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Oregon Bach Festival Soars Past Sales Mark

  • Jul 13, 2008
[caption id="attachment_2924" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Alto soloist Ingeborg Danz wins the hearts of the OBF Mens Chorus in the July 9 Schubertiade, one of seven sellouts."][/caption]With a second straight year of sales growth, besting its previous high revenue mark by 12%, and staging night after night of sold out concerts, the Oregon Bach Festival enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in its entire history. As the curtain closed on the St. Matthew Passion on Sunday, July 13, John Evans, OBF President and Executive Director, announced that this year’s season grossed $502,696 in ticket sales, exceeding its previous high mark of $448,408 set in 2004, surpassing by 20.2% its 2007 total, and bettering its 2008 budgeted goal by $26,296. Reflecting an influx of new audiences from the Eugene 08 Olympic Trials and the Festival’s opening night venture in Portland, the OBF achieved its broadest ever geographical reach, with ticket-holders from 39 states as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, South Korea, and the U.K. Its total attendance edged 32,300 — one of the highest ever figures in its 39-year history. Equal to this great achievement, in Evans’ view, was the consistently high level of the performances, as witnessed by the extraordinary press the Festival received this year. “The standing ovations, the capacity audiences, and the tremendous collaborative energy of our musicians speak volumes for what the OBF now represents,” he reflected, citing the five-minute standing ovation for the opening night B Minor Mass, the crowd-pleasing residency of the Shanghai Quartet (which captured popular imagination in a totally revamped chamber music series), the capacity crowds for Garrison Keillor, The Five Browns, and Sarah Chang, and the profundity of Rilling’s closing performance of the St. Matthew Passion. “Our goal from the outset was to honor the past and the values that have made this Festival great, while celebrating the future and the diversity of programming we can stage and the audience we can attract. And judging by the enthusiasm of our audiences and the press we have received, inspired throughout by music-making of the highest order, we succeeded.” Aside from its music, the OBF honored its past in both the opening and closing nights at the Hult Center, launching the Festival in Eugene with a Founders’ Concert honoring its founding fathers, Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman, and preceding the final performance of the St. Matthew with a ceremony in which Rilling presented the Saltzman Award to UO President Dave Frohnmayer and his wife Lynn. Named in honor of Royce Saltzman, founding executive director (now the Festival’s Director Emeritus) the award is the Festival’s highest honor, given to those who have made outstanding contributions over the years. The Frohnmayers have been Festival participants since 1971. In recent years Dave Frohnmayer has overseen significant growth in university support for Festival operations. Evans’ view was echoed by Helmuth Rilling, the Festival’s artistic director, who hailed both the Festival’s high standard of performances and also a new sense of energy emanating from the concert hall on both side of the footlights: “We have many times performed the great works of Bach but never, as we have this year, performed all the major pieces in one festival, and at such a very high artistic level. We had many new artists and audiences who had a lot of enthusiasm for our music. This was a real joy for me.” Concerns that this year’s Festival would run concurrently with the US Olympic Trials for ten of its seventeen days were allayed, Evans said, by an overlap in attendance and two key resultant benefits. “From the start we saw this as an opportunity. Many Trials visitors made their way to the Hult Center, particularly for the concert in which we honored track legend Bill Bowerman, a long-time Oregon Bach Festival supporter. But perhaps of more lasting benefit was the relocation of the opening night to Portland. It re-engaged us with an extraordinarily eager audience and opened a door to Portland that had been closed to us for almost 30 years.” In addition, Evans said, the OBF’s partnership with Eugene 08 also resulted in a beneficial partnership with Nike, which contributed in-kind design of eye-catching festival branding and marketing materials, including the winning new OBF logo. Evans and Rilling are now eagerly looking forward to the 40th Oregon Bach Festival, which takes place June 26-July 12, 2009. Celebrating four major composer anniversaries (as well as the Festival’s own) the scheduled highlights include a program of theatre music by Purcell, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation (in Portland and Eugene), and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a theatrical staging in collaboration with Eugene Ballet. Following the success of this year’s chamber music residency by the Shanghai Quartet, there’ll be the welcomed return of pianist Jeffrey Kahane as artist-in-residence. Needless to say, the music of J.S. Bach will not be neglected. Rilling’s Discovery Series will be devoted to the six cantatas of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Portland Baroque Orchestra will give a complete cycle of the Brandenburg Concertos, again in Portland and Eugene. The much-anticipated centerpiece will be the world premiere of a new setting of Handel’s Messiah text from Swedish composer Sven David Sandström – a joint commission between the OBF and Rilling’s Bach Academy in Stuttgart.