May 11, 2021

Ellen Pfeifer
Bellingham Festival of Music

Bellingham Festival of Music Announces Return to Live Concerts in 2021 Season at Western Washington University

The Bellingham Festival of Music (BFM) is delighted to announce that it will resume a season of live concerts following last year’s cancellation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The modified series in the Western Washington University Performing Arts Center will take place July 10—18, with three orchestral and two chamber music programs under the artistic direction of conductor Michael Palmer. The Festival’s ensemble-in-residence, the Calidore String Quartet, will present its annual concert and its individual members will also be featured as concerto soloists in the orchestra programs. In lieu of the popular Chamber Music-by-the-Bay concerts traditionally performed at the Ferry Terminal, orchestra principals will perform their annual chamber music program at the PAC, 516 High St. 98225.

To comply with the state’s pandemic reopening plan and County Health Department guidelines, the Festival, in close collaboration with WWU, has compressed its season from three weeks to nine days and from seven performances to five. To ensure social distancing, the orchestra will be limited to 26 players, mostly strings, spaced six feet apart on the stage. Similarly, a maximum of 200 patrons will be seated in spaced clusters at each performance. To accommodate more listeners, most concerts will be performed twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Each concert will last one hour with no intermission to allow time for the auditorium to be cleaned between performances.

The season will open Saturday, July 10 at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. with an orchestra program of music by Bach, Elgar, and Haydn. Principal Flute Christina Smith will be featured soloist in the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 2 and Calidore Quartet cellist Estelle Choi will solo in the Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major. Complete programs are listed below.

Tickets for all programs will be $50, the price reflecting costs that are unique to Covid-compliance. Seats will be unreserved. Tickets go on sale June 1. There will be 20 free tickets at every concert for first responders. Home hosts will continue to receive a pair of complementary tickets for one concert. WWU faculty and students may purchase discounted tickets at $35 and $25 respectively. Tickets will be available online at or by email at Those seeking discounted or complementary tickets should call WWU Box Office at (360) 650-6146.

  • Saturday, July 10, 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. BFM Orchestra
  • J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 for Flute and Strings and Continuo, BWV 1067
  • Christina Smith, flute
  • Edward Elgar: Serenade for Strings
  • F.J. Haydn: Cello Concerto in C Major Hob.VIIb:1 with 2 oboes, 2 horns
  • Estelle Choi, cello
  • Monday, July 12, 7:30 p.m. (note: one performance only) Festival Chamber Players
  • Nickitas Demos: Clarinet Sextet
  • W.A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A-major K. 581 Laura Ardan, clarinet
  • Wednesday, July 14, 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. BFM Orchestra
  • Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony for Strings, Op. 4
  • W.A. Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major K.364 with 2 oboes, 2 horns
  • Jeremy Berry, viola; Jeffrey Myers, violin
  • Edvard Grieg: Holberg Suite Op. 40
  • Thursday, July 15, 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Calidore String Quartet Program
  • Sunday, June 18, 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. BFM Orchestra
  • W.A. Mozart: Violin Concerto #5 in A-Major, K.219 with two oboes, 2 horns Ryan Meehan, violin
  • P. I. Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48

ABOUT THE BELLINGHAM FESTIVAL OF MUSIC: Nestled between snow-capped mountains and island-studded bay, the spectacular natural beauty of Bellingham, Washington provides the ideal backdrop for the celebration of classical music. Since 1993, the Bellingham Festival of Music has enlivened the summer season with outstanding live orchestral performances and chamber music recitals for Pacific Northwest audiences. Under the artistic direction of co-founder and noted American conductor Michael Palmer, the festival orchestra is composed of some of the finest musicians in the United States and Canada, many of them principals in such illustrious orchestras as the New York Philharmonic and the Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta Symphonies. They are joined by eminent soloists who have included Garrick Ohlsson, Lynn Harrell, Arnaldo Cohen, Joshua Bell, Joshua Roman, Jeremy Denk, Marc-André Hamelin, Jamie Barton, George Li, and Pepe Romero. In addition, the festival boasts a resident chamber ensemble, currently the Calidore String Quartet, which presents recitals as well as participating in community education and engagement activities.

Of equal importance to its summer season are the Festival’s year-round outreach initiatives which extend the beauty of classical music to youngsters in the region. Among these programs are masterclasses, and both the Play it Forward Chamber Music Residency and Beethoven in the Schools project which bring music to K-12 classrooms. In 2014-15, BFM also helped kick start the return of the Fifth Grade Strings program in the Bellingham public schools and followed that in 2017 in the Ferndale schools. It continues its support with the purchase and maintenance of string instruments that allows all students to participate. The Festival also supports music lessons and instruments for youngsters in the Blue Skies for Children program

The Festival’s artistic excellence has been recognized widely throughout the country, and its concerts and recordings have been broadcast nationally, first by NPR and by American Public Media on its Performance Today show. Among these recordings are the three-CD set of the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos featuring Garrick Ohlsson with Michael Palmer conducting the Festival Orchestra. These performances were recorded live at the Festival on the Natural Soundfields label in 2000.

The recipient of grants from several entities, the Festival has received numerous National Endowment for the Arts grants since 2009—a resounding endorsement of the quality of its performances and the contribution it makes to regional and national cultural life.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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