After 32 years, the Olympic Music Festival is moving from its beloved, rustic barn in Quilcene and joining forces with the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend.
In a surprise move, the Olympic Music Festival has announced that it will leave the picturesque barn in Quilcene where, for the past 32 years, it has attracted prominent musicians to perform high-quality concerts in a dressed-down, rustic environment.
The barn, which is on Jefferson County property owned by violist and OMF founder Alan Iglitzin, also offered preconcert picnics on the lawn, as well as amplified sound — though without views of the stage — for those who preferred their Beethoven alfresco.
Instead, OMF’s 2016 season will be held in Fort Worden’s enclosed Wheeler Theater in Port Townsend.
The shift was made possible by a newly formed partnership between OMF and the 42-year-old Centrum Foundation, a multidisciplinary arts organization that has been programming chamber music in Port Townsend since its inaugural season.
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For music lovers, the venue change means that the open, airy environment of the Quilcene farm’s uninsulated barn — which featured a combination of folding chairs and hay-bale seating, along with porta-potties — has been replaced by a heated theater with almost the same seating capacity but superior acoustics and amenities.
While OMF’s first season in Port Townsend will be five weeks long (Aug. 13 to Sept. 11) rather than this year’s 12-week season, the festival might be extended in the future.
“Our last summer was so successful,” OMF artistic director and pianist Julio Elizalde said. “We sold over 5,000 individual tickets and came away with a lot of energy and excitement.”
In November, Iglitzin, 84, retired as the festival’s executive director and requested the venue change.
“The farm’s 55 acres are really the Iglitzins’ home,” Elizalde said. “For all these years, they sacrificed their privacy to thousands upon thousands of strangers who attended the festival.
“The change is very sad. But there are an incredible number of benefits to being in Port Townsend and working with Centrum. It’s the best possible outcome,” Elizalde said.
The decision was made by the boards and heads of the two organizations, which agree that the move is to their mutual benefit.
“The Centrum Chamber Music Festival is a completely different entity in terms of our musical focus,” said Lucinda Carver, artistic director of the CCMF, who also teaches and serves as the vice dean of classical performance and composition at the University of Southern California.
“Centrum presents fully formed, professional ensembles, while OMF assembles ad hoc groupings of professional musicians a la the Marlboro Festival model. Together, we can potentially transform Port Townsend into a year-round chamber music destination.”
“Our goal with this relationship is to expand awareness and appreciation of chamber music in Jefferson County and environs,” said Centrum Executive Director Robert Birman. “It’s a net gain for both groups, because we can cross-promote and work in collaboration.”
OMF expects to announce its 2016 season in February.