Welcome to Walla Walla, Washington!
Walla Walla is arguably one of the most enchanting and beautiful locales in the world. I was lucky to be asked to perform in Walla Walla’s own chamber music festival for ten days this June. We had a remarkable time playing great concerts of wonderful repertoire with world-class musicians for sold-out houses.
Started in 2008, the festival has grown to be an indispensable part of the area’s cultural fabric and now enjoys a winter season as well. The town’s raging thirst for chamber music is quenched in many ways thanks to the forward thinking of the festival’s artistic director, Tim Christie. One way is open rehearsals:
The locations of festival events proved to be pivotal. Here, we played a library show with the program’s emphasis on children:
One of the most special concerts for me was the “Collage” concert at jimgermanbar in Waitsburg, WA. Merely the act of getting to the venue was a feast for the eyes. Here is the ravishing drive from above:
There are so many different types of land in the surrounding countryside; charred earth from last season, verdant and vibrating patches of new growth reaching for this season’s harvest. In the car, everything blends together as it whizzes by:
After this divine drive we arrive in Waitsburg, a quiet town of 1,200 residents in a space of around one square mile.
The “Collage” concert took place in jimgermanbar’s “Heaven” room with well lit stage areas at each end and in the middle:
During the concert, the last chord or notes of one piece would become, without pause, the first notes of the next piece, at perhaps the other end of the room. This provided a refreshing juxtaposition of one composer to another.
Another venue which proved quite popular was that of the winery. We played several winery concerts, each with a different program and explanation from members of each ensemble. Here, one of the “barrel rooms” in which we played Brahms, among others:
And after this winery concert, the musicians had a chance to sample a vintage or two:
The full-length concerts took place at Walla Walla’s Powerhouse Theater, a 120-year old power plant which seats around 340 people in its freshly renovated state. The theater’s entrance is an eye-opener:
There is no missing the 1970s Ford truck hanging upside-down in the lobby. Here, a close-up of previous seasons’ festival posters:
Directly outside the theater, after a particularly inspiring dress rehearsal, festival artistic director Tim Christie (middle) poses with violinist Andrew Jennings (left) and clarinetist Kevin Schempf (right):
Simultaneously, on stage, the dress rehearsal for that Saturday’s evening performance:
The performance venues and rehearsal spaces proved to be an important part of the aggregate that makes the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival a pillar for the arts in the state of Washington. The region’s smells and tastes mingle with the music to produce an incredible intersection of performance and the senses.