Michael Palmer Announces Complete Programs for 2017 Festival

Palmer Conducts Five Orchestral Concerts, July 1—21

World Premieres by Ben Taylor, Lorenzo Palomo

Season Finale Celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Anniversary

Spring Recital, March 19, Marks Return of Pianist Ilya Yakushev, Who Made Wildly Cheered Festival Debut This Year


For immediate release: 

October 24, 2016

michael-2Bellingham, WA.– The 24th season of the Bellingham Festival of Music will be highlighted by an all-Bernstein concert celebrating the 100th birthday of the protean composer-conductor-educator; two world premieres by composers Ben Taylor and Lorenzo Palomo; the return of popular pianist Jeremy Denk; two concerts featuring charismatic guitarist Pablo Villegas; a recital by the Calidore String Quartet, BFM’s ensemble in residence; and concerto performances featuring members of the BFM Orchestra.

Full details of the season, July 1—21, 2017, were announced October 21 at the Festival’s Annual Meeting by Artistic Director Michael Palmer (in photo R).  Festival Chair Karen Berry also revealed auxiliary events including the return for a March 19 recital of pianist Ilya Yakushev, an immediate hit when he substituted on short notice last summer in the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1. There will also be the annual Welcome Home Recital, January 7, by Bellingham-trained guitarist Eli Schille-Hudson.  The annual Play it Forward residency, in March (exact dates TBD), will once again feature gifted young musicians from the Colburn Conservatory who will visit middle and high school classrooms, present masterclasses, and lead community engagement programs in Bellingham and Whatcom County. “Beethoven in the Schools,” the “Blue Skies for Children” collaboration, support for Fifth Grade Strings, and other outreach activities will also continue.

Festival concerts take place at the Western Washington University Performing Arts Center, except for the popular Bellingham Cruise Terminal chamber music program.  The WWU PAC now boasts air conditioning provided this year through a collaborative initiative between the Festival and WWU. Free chamber music programs will again be presented in various locations throughout the city and county.

Tickets for the season go on sale in early 2017.


2017 Festival Programs (as of October 21, 2016)


March 19, 3:00 PM

WWU Performing Arts Center

Spring Recital by Pianist Ilya Yakushev

Program tba


July 1, 2017

Patrick Harlan: Rapture

Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano

Ben Taylor: Concerto for String Quartet (World premiere)

Calidore String Quartet

Stravinsky: Firebird Suite (1919 Version)


July 2, 2017

Calidore String Quartet in Recital


July 8, 2017

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G-Major

Jeremy Denk, piano

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat “Eroica”


July 9, 2017  Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Chamber Music by the Bay featuring Festival Orchestra Principals and Guitarist Pablo Villegas


July 13, 2017

Evening of Concertos with Festival Orchestra Principals and Pablo Villegas

Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major

Charles Butler, trumpet

Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat Major, K. 364

Richard Roberts, violin; Christian Colberg, viola

Lorenzo Palomo: In the Garden of Bacchus, Concerto for Guitar

Pablo Villegas, guitar


July 16, 2017

Respighi: Trittico Botticelliano

Haydn: Cello Concerto in D Major

Zuill Bailey, cello

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A-Major “Italian”


July 21, 2017

All Bernstein Evening –An Early Celebration of Bernstein’s 100th Birthday

Bernstein: Candide: Overture

Bernstein: Serenade after Plato’s Symposium

Robert McDuffie, violin

Bernstein: Chichester Psalms

Festival chorus and boy soprano TBA

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story


For more information: www.bellinghamfestival.org



Nestled between snow-capped mountains and island-studded bay, Bellingham, Washington’s spectacular natural beauty provides the ideal backdrop for the celebration of classical music. Since 1993, the Bellingham Festival of Music has enlivened the summer season with outstanding live orchestral performances and chamber music recitals for Northwest Washington audiences.  Under the direction of co-founder and noted American conductor Michael Palmer, the festival orchestra is composed of some of the finest musicians in the United States and Canada, many of them principals in such illustrious orchestras as the New York Philharmonic and the Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta Symphonies. They are joined by eminent soloists who have included Garrick Ohlsson, Lynn Harrell, Arnaldo Cohen, Vadim Gluzman, Joshua Bell, Frederica von Stade, and Pepe Romero. In addition, the festival boasts a resident chamber ensemble, currently the Calidore String Quartet, which presents recitals as well as participating in community educational and engagement activities.

Of equal importance to its summer season are the Festival’s year-round outreach initiatives which extend the beauty of classical music to youngsters in the region. Among these programs are masterclasses, and both the Play it Forward Chamber Music Residency and Beethoven in the Schools project which bring music to K-12 classrooms. In 2014-15, BFM also helped kick start the return of the Fifth Grade Strings program in the public schools. In 2015-16, it donated 42 student grade string instruments to the schools, thus insuring that all fifth graders could participate. Also in 2016, the festival began a new collaboration with Blue Skies for Children, supporting private music lessons and instruments for homeless, foster, and impoverished youngsters.

The Festival’s artistic excellence has been recognized widely throughout the country and its concerts and recordings have been broadcast nationally, first by NPR and most recently by American Public Media on its Performance Today show. Among these recordings are the three-CD set of the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos featuring Garrick Ohlsson with Michael Palmer conducting the Festival Orchestra. These performances were recorded live at the Festival on the Natural Soundfields label in 2000.

The recipient of grants from several entities, the Festival received National Endowment for the Arts grants in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015—a resounding endorsement of the quality of its performances and the contribution it makes to regional and national cultural life.