High Desert Chamber Music announces season

2016-17 opens Sept. 30 with Frank Almond concert

By David Jasper, The Bulletin

High Desert Chamber Music 2016-17 season

Frank Almond — Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at Bend Church

Aviara Trio — Nov. 4 at Bend Church

Annual Benefit Gala — Nov. 19 at Bend Golf and Country Club

Orloff/Walz Duo — Jan. 13 at Bend Church

Martin Chalifour & Friends — Feb. 14 at Tower Theatre

Duo Diez — March 31 at Bend Church

Crown City String Quartet — May 19 at Black Butte Ranch, May 20 at Bend Church

High Desert Chamber Music will enter its ninth season this fall — and opening night is around the corner.

Things are off and running Sept. 30, which will see the return of violinist Frank Almond — rare, 301-year-old Lipinski Stradivarius in hand — for the nonprofit HDCM’s first concert of the season, an evening performance at Bend Church, formerly known as First United Methodist Church. A matinee concert will follow on Oct. 1.

“We are just thrilled,” said HDCM founder Isabelle Senger of the return of Almond, who performed here for the first time last fall.

“Last season, that was our highest attendance concert ever, in all of our eight seasons. We sold out, and we added seats and sold out again,” she said. Since then, Almond issued the recording “A Violin’s Life Vol. 2,” which features more compositions in some way connected to the Lipinski’s compelling history.

Next up is the Aviara Trio, a Southern California piano, violin and cello trio. Featuring members of the Pacific Symphony and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the threesome performs Nov. 4. The ninth annual Benefit Gala will take place two weeks later, Nov. 19 at Bend Golf and Country Club.

The new year will see the return of the Orloff/Walz Duo, in concert Jan. 13. Cellist John Walz and pianist Edith Orloff have been collaborators for more than 40 years and, like Almond, proved popular last season.

“We just had such a tremendous response to their concert last year that I just had to bring them back,” Senger said. For this year’s Valentine’s Day event, Martin Chalifour, the principal concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will perform Feb. 14 at the Tower Theatre with his piano trio, Martin Chalifour & Friends, those friends being pianist Timothy Durkovic and cellist Antonio Lysy. While here, Chalifour will lead HDCM’s second public master class, first added to its season last year.

High Desert Chamber Music will introduce another group to Central Oregon audiences, the London-based guitar and violin pair Duo Diez, in concert March 31, to mix things up a bit with a program rooted in Spanish, Argentine and Latin American music.

“Their styles are really varied, but certainly there’s still a high representation of classical composers,” Senger said. “It’s just a little bit different for our audience. It’s hopefully going to attract some new interest to our series, as well as please our present constituency.”

Finally, Crown City String Quartet, of which violinist Senger is a member, will wrap up the 2016-17 season May 19 and 20. That includes a date at Black Butte Ranch, another facet carrying over from last season.

“We had such a great response to our concert out at Black Butte Ranch last season that we were able to just book that right away,” Senger said. “We are going to present our evening there, which includes a little reception with the performers after. And then we’ll end our entire season in Bend on the 20th. Same group, same program, but one of my goals was always to expand our reach and go perform in different areas here in Central Oregon.”

Signs of High Desert Chamber Music’s growth abound. Increasingly, Senger has been approached by artists and managers looking to book concerts here, rather than the other way around; such was the case with Duo Diez.

The growth of High Desert Chamber Music has seemingly coincided with Central Oregon’s. When Senger launched the nonprofit in the midst of recession in 2008, the organization, whose mission is bringing world-class chamber music and musicians to Central Oregon, had a bit of an uphill climb just getting people to understand exactly what chamber music involves, she said.

“When I first started, I knew 90 percent of the people in my audience. Now, at a concert, I know maybe 60 (percent),” she said. “There’s just brand-new people. I’ve met a number of people who pulled me aside and said not only had they heard of High Desert Chamber Music, but it was a determining factor in their decision to move here. That is really powerful to me, and I take that responsibility seriously.”

Two such people are Thomas Wright and his wife, Pamela, who moved to Bend a year and a half ago from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area. Prior to making the move, they looked at various data points, including the cultural amenities Central Oregon had to offer.

“We met at UCLA, my wife and I, so we were drawn to the West Coast, and started actively looking for communities where we felt that we would find a fit, and a big part of that was classical music and chamber music, specifically,” said Wright, who used to serve on the board of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. “When I came to Bend, and I went to my first High Desert Chamber Music concert, I was very impressed with the level of performance.”

One benefit of larger audiences and new faces: This summer, Senger hired her first assistant.

“Since I started this, I’ve been so singularly focused. I’ve felt like I hadn’t had the time or opportunity to do much other than anything that has to do with High Desert Chamber Music,” said Senger, who is already planning special programs for High Desert Chamber Music’s 10th anniversary.

“The first few years, I just never knew whether there would BE a next year. I couldn’t plan ahead. Now I will say, I probably have half of my performers already booked and committed to our 10th anniversary season,” Senger said. “So I have grand plans.”

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