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Unearthed: OBF '09 love letter

  • Dec 5, 2011
It's December in Eugene, which means many things, but most importantly for a few of our staff here at the Oregon Bach Festival, it's visa application time. Every year OBF presents international instrumentalists, ensembles or vocal soloists, who travel many many miles to join us in Eugene. With their incredible talent, world renown, and endorsement by Artistic Director Helmuth Rilling, these artists enhance the caliber and quality of our annual event. Our first step in facilitating their journey is requesting travel papers from the U.S. immigration service—specifically, an "O-1B Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement." The key to these visas is proving each artist's extraordinary ability, usually evidenced by sustained national or international acclaim. This requires much in-depth research on behalf of our OBF staffers. The internet, old newspapers, and arts programs are scoured to find advertisements, articles, reviews, honors, prizes, CDs, or just about anything else that exudes praise for our artists. It's a ton of work! But sometimes when the stars align and we've all eaten our vegetables, we stumble across a little gem not related to the artist we are researching that proves to be more valuable than any singer's critical review. Dottie Neil published a beautiful article a few years ago in a small community newspaper about how music, and more significantly the Oregon Bach Festival, has changed her life. Her words are touching and inspirational, both reminding us why we work all so hard year-round to produce this momentous event and also encouraging the team to bring our artistic programming to the next level for our valuable patrons. It is a time like this when we feel grateful to be a part of an organization bigger than ourselves, and thankful that our Festival is small enough to impact audience members in such a profound way. We thank Dottie for her kindness and generosity. We hope to have her, and you, join us for many years to come. Read Dottie's article in full below, or click to read it in original form in the Creswell Chronicle. Music in My Life Published: July 8, 2009 By Dottie Neil Music has always played an important part in my life. It was when I was contemplating a change of residence that I realized just how strong an influence music might have been in making my decision. [caption id="attachment_6566" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="LA Times coverage of the OBF"][/caption] After visiting my son and his family in their hillside Eugene home surrounded by trees, deer and other wildlife, I knew I'd found a place where I could lead a happy, peaceful life. Once I decided to move from a hectic city to a quieter and more peaceful environment, I found an LA Times article about a multi-day musical event held every summer in Eugene that convinced me I had made the right choice. I clipped the article describing the Oregon Bach Festival and placed it in a file folder that moved with me to my new home. I was pleased to know that the pleasure of living near my family would be further enriched by a yearly exposure to the music of Bach and other classical composers performed by outstanding musicians. The Summer Festival of Music, as it was then known, originated in Eugene in 1970 under the partnership of German conductor and organist Helmuth Rilling and co-founder Royce Saltzman, associate dean of the University of Oregon School of Music. From this modest beginning, the event developed into the Oregon Bach Festival, which now features major choral and orchestral works plus workshops, master classes, chamber music concerts and solo recitals. Talented performers now came from all over this country and the world to participate in an event of national and international importance. [caption id="attachment_6581" align="alignleft" width="112" caption="Dottie Neil"][/caption] A few months after I arrived in the area, I was seated in Beall Concert Hall on the UO campus surrounded by the glorious choral music of Bach and chamber works of composers that were so beautiful I knew at last I had found my home. The Hult Center for the Performing Arts was constructed soon after my relocation to Eugene and, beginning with the 1982 Bach Festival season, workshops and performances took place in both the Hult Center and Beall Hall with a wider range of music offerings. Although I have never played an instrument, my love of music has been fostered by participation in several choral groups. I appreciate all types of music, especially folk songs, and grew up during the Big Band era enjoying the songs and musicians that played them, but my favorite music has always been classical. The works of Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven and Bach, along with Brahms and Handel have touched my life. Through the years, I have made a practice of sampling the offerings of the Oregon Bach Festival. It may only have been a performance or two, but I always leave the concert hall with the music replaying in my head and heart and gratitude for the artists who come to share their love of music with welcoming and appreciative audiences [caption id="attachment_6561" align="alignright" width="182" caption="Rahel Rilling, Jeff Kahane, David Adorjan. Photo: Wes Hurd"][/caption] Last week, I felt as though I was living in a musical Shangri La. A friend gifted me with tickets to three performances of this year's Oregon Bach Festival. Sunday found us at Beall Hall, where we enjoyed selections from composers Robert Kahn and Johannes Brahms. Pianist Jeffrey Kahane performed at the keyboard of a Fazioli grand piano, handmade in Italy with a sounding board made of red spruce from the Italian Alps, the same wood that was used in Stradivarius violins. I was astonished at the rich, crystal clear, bell-like tones of the piano. Helmuth Rilling's daughters Rahel on violin and Sara on viola, Gernot Süssmuth on violin and David Adorjan, playing a 300-year-old violincello, gave equally powerful performances. At the Hult Center on Tuesday evening, we enjoyed all six of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos played by the Portland Baroque Orchestra led by violinist Monica Huggett. The music was played mostly on period instruments that were in use when Bach composed the music such as natural horns, violins and violas with strings made of gut, an oboe, recorders, a replica natural trumpet, and a harpsichord. A magical week of music concluded for us at the Hult with a performance by world-renowned mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. [caption id="attachment_6562" align="alignright" width="172" caption="Frederica von Stade rehearsing in the Hult Center. Photo: Jon Meyers"][/caption] During the first part of the program she sang selections from Berlioz's Romeo and Juliette, a piece by French composer Jacques Offenbach and a rendition of "Habanera: from Georges Bizet's opera Carman that drew spontaneous applause. The second half of the program featured von Stade performing selections from Broadway musicals such as "Hello, Young Lovers" from The King and I, "A Little Bit in Love" from Wonderful Town, "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music and her encore, "Can't Help Lovin' dat Man" from Show Boat. Surrounded by gorgeous music superbly performed, I was grateful that I'd taken a giant step to move here, choosing to spend my days in a Willamette Valley, "alive with the sound of music." 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