Hôtel: A Concert Exhibition

An Exploration of the Aural Aesthetic And Visual Creation 

Ojai Music Festival and Porch Gallery invite you to an afternoon of music to celebrate three visual artists that have been commissioned to create contrasting works directly inspired by Francis Poulenc’s “Banalités,” Alban Berg’s “Sieben Fruhe Lieder,” and Libby Larsen’s “Try Me Good King.”

There will be a suggested donation of $25 at the door.
The proceeds from this event benefit the Ojai Music Festival and Porch Gallery.

Date/Time: Sunday, September 15th at 2:00 PM
Artists: Zoe Johnson, Soprano Christopher Allen, Piano James Petrucci, visual artist Scott Johnson, visual artist Alexis Zoto, visual artist 

Description: Three visual artists will be commissioned to create three contrasting works directly inspired by Poulenc’s “Banalités,” Berg’s “Sieben Fruhe Lieder,” and Larsen’s “Try Me Good King.” 

Musical Compositions:

Poulenc: Banalites (1940) Text: Guillaume Apollinaire 

Alban Berg: Sieben Fruhe Lieder (1905-1908) Text: various poets

*** Pause ***

Libby Larsen: Try Me Good King (Five Wives of Henry VIII) (2001) True texts drawn from the final letters and gallow speeches of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard 

Nine paintings will be placed along the wall and covered by white sheets. Zoe Johnson and Christopher Allen will perform works by Poulenc, Berg, and Larsen. After the concert, the three visual artists will speak about how they were inspired by the musical compositions the audience just heard. The nine pieces of art will be unveiled. Wine and light fare will be served, giving the audience time to experience the art. The work will be available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds going to the Ojai Music Festival and Porch Gallery Ojai.

RSVP to rsvp@ojaifestival.org or call Nick Svorinich at 805 646 2053.

2019 Festival Reviews

Ojai Music Festival. – “The Rake’s Progresss” 6/6/19 Libby Bowl by David Bazemore

The 2019 Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Barbara Hannigan brought a new experience to this year’s listeners, as she showcased her numerous skills as “a fearless femme fatale actress, dancer, athlete, sports psychologist, educator, cook and rising star conductor”. (Read the rest of this article here).  Relive the 2019 Festival anytime by watching our archived live streaming concerts

Feedback from our audience, artists, and members of the press is important to us. Read review excerpts below. We will continue to update these next few as reviews come in.

Download PDF of reviews here

“an ironwoman musical triathlon of exacting singing, vital conducting and inspiring mentoring” LA Times

“Hannigan thrust her arm to the sky in a gesture of pure triumph, all you could say was, “Wow!” SFCV

“Ojai Music Festival — a utopia where open-minded audiences welcome adventurous works presented against a backdrop of green hills, bird song and Pixie tangerines.”  NY Times

“a Coachella for classical and new-music fans.” LA Weekly

“Here was Ms. Hannigan in all her polymathic glory: the impresario who commissioned the piece; the conductor whose persuasive authority demonstrated that it was no vanity project; and the alluring singer, bright and magnetic, who wasn’t above ending on a literal high note.”  NY Times

“It is still the quirkiest major music festival in America.” LA Times

“Over its four movements, Schoenberg makes the transition from Wagnerian chromaticism into free-floating atonal space, with a soprano adding a text in the final two movements. Hannigan made it sound downright operatic, pushing her voice to expressionistic limits with a rapid flutter as the members of the JACK bore down.” – Musical America

“Suddenly, in the past few years, the jazz portion of the (contemporary music-geared Ojai Music Festival) story has been shifting and expanding in relevant ways… this year’s roster included jazz- related artists John Zorn, Tyshawn Sorey, and Mark-Anthony Turnage.” – All About jazz

“one of America’s most daring and contemporary-oriented festivals, well-known around internationally.” – Santa Barbara Independent 

“If music is a journey, then the Ojai Music Festivalis a serendipitous and often indirect one.” – Los Angeles Review of Books

In Hannigan’s sensitive hands, Vivier’s incantatory 22-minute score, which he called “a long song of solitude,” made touching emotional and narrative sense and conjured arresting timbres from the percussion instruments, including chimes and bass drum. – Classical Voice North America

LUDWIG’s Ojai Experience

“Once upon a time I have played in the Ojai Music Festival. It was like being in Paradise.’ 
– Marieke Stordiau, LUDWIG musician 

Many Ojai Music Festival artists who step onto the Libbey Bowl stage for the first time are instantly smitten with the enchanting intimate setting of shaded trees and a symphony of birds and crickets as accompanists, and equally so with the curious and enthusiastic audience members who are ready to listen with ears and minds wide open. 

