri family, Japanese Americans who built the farmhouse and barn, according to the release.
The barn was repurposed to host the Philadelphia String Quartet, and Iglitzin has said he soon discovered local audiences were immediately drawn to the idea of enjoying live music in such an idyllic setting.
The festival went on to become an established arts organization in the Pacific Northwest, drawing musicians each summer from across the nation to perform.
Since its opening season, the festival has grown from three weekend performances to 12, with about 5,000 visitors attending concerts in 2015, according to festival officials.
Named new artistic director
Iglitzin last October told the festival’s board of directors he planned to retire as executive director. From 2011 to 2014, Alan had slowly transitioned the leadership of the festival to Elizalde, who was named artistic director in the fall of 2014.
Other music programs are still held at the barn.
The transition of the festival included the founding of a partnership with Centrum, a nonprofit organization based at Fort Worden that organizes art festivals, workshops and performances year-round.
The change in venues has been met with approval by many concertgoers, Elizalde said.
“We couldn’t have hoped for anything better,” he said.
“We’ve had packed houses. The first four concerts of the season were sold out from the get go and the rest of the performances have been really filled up. There has been a huge amount of enthusiasm and the audiences and the donors have all been extremely happy with the final result. I think they are happy we have this new home in Port Townsend.”
Plans already are underway for the 34th season in 2017, Elizalde said.
“I think now that we have learned quite a bit about what it is to be here, it is really great to know that the groundwork has been established for next season.”
For more about Hersch, visit www.fredhersch.com.
For more about OMF, visit www.olympicmusicfestival.org.