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Ovations, Honors Conclude Rilling Era

  • Jul 21, 2013

With a packed house in Silva Hall for Sunday’s performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass, the Oregon Bach Festival and Eugene community concluded an era of artistic leadership—the final concert of conductor Helmuth Rilling’s forty four-year tenure as founding artistic director of the University of Oregon event. IMG_4128

In ceremonies following the concert, nearly two thousand audience members in the Hult Center lobby raised a glass in salute as John Evans, OBF president and executive director, announced a new funding initiative in Rilling’s name, focused on education. “From a longtime professional conductor’s master class, to an annual program for advanced high school choral singers, to an array of seminars, lectures, and even online programs geared to lifelong enrichment through music,” Evans said, “Helmuth’s greatest legacy is his commitment to education. In accord with our standing as a program of the University of Oregon, this new endowment will continue that legacy.” State representative Phil Barnhart honored Rilling with a resolution from the State of Oregon, proclaiming the conductor’s contributions to the cultural life of the state. Evans then presented the maestro with a hand-bound score of the musical work "Alleluia" by Scottish composer James MacMillan, written in Rilling's honor and premiered on July 6 during the Festival’s “Passing of the Baton” concert. At a small reception later in the evening, UO President Michael Gottfredsen presented Rilling with his third honor from the University of Oregon, its Presidential Medal.

Toast

“Each in its own way memorializes the very best in human endeavor,” said President Gottfredson. “Tonight, you [Maestro Rilling] become the first person in the history of our university to have been honored with all three of these awards.” The honors capped a year in which Rilling celebrated his 80th birthday and received Chorus America’s Distinguished Service Award and the Eugene’s Arts and Letters Award. The Festival’s entire season was a success as well, with critical raves, thirty concerts that included five sellouts, and a total audience of nearly 30,000 that attended fifty-eight events in six cities, including concerts, lectures, talks, films, family programs, and social events. Participants came from more than thirty-nine states and seven countries including Canada, Germany, Venezuela, and Thailand. Evans said another key accomplishment in this milestone year was the transition of leadership from Rilling to new artistic director Matthew Halls. Halls performed as a soloist with Portland Baroque Orchestra in a tour of four cities and conducted two Silva Hall concerts, including the second half of the “Passing of the Baton” event. That night, he conducted the OBF’s Berwick Chorus in the world premiere of MacMillan’s Alleluia to an instant standing ovation, with Helmuth and Martina Rilling seated on stage. “This was a momentous season in many ways,” Evans said. “We could see, in both literal and symbolic fashion, the successful transition of leadership to a new era with Matthew Halls. And, especially through this final concert, we were all able to celebrate what Helmuth Rilling has brought to our Festival and this community.” Festival dates for 2014 are June 27-July 13. Major concerts for Halls’ first year as artistic director will be announced in early September.

Helmuth Rilling, Michael Gottfredsen