Members of LUDWIG – the 2019 ensemble in residence – needless to say had the same experience. Take a look at their journey from Europe to California with photos by Annelies van der Vegt.

2020 Artist: Ensemble InterContemporain

In 1976, Pierre Boulez founded the Ensemble Intercontemporain with the support of Michel Guy (who was Minister of Culture at the time) and the collaboration and Nicholas Snowman. The Ensemble’s 31 soloists share a passion for 20th to 21st century music. They are employed on permanent contract, enabling them to fulfill the major aims of the Ensemble: performance, creation, and education for young musicians and the general public.

Under the artistic direction of Matthias Pintscher the musicians work in close collaboration with composers, exploring instrumental techniques and developing projects that interweave music, dance, theater, film, video, and visual arts. In collaboration with IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), the Ensemble Intercontemporain is also active in the field of synthetic sound generation. New pieces are commissioned and performed on a regular basis with the support of the Fondation Meyer.

The Ensemble is renowned for its strong emphasis on music education: concerts for kids, creative workshops for students, training programs for future performers, conductors, and composers. Since 2004, the Ensemble soloists have been tutoring young instrumentalists, conductors and composers in the field of contemporary repertoire at the Lucerne Festival Academy, a several week educational project held by the Lucerne Festival.

Resident of the Philharmonie de Paris, the Ensemble performs and records in France and abroad, taking part in major festivals worldwide. The Ensemble is financed by the Ministry of Culture and Communication and receives additional support from the Paris City Council. New commissions by Ensemble Intercontemporain are supported by Fondation Meyer.

74th Ojai Music Festival

2020 Music Director Matthias Pintscher is already getting started with next year’s programming. We are so excited to share all of the exciting pieces and ensembles he is lining up. Listen to his vision for Ojai in the video below. 

Watch the video below to hear Artistic Director Chad Smith’s 2020 vision in his own words. 

The 74th Ojai Music Festival will feature a fantastic array of contemporary works that connect back to the seminal music moments of our great tradition; moving forward with respect to what is behind us. 

Featuring works by Pierre Boulez, Mozart, and Music Director Matthias Pintscher, 2020 will encompass a Trans Atlantic bridge of the classical contemporary relationship between Europe and the USA. 

2019 Festival Photo Gallery

The 2019 Ojai Music Festival was a memorable four-day collective experience. Check out our gallery below to relive all the fun!

Photos by David Bazemore and Sierra Dudas

Rewatch Your Favorite Concerts

Although the 2019 Ojai Music Festival has come to a close, you can still relive every wonderful moment by rewatching your favorite concerts. 

Welcome to Ojai! An All-Access Guide to the Sights and Spots

Festival season is almost upon us! Artists, interns, production staff, and festival goers have begun to flood the gorgeous city of Ojai, eagerly anticipating all that the town has to offer. Here is our curated guide to the best restaurants, shops, and other hot spots to check out during your stay in Ojai. (Plus some other favorites outside of the valley to check out!)


Food & Drink

Agave Maria: Authentic Mexican cuisine with great patio seating. 

Bonnie Lu’s: Country-style diner serving up Americana favorites. 

Farmer & the Cook: Farm-fresh food with an emphasis on organic ingredients. 

Jim & Rob’s: Healthy and fresh burritos and burgers. 

Rainbow Bridge: Market featuring healthy grab-n-go options. 

Ranch House: A romantic spot serving farm-to-table cuisine. 


Gem Quest Jewelers: Jewelry and repair store with handmade designs. 

Serendipity Toys: One of the last old-school toy shops featuring retro and contemporary playthings from around the world. 

Sespe Creek: Voted Ventura County’s #1 cannabis dispensary. 

BookEnds Book Store: Selling books in a renovated former church. 

Cattywampus Crafts: An assortment of natural materials and craft supplies. 

Shangri-La Care: Cannabis dispensary voted 2018 Small Business of the Year. 

Barbara Bowman: Internationally inspired jewelry. 

Bart’s Books: World-renowned outdoor bookstore. 

photo by Ray Powers


Ojai Valley Trail Riding: Horse ranch featuring trail rides throughout the Enchanted Forest and Ventura River Valley. 

Old Creek Ranch: 850-acre cattle ranch featuring a winery and fruit orchards. 

Porch Gallery: Art gallery featuring contemporary artwork. 

Bamboo Creek Spa: Massage therapists trained in China. 

Brittany Davis Gallery: A classical gallery with a twist. 

Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza: Performing Arts Center with live music, comedy shows, movie nights, and dance performances.

Agora Foundation: Offering book seminars, panels, and more. 

