Bellingham Festival of Music auction, and special performance by 2nd Street Brass, set for this spring


It may seem a long time until July, but the organizers of Bellingham Festival of Music are already scheduling some events leading up to what promises to be another fantastic lineup of classical music.

The festival has been regarded as one of America's premier virtuoso orchestra festivals since its inception in 1993.

Each summer, the festival musicians return to Bellingham, performing a repertoire of the finest symphonic music. Members of the orchestra hold artistically prestigious positions elsewhere, and many of them are principal players in major North American symphony orchestras.

The festival also features famous guest artists and young rising stars. All are under the direction of maestro Michael Palmer at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center, with additional performances at Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

This summer's great lineup of guest artists includes Stefan Jackiw, violin; the Calidore String Quartet, featuring Bellingham violist Jeremy Berry; Christina Smith, flute; Metropolitan Opera star Lisette Oropesa, soprano; Richard Goode, piano; and Pablo Sáinz Villegas, guitar.

But there's no need to wait until summer.

The always-dependable Karen Berry (mother of Jeremy) talked to me about the third chamber music residency sponsored by the festival and by Whatcom Symphony Orchestra. The collaboration supports music education in schools in Whatcom County through the "Music in the Schools" and "Beethoven in the Schools" programs.

The visiting ensemble this year is 2nd Street Brass, formed in 2013 by five members of the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles; it's a group of five, with two trumpeters, a trombonist, a French horn player and a tuba player.

The quintet is in high demand for educational outreach programs across the country. They perform formal concerts, but also play on a regular basis at Los Angeles' Union Station as part of the Metro Presents community arts concerts and at the Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. during the lunch hour.

They will be here Tuesday, March 11 through 17, performing in schools around the county, and will present a public performance at 7:30 p.m. March 16 at Western's PAC. Students will be admitted for free; suggested donation for adults is $15 to support the Music in the Schools program.

During the festival, some of the guest artists will offer master classes, free to the public, as part of the outreach programs.

Also this spring, international super-star violinist Hilary Hahn performs at 7:30 p.m. April 28 at WWU's PAC, accompanied by pianist Cory Smythe, in a program of works by Anton Garcia Abril, Richard Barrett, W. A. Mozart, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Schubert and Georg Philipp Telemann. Tickets are $45 and $35, available through Western's box office.

Preceding the concert, the festival's annual dinner auction takes place at 5:30 p.m. April 26 at Bellingham Golf and Country Club. Manca Valum is the festival auctioneer at the formal event (with prizes for the most creative attire using black-and-white themes).

For tickets to the auction, contact Sally Chapman at 360-676-0536 or

For festival details, call 360-201-6621 or see


Bellingham Chamber Chorale recently announced a new collaboration with Bellingham artists and supporters in the Northwest.

Bellingham poet Carla Shafer has written a poem called "Elixir of the Solar Spectrum," about the region's natural wonders. Reginald Unterseher, the Washington State Music Teachers Association composer of the year, is creating a composition based on, and tailored to, Shafer's transcendent poem and the spirit of the Northwest.

The Chamber Chorale has brought the two talented artists together to commission a new chorale composition to debut June 7, at the "Northwest Passages" concert. The concert will also feature other works by Northwest composers, in what choir organizers say is a celebration of the beauty and joy that surrounds and inspires us here in our corner of the country.

The public is invited to become an investor in collaboration and to help create both the composition and the June 7 concert. Chorale members, Shafer, Unterseher and artistic director Ryan Smit are reaching out to help them reach the $3,000 goal. All gifts, large and small, will be used to fund the writing and recording of the commission.

The chorale is nonprofit volunteer organization. Supporters' donations help to hire local musicians, buy repertoire, rent venues and present high-quality concerts to diverse audiences at affordable prices.

To help, organizers have created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the commission, which will accept donations through March 18. As with all Kickstarter projects, the chorale receives the pledges only if they reach the goal. Otherwise, pledges are returned to the donors.

For details, go online and search Kickstarter for Bellingham Chamber Chorale, or go to the chorale's website,, or go to their Facebook page.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or

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