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Britt Festival Orchestra plans to shine for diamond anniversary

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Britt Festival Orchestra. Courtesy photo
Tessa Lark. Courtesy photo
Bruce Campbell. Courtesy photo
Seth Parker Woods. Courtesy photo
Britt Festival Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams. Courtesy photo

The Britt Festival Orchestra has announced its 2022 60th anniversary summer season, anchoring Oregon’s Britt Music and Arts Festival with three weeks of exhilarating open-air programming in historic Jacksonville. Under the leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2022 season opens with a newly commissioned piece dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Britt Festival Orchestra, “The Empress,” composed and performed by pianist Sebastian Chang.

During this diamond anniversary, programs include a diverse selection of composers and guest artists, with special focus on Black composers during the Juneteenth concert. Including Chang, four outstanding soloists will perform throughout the season. The final concert steps it up a notch, featuring the 10-person ensemble People of Earth performing the West Coast premiere of a piece commissioned by Britt. This season’s Family Show will be offered as a morning concert, presenting the return of popular narrator Bruce Campbell. The 2022 Britt Festival Orchestra season is scheduled to run June 17 through July 3.

“We spent months dreaming up a celebratory and dynamic season to mark the return of the full Britt Festival Orchestra to our beloved Rogue Valley,” Abrams stated in a press release. “The 2022 season is a demonstration of our deepest artistic values — showcasing the greatest creative talents of today alongside the most powerful orchestral music of the past. I’m thrilled about the two concerts we are devoting to exploring social justice and equity in America through the lens of soloists like Davóne Tines and Seth Parker Woods, and composers like Julius Eastman and Tyshawn Sorey.

“I’m equally excited about the brilliant composer Sebastian Chang’s new piano concerto that he’ll premiere and perform with us on our opening night. The season is full of unique, energetic and engaged projects, like Dafnis Prieto’s new concerto for the Cuban timba band People of Earth and orchestra (also a Britt commission) and concerts featuring super-talents like Gabriel Kahane (as our special composer-conductor fellow) and violinist Tessa Lark.

“Between the breadth of programming and the virtuosity of our orchestra, our goal is to remind Southern Oregon of the gem that is the Britt Festival Orchestra, and to reaffirm the bonds that have made the relationship between BFO members and the community so strong for 60 years,” Abrams said.

Earlier season this year

Britt has announced a change to the BFO season this year. The season will begin five weeks earlier than it has traditionally been held, with opening night on June 17. Following several moves to the North Medford High School auditorium and other locations, plus concert cancellations during several BFO seasons due to unhealthy wildfire smoke, the Britt Board of Directors and BFO decided to move the orchestra season earlier in the summer, when wildfire smoke does not normally impact outdoor concerts. This move will ensure the safety of orchestra members, staff, patrons and volunteers.

The earlier season also provides a welcome opportunity to honor the Juneteenth holiday by celebrating Black musicians and composers in the orchestral world. The Juneteenth concert features recipient of the 2022 Chamber Music America Michael Jaffee Visionary Award, cellist Seth Parker Woods, performing several works by Black composers. The first half of the concert features composers Valerie Coleman, Tyshawn Sorey, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Adolphus Hailstork, and ends with the hypnotic minimalist Julius Eastman’s work, “Femenine.”

Guest artists and program highlights

This season the BFO will present a broad range of guest artists, making up a diverse group of musicians from the opening night’s pianist, Sebastian Chang, to closing night’s 10-person supergroup, People of Earth.

The opening night concert will also feature Timo Andres’ work “Everything Happens So Much” and will finish with the heroic sounds of Beethoven’s “Third Symphony.”

The second week of the series brings the charismatic, deep bass-baritone of Davóne Tines, who will be featured in a performance of his own Concerto No. 1 “Sermon,” which uses recitatives from James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Jessica Care Moore, alongside arias from Samuel Barber, Caroline Shaw, Tines/Dieudonné/Aucoin, and Carlos Simon. The concert opens with a new arrangement of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Michael Schachter and ends with the compelling “Symphony No. 10” by Dimitri Shostakovich.

June 26 will offer an orchestral extravaganza, featuring music of Michael Tilson Thomas, William Grant Still and Igor Stravinsky.

The final week begins with a morning concert — the ever-popular Family Show — narrated by actor Campbell, who was wildly popular in 2019 with the Southern Oregon version of “Peter and the Wolf.” This season’s Family Show features Nathaniel Stookey’s “The Composer is Dead!” back-to-back with a composition written for the BFO by its own principal bass player, Dave Anderson, titled “Celebration.”

The evening concerts during the final week of the season continue to highlight guest artists, including critically acclaimed violinist Tessa Lark, a 2020 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, performing Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium.” This work will be preceded by up-and-coming composer Gabriel Kahane’s Nocturama, and will end with the celebratory Symphony No. 8, by Antonín Dvorák. ​​

New York City-based superband People of Earth closes the season July 3, with an exciting explosion of sound during a Latin-themed night. People of Earth will perform the West Coast premiere of a work commissioned by Britt, written by Dafnis Prieto, “Tentacion.” Additionally, the 2022 Conducting Fellow, Gabriel Kahane, will conduct Arturo Marquez’s “Danzon No. 2.” Abrams wraps up this fantastic season with George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, ending with the classic favorite, “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel.

Tickets and other information

Tickets will go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 11, on the Britt website, BrittFest.org. Tickets may also be purchased from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Britt Box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-6077.

There will not be a member pre-sale for the BFO concerts. Britt recommends making sure you are using the site BrittFest.org, as there are several websites that look official while charging higher prices and inflated fees.

From Feb. 11 to March 1, Britt is offering a special limited-time offer: $5 lawn tickets to any of the BFO concerts.

To stay informed about BFO events and everything else Britt, sign up for the monthly Britt Buzz newsletter at Brittfest.org. You can subscribe in the “Stay in the Loop” section at the bottom of every page.