Music Academy of West: Summer music conservatory offering numerous concert series, masterclasses, and film screenings. 

Pacific Opera Project: Offering affordable and accessible opera performances. 

UCSB Arts & Lectures: Hosting dance performances, concerts, movie screenings, and lectures in the Santa Barbara area. 

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum: Arts Center performing classic theater. 

Canvas & Paper: Exhibition space for paintings and drawings. 

Human Arts Gallery: Representing over 130 American artists. 

Realty & Organizations

Joan Roberts: Former state director for the California Association of Realtors. 

Sharon MaHarry: President of the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors. 

The Artesian: Innovative senior living for those engaged in the community. 

The Gables: Compassionate assisted living facility. 

Blue Iguana Inn:  A bohemian boutique inn featuring lush gardens. 

Nora Davis: An accomplished Ojai real estate agent for more than 30 years. 

Michael Malone: A financial advisor with a love for volunteering. 

Patty Waltcher: Coldwell Banker Previews Specialist. 

Monica Ros School: Providing a magical education for Ojai’s children. 

Ojai Hospital Foundation: Investing in the health of Ojai residents. 

Ojai Valley School: A private college prep day and boarding school. 

Oak Grove School: A progressive boarding school in Ojai. 

Villanova Prep: A Catholic boarding school in Augustinian tradition. 

Thacher School: A college preparatory boarding school in Ojai. 

We hope you enjoy your stay In the beautiful town of Ojai. Don’t forget to come back for Ojai Day, a family-friendly extravaganza occurring Saturday October 19, and the 20th Annual Ojai Film Festival, occurring October 31 through November 10! 


2019 Live Stream Schedule


The Ojai Music Festival allows the world beyond Ojai’s Libbey Bowl to experience the music and ideas expressed at the Festival through state-of-the art live streaming access during the four-day event. In addition to the concerts, you can also watch our live stream interviews with hosts Steven Smith of National Sawdust and Thomas Kotcheff of Classical KUSC.
Please join us for the 2019 Ojai Music Festival live broadcast!

Thursday, June 6 2019

Start Time Event
7:00 pm Pre-Show with hosts Smith & Kotcheff
7:30 pm The Rake’s Progress

Friday, June 7 2019


Start Time Event
3:00 pm Pre-Show & Barbara Hannigan Interview
3:30 pm  The Music of John Zorn Part 1
4:30 pm Concert Recap & Interview with Peppie Wiersma of LUDWIG
5:00 pm The Music of John Zorn Part 2
5:55 pm Concert Recap & Ojai Talks with Barbara Hannigan


Start Time Event
7:00 pm Pre-Show & Interview with Bill Elliott
7:30 pm  Part 1: Debussy, Ravel, Messiaen, & Schoenberg
8:30 pm Concert Recap & Interview with Edo Frenkel
9:00 pm Part 2: Schoenberg, Debussy, Vivier
10:00 pm Concert Recap 

Saturday, June 8 2019


Start Time Event
3:00 pm Pre-Show & Interview with Elgan Lyr Thomas of EQ 
3:30 pm Part 1: Tribute to Oliver Knussen
4:20 pm Concert Recap & Interview with Aphrodite Patoulidou of EQ
4:50 pm Part 2: Rachmaninoff, Turnage
5:50 pm Concert Recap & Ojai Talks with Thomas W. Morris


Start Time Event
7:00 pm Concert Recap & Interview with Jay Campbell & Christopher Otto of JACK Quartet
7:30 pm Part 1: Zorn Jumalattaret
8:00 pm Concert Recap 
8:15 pm Part 2: Rites of Passage
9:00 pm Concert Recap & Interview with Stephan Farber
9:30 pm Part 3: Gerard Grisey
10:00 pm Concert Recap

Sunday, June 9 2019


Start Time Event
10:30 am Pre-Show & Interview with Chad Smith
11:00 am Part 1: Walton
11:45 am Concert Recap & Interview with Molly Sheridan
12:15 pm Part 2: Terry Riley
1:05 pm Concert Recap
1:15 pm Replay of Ojai Talks


Start Time Event
3:45 pm Pre-Show & Interview Thomas W. Morris
4:30 pm Part 1: Stravinsky
5:05 pm Concert Recap
5:25 pm Part 2: Hadyn, Gershwin
6:10 pm Festival Recap 


2019 Frequently Asked Questions

Ojai Music Festival – Ligeti 6/10/18 Libbey Bowl, Ojai

Which are the best seats?
Since the new Libbey Bowl is a small amphitheater, virtually all of the seats are relatively close to the stage with good sight lines. Lawn seats are also available for those who prefer to spread out a bit. Blankets and beach chairs no taller than 12″ are allowed on the lawn. Lawn patrons with taller chairs will be seated on the right side of the lawn so not to hinder the view of others.

