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Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival

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Welcome to Walla Walla, Washington!

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 19 horse drawn carriage downtown

 

 

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.

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 30 Here today at fort museum

 

 

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:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 31 fort museum open rehearsal

Around fifty people sat through several of our 2.5 hour rehearsals at the Fort Walla Walla Museum

 

The locations of festival events proved to be pivotal.  Here, we played a library show with the program’s emphasis on children:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 3 Katri demonstrates to library audience

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 4 Mysteries in the library

Co-founders Tim Christie and Maria Sampen play for a crowd of children and their parents, gathered at the Walla Walla public library

 

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:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 0 fields from above

A view of Walla Walla from above, headed towards nearby Pasco

 

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:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 12 Country drive dark hill motion

 

 

 

 

After this divine drive we arrive in Waitsburg, a quiet town of 1,200 residents in a space of around one square mile.

 

 

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 8 Waitsburg dusk town entrance

Downtown (and uptown!) Waitsburg

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 7 Waitsburg sunset

Wait’s Mill at dusk

 

The “Collage” concert took place in jimgermanbar’s “Heaven” room with well lit stage areas at each end and in the middle:

 

jimgermanbar collage setup waitsburg wa walla walla chamber music festival

Looking from one end of the room to the other in the Heaven room

 

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.

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 9 Jim German Bar

Jim German, co-owner of the jimgermanbar in Waitsburg, WA

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 25 JimGermanBar opera panels

Two poisonous arias from Jim German’s wife Claire’s visual opera, on display at jimgermanbar

 

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 10 JimGermanBar collage concert set list

“Theme and Variation” set list of the jimgermanbar Collage concert including composers Paganini, Dohnanyi, Rochberg, Brahms and Lady Gaga

 

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:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 29 Winery barrels

 

And after this winery concert, the musicians had a chance to sample a vintage or two:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 28 Philip Payton

Phil Payton, who doubles on violin and viola, enjoys a taste of Walla Walla Vintners’ most storied juice

 

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:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 15 Powerhouse theater lobby

 

There is no missing the 1970s Ford truck hanging upside-down in the lobby.  Here, a close-up of previous seasons’ festival posters:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 17 Powerhouse Theater previous WWCMF poster

Previous years’ festival posters including (from L to R) Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart

 

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):

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 16 Andrew Jennings Kevin Schempf Powerhouse Theater sequence

Andrew Jennings, Tim Christie and Kevin Schempf clown around in front of the Powerhouse Theater

Simultaneously, on stage, the dress rehearsal for that Saturday’s evening performance:

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 18 powerhouse theater dress motion

Maria Sampen, violin; Cristina Valdes, piano; Katri Ervamaa, page-turner; John Sampen, saxophone

 

 

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.

 

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival WWCMF Tim Christie 22 country drive sunset clouds

Dusk speeding onto Middle Waitsburg Rd.

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