Blueridge Chamber Music Festival Concludes its Eighth Season

KPU music instructor and VCC instructor co-hosted festival throughout August
Alyssa Laube, Coordinating Editor

A violinist and pianist perform Chris Paul Harman’s “Midnight with the Stars and You” on Aug. 18. (Alyssa Laube)

Although the popularity of chamber music both rose and fell before the beginning of the 20th century, its influence continues to ripple into classical music communities today.

Soon-to-be KPU Music Instructor Alejandro Ochoa and Vancouver Community College Instructor Dorothea Hayley have been organizing the Blueridge Chamber Music Festival for eight years to celebrate the genre, inviting local musicians, composers, and classical music enthusiasts to take part in live performances throughout August.

“It began as an excuse to play music with friends and other musicians that we like playing with,” says Hayley about the origins of Blueridge. “Every show is a pleasure for us to play and we wanted to share that with local audiences.”

It’s the intimate and spontaneous nature of chamber music that Hayley and Ochoa find themselves drawn to as musicians. Because the music was originally written to be played at social gatherings in people’s homes, it is composed to be very personal and pleasing to the ear, but recreating that feeling in a concert hall can be challenging, according to the duo.

Regardless, they both hope that “there’s not such a big divide between the performers and the audience” as there is with most live classical performances.

The festival’s Aug. 18 event included three performances: Beethoven’s famous “Kreutzer” Sonata, composer-in-residence Chris Harman’s take on “Midnight with the Stars and You” from The Shining score, and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op 57.

As a unique take on the Kreutzer Sonata, a string quartet—rather than the original piano and violin arrangement—performed the work. Hayley hopes that “this different version of the piece allows people to look into a piece that a lot of people in our audience will have heard many, many times.”

Harman’s variations on “Midnight with the Stars and You” was strikingly modern in comparison to the sonata, and is a chillingly fragmented and inharmonic composition. Written to match the haunting nature of the film it was featured in, Hayley and Ochoa “think that the result is something that, in a way, is familiar to classical music audiences but, in a way, is a quite new, quite personal musical language.”

“Even if you’re a person who hasn’t heard a lot of contemporary classical music, it’s the type of piece that is very intriguing because you can hear that it’s very, very difficult for both performers. It’s very lively,” says Hayley.

The passion of the musicians who performed on Aug. 18 was visible to a crowd of nearly 100 in the Orpheum Annex, located in downtown Vancouver on Seymour Street. From the spidery, spastic movements of the violinists playing Harman’s piece to the rhythmic sawing and swaying of the quartet working through the complicated Beethoven sonata, it became clear that it isn’t the relevance of the music that makes Blueridge possible, but the inspiration of the artists who respect and admire the genre.

Ochoa is excited to teach KPU students about chamber music this fall, when he will begin his first semester with the university.

“I sure hope they have a chance to collaborate with chamber music, and I would love to have a chance to show music to them,” he says. “I believe there are some courses where they already have to do some of this but personally, in my studies, when I had to do this, it was never enough, especially for pianists.”

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