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Pairing classical music and wine at three area wineries beginning this weekend

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Willamette Valley Music Festival will begin this weekend at J. Christopher Wines and continue at Sokol Blosser Winery and Elk Cove Vineyards.

The Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival will bring world-class music to Newberg Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 18-19 at J. Christopher Wines, Aug. 25 at Sokol Blosser Winery and Aug. 26 at Elk Cove Vineyards.

The theme for this year's event is the pioneer spirit and celebrating the first families who settled in Oregon or later imagined the state's wine industry.

The concerts will feature works by pioneering female composers, including Joan Tower, Rebecca Clarke and Fanny Mendelssohn.

The Willamette Valley Chamber was founded by Sasha Callahan and cellist Leo Eguchi to bring people together to experience musical masterpieces and enrich lives in Oregon and Willamette Valley communities.

"Music, like wine, comes to life in unique ways when enjoyed live in the company of others," Eguchi said. "Yet it's not often that audiences are given an opportunity to savor them together. That special sense of community inspired this festival and we're excited to bring world-class music and performances to Oregon wine country again this summer."

The festival kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday with performer and composer-in-residence Tower, who will be on hand afterward to talk about her work. Haydn's "String Quartet No. 2 Op.33," otherwise known as "The Joke," is slated to start the show and be followed by Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 2 in E minor, Op. 59." Tower's "Rising" for flute and string quartet will be performed Saturday as well, while her composition "White Water" is scheduled for Sunday.

"We have been enjoying working on her music," Callahan said. "They are really vibrant pieces, she has a way to hold your attention in this way that is very unique. There is never really a dip in the energy. It changes but there is a passion in her writing, it is wonderful."

Tower is a Grammy-winning contemporary American composer, pianist and conductor whose compositions have been performed in concert halls around the world. She has written numerous compositions for orchestra, ballet, chamber, vocal and solo instruments.

"Joan is just a legend at this point; she is amazing …," Callahan said. "She has been commissioned and been performed by all the major assembles and soloists worldwide. I reached out and expected her to say, 'Oh, I am going to be busy' but instead she said, 'OK, I'll be there!' We are thrilled about that."

Musicians will include Callahan and fellow violinists Greg Ewer, Mugumi Stohs Lewis, Kenji Bunch and Charles Noble, as well as flutist Amelia Lukas and cellist Eguchi.

"We feel really blessed," Callahan said. "It is a really special group of people and the spirit of these people is really magical and the spirit of generosity and collaboration has just been incredible. Each one of the players and composers that we've worked with, they just jump in with both feet and are ready to go when they can and, of course, the winemakers have embraced the spirit of collaboration and celebrating craft. … It is really the highlight of our year."

The Aug. 18-19 performances will include Prokofev's "Sonata for Two Violins," Bunch's "String Circle" and Mendelssohn's "String Quartet in E-flat major."

The Aug. 25 performance at Sokol Blosser Winery and the Aug. 26 show at Elk Cove Vineyard will include Philip Glass's "Four Duets for Violin and Cello," Rebecca Clarke's "Poem for String Quartet" and Schubert's "String Quintet in C Major."

Tickets are $45 for general admission and include a three-wine tasting pared with each program. Tickets for students and youth are available for $20 and season subscription pass is available for $110. To purchase tickets go to website 222.wvchambermusic.org.

For more details on performances and venues, visit www.wvchambermusic.org/calendar.


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