Columns & Blogs

Bellingham Festival of Music kicks off 2015 season with ‘Welcome Home’ concert

Bob Lynch is chairman of the Bellingham Festival of Music, (although he states there is no hierarchy on the festival’s board — “We all jump in and do everything,” he says), and he recently announced the schedule for this summer’s season.

The festival is one of America’s premier virtuoso orchestra festivals. Each summer, the festival returns to Bellingham to perform a repertoire of the finest symphonic music. Members of the orchestra all hold prestigious positions elsewhere, and many are principal players in major North American symphony orchestras. The festival also features world-famous guest artists and young rising stars.

This year’s season runs July 3 through July 19 with five orchestral concerts, four chamber music concerts and two master classes.

Guest artists include violinist Vadim Gluzman on July 3, soprano Katie Van Kooten on July 7, bassist Alexander Hanna on July 11, and pianist Arnaldo Cohen on July 15. The final concert July 19 will feature the Festival Chorus.

In anticipation of the season, two special concerts will be presented.

Bellingham-born saxophonist Jeff Siegfried is the featured performer at the annual “Welcome Home” concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church; and festival favorite Joshua Roman will come to Bellingham for a cello recital at 7:30 p.m. April 24 at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center.

“The season is built largely around repertoire that expresses the composers’ love of country and the influence of the indigenous music of their native land upon their music,” says festival artistic director and conductor Michael Palmer.

The festival season features music by composers who are identified in part with their national heritage. However, the works chosen by Palmer also represent personal and national struggles of greater immediacy.

Works to be performed include Johannes Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Antonín Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, Jean Sibelius’ First Symphony, and Richard Strauss’s last work, “The Four Last Songs.”

Palmer has programmed one other large work that, while not being part of same pattern, does represent a nation (or empire), a period of time and the culminating work of a master: Haydn’s oratorio, “The Creation,” with the Festival Chorus.

The less-formal chamber music concerts are a popular part of the festival program. On the chamber music agenda is the annual Chamber Music by the Bay concert July 5 at Bellingham Cruise Terminal; and returning to the festival will be the Calidore String Quartet, featuring Bellingham violist Jeremy Berry, who will perform July 12.

Rounding out the season are several free events, including chamber music concerts July 9 and 17 in Whatcom Museum’s Rotunda Room.

Two master classes led by guest artists also will take place. Alexander Hanna, double bass, will lead one July 10 at Mount Baker Theatre, and pianist Arnaldo Cohen will lead one July 14 at First Congregational Church.

The festival also will offer educational activities, such as master classes, open rehearsals and free pre-concert lectures.

Season tickets go on sale Jan. 21, and individual concert tickets go on sale Feb. 4 at WWU’s box office, 360-650-6146,

Details:, 360-201-6621, and Bellingham Festival of Music on Facebook.

Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center seeks more members

In November, Bellingham jazz drummer Julian MacDonough began hosting events for his newly formed nonprofit, Whatcom Jazz Arts Music Center, at the downstairs club space at the Majestic, 1027 N. Forest St. The center offers a weekly high school jazz combo program on Mondays, weekly jazz programming on Wednesdays, and more formal jazz concerts on weekends.

MacDonough is taking a few weeks off to take care of some fundraising, he says, working on grants, corporate fundraising, and more.

One of the things he’d like to do is to boost the organization’s membership from the 40-ish members to 80 by the end of January. Doing that will help the center budget its monthly content and present the kind of quality concerts that MacDonough would like to keep presenting. To that end, he’s keeping the monthly membership price of $25, available until the end of January.

He’s also hosting a benefit concert for the student combo program at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, in the center’s space at the Majestic, featuring the student combos and a faculty band – Blake Angelos on piano, Jimmy Austin on trombone, Zach Zenovic on guitar, Nate Parker on bass, and MacDonough on drums.

Center members are admitted free, but donations are appreciated. General and student tickets are $5 at the door.

Here’s another upcoming event that’s promising:

New York City’s Aaron Johnson Quintet performs at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, at the center’s space in the Majestic. MacDonough’s take on the ensemble: “We are so excited to have this young group of musicians playing be-bop music as if they were from the era! If you are a fan of Charlie Parker, do not miss Aaron Johnson!”

Tickets for the concert are $10 general, $5 students, and free for center members.

To make a tax-deductible donation to center, go to to and get more information on upcoming events at