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photo of large modern barn with snowy mountains behindSignal Hill Ranch, where the primary concerts of the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival take place.

photoFestival director Kevin Krentz, left, and festival board director Robert Nelson.

Nine Days, Twenty Two Artists
2012 Chamber Music Festival

At least one important change will affect audiences for this year’s July 27 - Aug. 4 Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, and it’s a sign of success. For the first time in 17 years, concert goers must buy tickets for specific concerts instead of being able to purchase tickets that can be used any night.

“We’re at capacity pretty much every concert,” explained Kevin Krentz, festival artistic director.

Chamber opera, which Krentz called “a fairly new genre,” also will be introduced to local listeners. “I had to ... find good composers writing right now and find operas that would appeal to our audience,” he said. Two one-act operas will be performed on opening night only by soprano Gale Odom and mezzo-soprano Deanne Meek, both of whom appeared at the festival for the first time last year.

Krentz said the operas are about “very dynamic women.” The first selection, to be sung by Odom, is a 12-minute scene called “Nora in The Great Outdoors.” Nora is the lead character in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll's House.” The play ends with Nora slamming the door as she walks out on a bad marriage. Krentz said the operatic “Nora” scene, written by New York composer Daniel Felsenfeld, begins at the moment the play ends.

photoMezzo-soprano Deanne Meek is returning to the festival this year.


The second opera is a 35-minute song cycle titled "Camille Claudel: Into The Fire,” composed by Jake Heggie with lyrics by Gene Scheer. Hegge is the acclaimed composer of the full-length opera “Moby-Dick.” Meek will be singing five short scenes based on the day Claudel's family had her commited to an asylum. She was French sculptor Rodin's lover and a famously talented sculptor in her own right who became a paranoid schizophrenic. Her family had her committed. They never visited her at the hospital and ignored doctors who said she needed not to be isolated but to be part of society.

Krentz said he is very pleased with both new operas as well as this year’s festival theme, which is the music of Beethoven, and with the new musicians he is bringing here to perform. “We have the biggest festival with the least amount of money in the world,” he told Grist. He said the secret is that “you just have to pick players at a certain time in their career.”

photoKee-Hyun Kim, cellist for the Grammy-award-winning Parker Quartet, performing at the 2011 festival.


The four musicians new to local audiences are Serena McKinney, whom Krentz called “a wonderful violinist.” She is a founding member of the Janaki String Trio. She made her solo debut at age 12 and has been a violin soloist throughout the United States and Canada.

Wenting Kang, a violist who "has been winning quite a few competitions on the national circuit,” according to Krentz, also is coming to the valley, as are Charles Noble, a “very fine” violist from Oregon, and Rowena Hammill, associate principal cello for the Los Angeles Opera.

Robert Nelson, festival board president, said online ticket sales are going well. “At least a couple of nights are close to half capacity already,” he said. The ranch barn holds up to 225 people.

Nelson credited patrons and volunteers for making the music festival possible. “It wouldn’t happen without the great support of the patrons,” he said. Nelson and his wife, Charlotte, with some help from fellow board members, are hosting a donors’ dinner this weekend to show their “appreciation for the people who step up and allow us to have the festival.”

“When people in the Methow Valley stand up and cheer, it says something about the quality of the music,” said Nelson.

The 2012 festival includes five main evening concerts at the scenic Signal Hill Ranch between Winthrop and Twisp. The grounds open at 6 p.m. for those bringing their own picnics. Beverages will be on sale as will light meals designed by the chef at Winthrop's Rocking Horse Bakery.

Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 per concert. Students under 18 are $5. The complete festival schedule includes several free rehearsals and a free afternoon family concert. For all details and advance ticket purchase go to


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