Bellingham Festival of Music Announces 25th Anniversary Season, June 30—July 20, 2018

Bellingham Festival of Music Announces 25th Anniversary Season, June 30—July 20, 2018

Maestro Palmer Celebrates 50 Years in Conducting

Highlights Include Premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Fourth Symphony, Nine BFM First Performances, Three Debuts by Guest Soloists

For immediate release:  October 3, 2017

Bellingham, WA.—The premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Fourth Symphony “Chromelodeon,” festival debuts by three of five guest soloists, a performance by the Calidore String Quartet, and milestone pieces showcasing the BFM Orchestra will highlight the 25th Silver Anniversary Season of the Bellingham Festival of Music, June 30—July 20, 2018.  Details of the season were announced September 28 by co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Palmer at BFM’s Festival’s Annual Meeting at Lairmont Manor.

The yearlong Festival Anniversary celebrations will also coincide with Maestro Palmer’s 50 years in conducting, a career which began with his engagement to the conducting staff by music director Robert Shaw at the Atlanta Symphony in spring 1967.  This was followed by his professional conducting debut with the ASO that fall. Several works on the Festival program next summer are “milestone” works that have figured importantly in Palmer’s career.

A Three-Way World Premiere

A joint commission with three musical institutions—the BFM, New England Conservatory (this year celebrating its 50th anniversary) and the Nashville Symphony, the new Kernis symphony will have a three-way world premiere, with the East coast debut in Boston, the southern debut in Nashville, and the West Coast debut in Bellingham.  A much honored composer, Aaron Jay Kernis is the winner of the 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and 2011 Nemmers Award, and serves on the music faculty of Yale University.  He will be in attendance at the Bellingham performance.

Outstanding Guest Artists

The stellar array of guest artists performing with the BFM orchestra includes three newcomers to the Festival, all of them emerging stars.  They are pianist and Avery Fisher Career Grant winner Inon Barnatan, Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal winner in cello Narek Hakhnazaryan, and Seattle-based violinist Simone Porter, also an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner. Along with those three are returning soloists Stefan Jackiw, violin, and Maria Valdes, soprano.  The internationally acclaimed Calidore String Quartet, BFM Ensemble in Residence, will also return for a full-length recital.

Festival Orchestra Members Featured

Several members of the Festival Orchestra will be spotlighted in solo and chamber music performances.  Principal Cello Steven Thomas and Principal Viola Christian Colberg will take on the solo roles of the Don and Sancho Panza in Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Quixote. Concertmaster Richard Roberts will be the violin soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, in a performance honoring the late Frances LeCocq, longtime friend and supporter of the Festival.  Other Principal players will take part in the popular Chamber by the Bay concert at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

The Bellingham Festival Chorus will join the orchestra as it traditionally does to close the season, July 20, in a celebratory performance of the Poulenc Gloria.

Tickets Sales Begin in January

Subscriptions to the Festival concerts will go on sale in January with single ticket sales following in February. Watch our website for details as well as announcements of additional festive events celebrating the 25th Silver Anniversary season.

Complete programs and dates for the summer festival follow. All concerts, except Chamber by the Bay, take place at 7:30 PM in the Western Washington University Performing Arts Center. They are preceded at 6:30 PM by Pre-Concert talks by noted musicians and historians in the area.

Complete Programs

Concert 1

June 30, 2018

Antonin Dvorak: Carnival Overture

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto (1945)

Stefan Jackiw, violin

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C-minor, Op. 68


Concert 2

July 1, 2018

The Calidore String Quartet in recital

Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violins; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cellist.

Program to be announced


Concert 3

July 7, 2018

Irving Fine: Toccata Concertante (1947)

Saint-Saens: Piano Concerto No. 2

Inon Barnatan, piano

Richard Strauss: Don Quixote

            Steven Thomas, cello

Christian Colberg, viola


Concert 4

July 8, 2018, Time TBD

Chamber by the Bay at Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Program to be announced


Concert 5

July 11, 2018

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending (Played in memory of Frances LeCocq)

Richard Roberts, violin

Aaron Jay Kernis: Symphony No. 4 “Chromelodeon”  (West Coast premiere)

Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations

            Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello

Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2


Concert 6

July 15, 2018

Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385 “Haffner”

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1

Simone Porter, violin

Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op 61


Concert 7

July 20, 2018

Poulenc: Gloria

            Bellingham Festival Chorus

Maria Valdes, soprano

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique


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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. Celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary season in 2018, the Bellingham Festival of Music has since 1993 enlivened the Northwest Washington summer season with outstanding live orchestral performances and chamber music recitals.

Under the artistic 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, Jeremy Denk, and Pepe Romero. In addition, the festival boasts a resident chamber ensemble, currently the prize-winning young Calidore String Quartet, which presents recitals as well as participating in community education and engagement activities.

The Festival has also enlarged the orchestra literature with new works by composers including Patrick Harlin, Benjamin Taylor, and Juan Ramirez. During its 2018 Silver Anniversary season, it will present the West Coast premiere of a new work by Pulitzer Prize and Grawemeyer Award winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis. BFM commissioned the piece jointly with New England Conservatory (to celebrate its 150th anniversary) and the Nashville Symphony.

Of equal importance to its summer season are the Festival’s year-round outreach initiatives which extend the beauty of classical music to young people in the region. Among these programs are masterclasses with guest artists, the annual Welcome Home recital by a young music student from the region, the Play it Forward Chamber Music Residency, and the 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. It has continued its support with the purchase and maintenance of string instruments that allow all students to participate. In 2017-18, BFM is extending this instrument program to the nearby Ferndale, WA schools.

The Festival’s artistic excellence has been recognized widely throughout the country, and its concerts and recordings have been broadcast nationally by NPR and 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 has received National Endowment for the Arts grants annually since 2009—a resounding endorsement of the quality of its performances and the contribution it makes to regional and national cultural life.

Update: 3/8/2018