Will my seats be in the shade?
That depends on the time of the day. A shade cloth is erected to cover a large portion of the audience section, but we always recommend bringing a hat and sunscreen. A jacket or wrap may be needed for evening concerts.

How can I learn more about the programs?
One hour before each concert, ticket buyers are encouraged to join us for free Concert Insights at the Libbey Park tennis courts. Musicologist Christopher Hailey and featured artists discuss the repertoire and the interesting connections of the music.

What do most people wear?
Comfortable casual wear is entirely appropriate. Since this is an outdoor facility and the weather is often very warm, we recommend a hat or visor and sunscreen. A heavy wrap, sweater or jacket may be desired for the evening concerts.

Can you accommodate persons with disabilities?
Handicapped seating and restroom facilities are available. A small parking lot behind the post office is reserved during the Festival for vehicles displaying ADA placards. Please call our box office to inquire about the seats at 805.646.2053.

What discounts do you offer?
Students can purchase lawn or reserved seats at a 30% discount; children under 5 can sit on the lawn for free. The Festival does not offer senior discounts. Groups of 8 or more receive a group discount on tickets to a single concert. Call our box office at 805 646 2053  for information.

Can I come in and pick my seats?
Seating is done by our box office on a first come, first served basis, with priority given to donors and series pass subscribers. Single ticket holders will be seated in the remaining available seats. When purchasing tickets online, you are able to select your own seat. Please contact the box office with special seating requests and assistance. If you’re in the area, drop by our box office at Libbey Park at 210 S. Signal Street – we’d love to meet you!

Will tickets be available at the Box Office on the day of the concert?
Perhaps, but since we usually have near capacity audiences, ordering early will ensure the best seating we currently have available.

Can I reserve my seats and pay for them when I pick them up?
We can only hold prepaid tickets at Will Call. Tickets can be purchased with your Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.

Will there be late seating?
Performances start at the time designated on your ticket. In deference to the comfort and listening pleasure of the audience, late-arriving patrons will not be seated while music is being performed. Late-comers are asked to wait quietly in the designated area until the first break in the program, when ushers will assist them to their seats. 

What is your refund policy?
All sales are final for tickets and special events. There are no refunds or exchanges. In common with other outdoor venues, there are no refunds in case of rain. However, if you turn your tickets back to us for resale we can issue a receipt to you for a tax-deductible donation in the amount of the value of the tickets.

When will I get my tickets?
Ticket mailings begin in May and continue until the week preceding the Festival. After that, tickets be held in will call for pick up prior to the concert.

How long do the concerts last?
Most of the concerts last about two hours and have an intermission of about 20 minutes.

What if I arrive late to a performance?
Late seating is based on the discretion of the House Manager. Please note that some concerts (noted in the program book) will have no late seating.

Will food and refreshments be available?
There will be vendors for food and beverages, as well as concessions for gifts, mementos and souvenirs. You may also bring your own picnic lunch and refreshments for the lawn or our Gathering Place in Libbey Park. There is a no alcohol policy in Libbey Park and Libbey Bowl.

May I bring my pet?
Animals or pets of any kind, with the exception of trained service dogs, are prohibited in Libbey Bowl during concerts. Patrons with disabilities are welcome to bring trained service animals. Service animals are dogs that meet the requirements of the American Disabilities Act. Service animals must remain on a leash or in a harness at all times and rest in the seating area of the individual with a disability excluding aisles or walkways. Please note that dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the American Disabilities Act.

What about parking?
Free parking is available on streets surrounding Libbey Bowl and Libbey Park and in various public lots within a two block radius. Allow time before concerts to find parking. Handicapped parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis for vehicles displaying a DMV handicapped parking hang tag or license plate. If you need special assistance, call our box office at 805.646.2053.

When should I get there to get the best lawn seats?
We open the Bowl one hour before the start of the concert. Subscribers get in first before single ticket buyers. People often begin lining up well before then. Come early, stake out your space on the lawn, and plan to attend the pre-concert lectures given 45 minutes prior to each concert. Occasionally, rehearsals may delay the opening of the gates. For information about the Lawn Experience, CLICK HERE. 

Can lawn buyers picnic on the lawn? 
Yes, please bring blankets to sit, relax and enjoy a meal! As far as lawn chairs, patrons who bring camp or deck chairs are placed usually on the right side of the lawn while lower beach chairs are placed on the left side as well as picnic blankets. Ushers will be available to direct patrons to the appropriate location on the lawn. 

