PORT ANGELES — One day a pair of longtime friends — internationally known musicians from Port Angeles and Sequim — dreamed up a Labor Day weekend festival.
They said: What if we brought together the best performers we know, intimate chamber music we love, and presented concerts in an acoustically pristine performance space?
James Garlick and Richard O’Neill realized their dream in August 2018. The inaugural Music on the Strait festival in Port Angeles sold out all of its performances.
This year, the event is expanded to two weekends, with the first concert of the 2019 festival set for this Friday night.
“We were completely amazed at the community’s response last year,” said Garlick, who like O’Neill wanted to create a world-class music festival in his home town.
He added that thanks to the people who turned out for the first one — and those who’ve already bought tickets this year — Music on the Strait will be an ongoing summer tradition.
Tickets are still available for the performances coming up this weekend and next. Visiting musicians include New York City-based violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Orion Weiss, Icelandic cellist Saeunn Thorsteindottir, St. Paul, Minn., Chamber Orchestra violist Maiya Papach, Korean-Canadian clarinetist Yoonah Kim and California cellist Ani Aznavoorian.
Garlick and O’Neill, the festival’s co-artistic directors, will also play, and Seattle music scholar and speaker Lisa Bergman will do short pre-concert discussions about the music in each program. She offered these talks last year, and “people loved her,” Garlick said; “Lisa is just a dynamic speaker.”
Also at each of the concerts, commemorative festival posters created by Tom Eykemans, a Seattle artist originally from Port Angeles, will be on sale for $20.
The venue for the first four events is Maier Hall at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., and the site for advance purchase is MusicontheStrait.com.
Tickets to the Maier Hall performances are $35, or $5 for students. Sponsorships are also available for the nonprofit festival; information is on the website.
For concerts that sell out — likely, since the venue seats only 134 — online waiting lists will be set up.
Garlick encourages music lovers to put their names on those lists, and even come to the Maier Hall door up to an hour before concert time to see if any no-shows have resulted in open seats.
Opening night at 7 p.m. Friday begins with Aznavoorian and fellow cellist Eric Han offering Barriere’s Sonata for two cellos; then come Dvorak’s Terzetto in C major and one of Schubert’s best-loved works, the Quintet in C. As with the rest of the evening concerts, Bergman will give her talk on these works at 6:15 p.m.
Saturday brings music of Prokofiev’s Sonata in C major with Garlick and Kyu-Young Kim, principal violinist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; then pianist Weiss joins Aznavoorian for Shostakovich’s Sonata for Cello and Piano. The second half is given over to Amy Beach’s lush, little-known Piano Quintet in F-sharp minor.
In Sunday’s matinee, Jackiw (pronounced jah-KEEV) and Weiss will present an afternoon of Bach, Copland and Brahms plus Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano. Bergman will rhapsodize about the pieces at 2:15 p.m.
“These are two of the greatest collaborators of our time,” Garlick said of Weiss and Jackiw, both known for their work with orchestras across the country. After this first trip to Port Angeles for Music on the Strait, Jackiw will play next month with the Slovenia Symphony and with Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic. Weiss’ September will have him performing in New Mexico, Ohio, Illinois and New York.
Next week’s concerts feature violist O’Neill, violinists Garlick and Jackiw, pianist Weiss and double-bassist Steve Schermer. Schermer, who performs with Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, is returning to his hometown of Port Angeles for the festival.
Music on the Strait’s last Maier Hall event at 7 p.m. Aug. 30, will present three 20th century works: the Quartet for the End of Time, which Olivier Messiaen composed in a German prisoner of war camp in 1940; Steve Reich’s “Different Trains” quartet and Elliott Carter’s Elegy for Viola and Piano.
Then comes the festival finale. The Community Concert, a showcase of all of the performers, is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at a larger venue.
As with the other concerts, tickets are available at https://www.musiconthestrait.com/— except this event is pay-what-you-can. With seating for 350, the concert hall is Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Lopez Ave.
O’Neill, for his part, finds this festival energizing on a few levels. The repertoire and the guest artists are first rate, he said, as is the feeling here.
Port Angeles is “one of the most special places on the planet,” he said. The main reasons: “its natural beauty and warm people.”