Richard O’Neill, seen rehearsing for one of his solo appearances with the Port Angeles Symphony, won a Grammy Award on Sunday for best classical instrumental solo recording. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Richard O’Neill, seen rehearsing for one of his solo appearances with the Port Angeles Symphony, won a Grammy Award on Sunday for best classical instrumental solo recording. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Peninsula violist O’Neill wins Grammy award

Sequim native gets nod with best classical music performance

Richard O’Neill, who learned to play viola as a boy in Sequim and went on to three Grammy nominations, at last won the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences award on Sunday.

The music that won him what he called the “honor of a lifetime” is Christopher Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra — a piece O’Neill excerpted in a concert for North Olympic Peninsula audiences three months ago.

It was the Dec. 19 “Alone Together for the Holidays” event presented by the Music on the Strait festival, which O’Neill cofounded.

His recording of the concerto with the Albany, N.Y., Symphony and conductor David Alan Miller, released on Albany Records, brought him the Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo Performance.

At home in Boulder, Colo., O’Neill connected via the internet to the Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles to give his acceptance speech.

“My love to you all,” he said to his fellow musicians, his hand on his chest.

“During this most challenging time for all musicians, my eternal thanks goes to my family,” he added.

O’Neill also thanked the Takacs Quartet, the Boulder-based ensemble he joined in late 2019, “for keeping me alive.”

“Stay safe and healthy, everyone, OK? Thank you.”

After the brief speech, O’Neill was transferred, virtually, into a green room where he met Gayle Moran, the widow of Chick Corea. She had virtually accepted two posthumous Grammys for her husband, who died of cancer in February.

Corea’s trophies, for best improvised jazz solo and best jazz solo album, made it 25 Grammys for the pianist.

In Boulder, a late-winter blizzard brought more than 2 feet of snow to the sidewalks around O’Neill’s home, “so I celebrated by going outside and shoveling,” along with his neighbors.

O’Neill was first acquainted with such weather growing up in Sequim, studying viola with Phil and Deborah Morgan-Ellis and performing with the Port Angeles Symphony. He later graduated from the Juilliard School in New York City, where he attended classes after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Theofanidis composed his Concerto for Viola in response to those events — and “the piece is incredibly poignant and touching,” O’Neill said.

“I really am beyond thrilled to receive the Grammy, as it will help to give more attention both to Chris’ masterpiece and the viola as a solo instrument,” one he calls an unsung hero of the orchestra.

O’Neill, still the co-artistic director of the Music on the Strait festival, will appear briefly during a virtual concert to be presented by the festival the weekend of March 27. The event will feature music of Clara and Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms by pianist Orion Weiss and cellist Saeunn Thorsteindottir, who appeared in Port Angeles during the festival in 2019. Information will be posted soon at musiconthestrait.com.

Peninsula lovers of classical music have seen O’Neill and his longtime friend, violinist James Garlick of Port Angeles, appear as guest soloists with the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra. Garlick is also O’Neill’s partner in founding and directing Music on the Strait.

And last September, the duo gave a live-streamed performance during the topping-off ceremony at the Field Arts & Events Hall in downtown Port Angeles.

On Monday, O’Neill, 42, marveled at his new prize. Competition in his Grammy category was fierce, he said: “three of the world’s most famous pianists, one of the world’s greatest violinists, and three of the world’s top orchestras.

“I was definitely the dark horse,” he said. “But I think I was incredibly lucky that the decision is made by the members of NARAS, the Recording Academy, some of the greatest professionals in the business. So an audience of my peers made the final decision, which means so much to me.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

More in Entertainment

Kristin Smith, Mike McLeron and Gwen Franz, posing with her dog Hugo, are among the teachers who will host a pay-what-you-can music camp outdoors at Fort Worden State Park this summer. The first session starts June 28. Signup is available at YEAmusic.org. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Low-cost music camp set to begin at Fort Worden

All of Peninsula’s young musicians welcome to attend

The North Olympic Library System will host "Move More with Nicole Tsong" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Author and fitness expert Nicole Tsong will speak on Zoom as part of the Summer Reading Program.
Author talk set Thursday

The North Olympic Library System will host “Move More… Continue reading

Festival of short films scheduled this week

Like its predecessor, the One-Minute Film Festival in March,… Continue reading

Bulgarian pianist Anna Petrova, pictured during her first rehearsal with the Port Angeles Symphony in 2017, will return for the first full concert of the orchestra’s 2021-2022 season. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles Symphony announces new season

Family Pops plus five more concerts are set

Audubon lecture scheduled Wednesday

Lizz Schulyer will present “Wildfire, Habitat Recovery and the… Continue reading

Seattle-based flamenco artist Savannah Fuentes brings her art form back to Port Townsend this Sunday and Tuesday and to Sequim on Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy of Savannah Fuentes)
Flamenco returns to Peninsula

Concerts scheduled in Port Townsend, Sequim

Celebrating the reopening of the Quimper Grange this Saturday are, from left, George and Jo Yount, Susan Stone, Barbara Tusting, Kathy Ryan, Sheila Long, Mary Beth Haralovich, Doug Groenig and J.J. Johnson. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Grange hall hosts open house

Community can get together again with new ventilation system, remodeled space

North Olympic Library System to hold book discussion groups

The North Olympic Library System will continue its book… Continue reading

Most Read