Sunriver Music Fest has a new face for 2022 | Cultural characteristics | Fold | The Weekly Source

Jhe Sunriver Music Festival, an annual chamber orchestra concert series, welcomes a new artistic director this season, as well as a brand new venue. Seattle native Brett Mitchell has a vibrant schedule lined up for events at Bend’s new Caldera High School as well as Sunriver’s Great Hall, kicking off with a free outdoor movie night at the resort’s Besson Commons on 8 august. The Source Weekly spoke with Mitchell this week about the 2022 season and his vision for the future of the festival.

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  • Photo submitted
  • Maestro Mitchell applauds cellist Amit Peled after his solo performance at Sunriver last summer.

Weekly Source: Welcome to the Sunriver Music Festival. Will this be your first time in central Oregon?

Bret Mitchell: Surprisingly, yes. It’s notable because growing up, my family spent a good portion of each summer in Grants Pass at my grandparents’ house, but we didn’t go to the east side of the Cascades – and it’s just beautiful. I was here for a week last summer to play for the selection committee.

SW: It looks like this season’s lineup has a few “workhorses” – Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Mendelssohn’s 4th – with some interesting diversions in between, like pop and jazz on the 12th August and a “piano-centric evening” on August 15.

BM: Yes, it is such a beautiful program. For the piano-centric concert, we’ll feature one or two of the medalists from this year’s Cliburn Competition (the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, taking place in Fort Worth, Texas in June). We know it will be a Mozart piano concerto because one of the requirements of the Cliburn competition is to perform a Mozart concerto.

For the closing concert, there’s this wonderful song cycle by British composer Gerald Finzi, based on songs from five different Shakespeare plays, called ‘Let us Garlands Bring’, sung by my long-time associate and one of my best friends, bass-baritone Timothy Jones. Before Jones sings, we’ll play a five-part instrumental cycle, “Music for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.” It’s a very nice Shakespearean first half. The second half will be the Italian Symphony by Mendelssohn, a composer who, like everyone else in the 19th century, was also a well-known Shakespeare lover. I think it will be a great way to end the season.

SW: I see the pop concert includes “symphonic jazz”, which some people would describe as involving a lot of improvisation, while others might think of a more big band sound. Which will it be?

BM: For the pop performance, the first half is all about film music, which is my deep love. The first piece is from the Bond franchise which turns 60 this year, a mix of themes from the film series. Then comes the theme of love from the film The Godfather, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year; then after going through some other stuff, we end the first half with some work by John Williams, ending with one from the movie “ET” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. So, a sort of chronology of film music.

For the second half, when we talk about symphonic jazz, yes, it can mean a lot of different things to different people. I was originally a jazz pianist – I paid for my undergraduate degree at Western Washington University by playing in a jazz trio. I meant it here to be from the ragtime era, so we’ll start with some arrangements by Scott Joplin. Then when you think of jazzers who have crossed the symphonic space, I always think of Duke Ellington, so there will be arrangements by Morton Gould of some Ellington tunes. We’ll end with selections from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” score, featuring our bass-baritone Jones.

SW: Will there be discussions before the concert?

BM: Actually, I don’t know the answer to that. There may or may not be a pre-concert talk, but there will definitely be a decent amount of talk from the podium. It’s something I like to do. I like to inspire our viewers by showing them what ignites me about a play. I think the days of stepping on stage, leading, taking, bowing and leaving are over. Audiences want to see the personalities behind the music.

SW: What would you say is your overall hope for this, your first season with the Sunriver festival?

BM: The festival has been very different for the past few years, largely due to COVID, so the focus this summer is really on reconnecting with our community. I hope we will have new people with us who will become permanent fans. I also hope that I can connect with the audience on a personal level. I don’t walk in with a cape behind me, I don’t turn my back on the audience, and I don’t walk in without a word. I’m more of the type real nobody. I don’t do ceremonies — I’m just Brett, and I hope that kind of relationship will help our audience feel welcome.


Sun River Music Festival
August 8-21
Various places
541-593-9310
sunrivermusic.org/events/summer-events
Concerts 40-74$, Discover the Symphony
$15, 21 and under free