Whidbey Island Music Festival goes virtual

The greatest composers probably didn’t imagine that centuries after writing their opuses, people would be performing them for a virtual audience.

It’s a story becoming more and more familiar as the pandemic drags on.

The Whidbey Island Music Festival, which usually takes place against the backdrop of St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland, is moving online this year.

Tekla Cunningham, the festival’s director and one of its performing artists, said the music, which has been of the baroque variety in festivals past, is going classical just in time to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

“Originally, we had wanted to do a big party for Beethoven,” she said with a laugh.

But with COVID-19 restrictions in place, a big celebration will not be possible. Instead, the musical performances will be available online for ticket holders in the form of three separate pre-recorded concerts.

The opening night on Friday, Aug. 21, will feature cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian, who has taken up the challenge of learning all 32 Beethoven sonatas. Zivian will be playing two different Viennese fortepianos, one from 1795 and the other from 1841.

Former Poet Laureate Rita Dove will also read her poem “Ludwig Van Beethoven Returns to Vienna” in a video sent from her home in Virginia.

Cunningham said Dove had been planning to come read her poem in person. It is a great honor to have her included, Cunningham added.

“Parts of the original plan remain, which is great,” she said.

The second concert, on Saturday, Aug. 22, will explore little-known female composer Zoe de la Rue. Cunningham will perform on the classical violin and will be joined by soprano Tess Altiveros and classical harpist Maxine Eilander.

The third performance, on Sunday, Aug. 23, will return to Beethoven with Beethoven’s Scottish Songs. Altiveros will be joined by baroque violinist Brandon Vance, baroque cellist Caroline Nicolas, guitarist Stephen Stubbs and pianist Henry Lebedinsky.

Tickets range from $10 to $20 and can be purchased at whidbeyislandmusicfestival.org/. A pre-concert live chat over Zoom with the artists will also be available.

All concerts will be available to watch through Sept. 30, which Cunningham said will help provide flexibility in viewing times for the virtual audience.

As another way to bring performances to audiences during the current pandemic, the musicians have been providing mini porch—or driveway—concerts to festival donors. For a minimum donation of $500, the artists put on a socially distanced, personal show.

Cunningham said the porch concerts have been a way of keeping Whidbey Island Music Festival supported and people connected with each other.

Whidbey Island Music Festival goes virtual