Can I take pictures of the concert?
The use of cameras, audio or video recording devices are not allowed during a performance.

Please contact us if you have any other questions at 805 646 2053 or boxoffice@ojaifestival.org. Thank you! 

2020 Music Director Matthias Pintscher Shares Initial Programming

Incoming Artistic Director Chad Smith and Matthias Pintscher Announce
the 74th Festival, June 11 to 14, 2020

Download Press Release PDF Version

“It is a tremendous pleasure and incredible honor to be music director for the 2020 Ojai Festival, something I have dreamed about since moving to New York twelve years ago.  I feel a combination of joy and responsibility to showcase composers and works that create something like an INVISIBLE BRIDGE between the two continents in which I am living and working: Europe and the USA. I have realized that my role as musical communicator – as composer, conductor, educator, and festival director – is to actively strengthen the interactions and connections between the music of today and its heritage in the US and on the “old continent”. As a European living in New York and Paris, I want to explore this INVISIBLE BRIDGE as one of the key elements for my programming of the 2020 Ojai Festival: thoughtful, innovative, loving, provocative, and poetic. Music speaks most directly from human to human, and Ojai is a perfect place to showcase this. I am excited. See you in 2020. – Matthias Pintscher, 2020 Music Director 

(May 30, 2019 – Ojai, California) – As the Ojai Music Festival anticipates the upcoming 73rd Festival (June 6 to 9, 2019) with Music Director Barbara Hannigan, the Festival’s 2020 Music Director Matthias Pintscher and incoming Artistic Director Chad Smith share initial programming for the 74th Festival, June 11 to 14, 2020. 

Chad Smith begins his tenure as the Ojai Music Festival’s Artistic Director with the 2020 Festival in partnership with 2020 Music Director Matthias Pintscher. Mr. Smith succeeds Thomas W. Morris, who has shaped Ojai’s artistic direction for sixteen years and will be retiring from the Festival following the upcoming 73rd edition.

“For nearly 75 years, the Ojai Music Festival has been Southern California’s home for the most probing, adventurous, and visionary musicians, and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining this organization as its next Artistic Director. I first experienced the unique spirit of Ojai in 2001, when Esa-Pekka Salonen was the Festival’s Music Director. I was struck by the uncompromising programming, the incredibly devoted and informed audience, and the pure joy in the performances emanating from Libbey Bowl. In that weekend, in that first experience with Ojai, I came to understand the special nature of making music in this part of the world, and I was hooked. From my seat in Los Angeles, I have watched as Tom Morris has expanded the possibilities of what this Festival could be, making it more international, more inclusive, and ultimately more relevant year by year. Tom is one of the lions in our field, and I could not be more humbled, but also inspired, to take the reins from him. This Festival is poised for even greater things; I am thrilled to be a part of that future. To imagine the start of my tenure with Ojai, I can’t think of a more fitting partner than my good friend, conductor and composer Matthias Pintscher. We are excited to share initial plans for our 2020 Festival,” said Chad Smith, incoming Artistic Director.

Programming for the 2020 Festival will feature the music of Pierre Boulez, Chaya Czernowin, Helmut Lachenmann, Olga Neuwirth, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and several works by Pintscher, among many others. Ojai will welcome the Ensemble Intercontemporain, of which Mr. Pintscher is music director, as the 2020 Festival’s ensemble-in-residence. Founded by Pierre Boulez, the world-renowned Ensemble Intercontemporain and Pintscher collaborate closely with composers to explore instrumental techniques and develop projects which interweave music, dance, theater, film, and the visual arts. This will mark the Ensemble’s first appearance in Ojai. Additionally, members of IRCAM, the Paris-based Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, will collaborate on several 2020 Festival performances. Programming details for Ojai 2020 will be announced in the fall.

Matthias Pintscher, 2020 Music Director
Matthias Pintscher is the Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the world’s leading contemporary music ensemble founded by Pierre Boulez. In addition to a robust concert season in Paris, he toured extensively with them throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States this season including concerts in Berlin, Brussels, Russia, and the United States. Known equally as one of today’s foremost composers, Mr. Pintscher will conduct the premiere of his new work for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, performed by Georg Nigl and the Chorus and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at their Musica Viva festival in February 2020.

In the 2019/20 season, Mr. Pintscher makes debuts with the symphony orchestras of Montreal, Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh, and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen. He also makes his debut at the Vienna State Opera conducting the premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s new opera Orlando, and returns to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin to conduct performances of Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee, which he premiered in January 2019. Re-invitations this season include the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In summer 2020, Mr. Pintscher will serve as Music Director of the 74thOjai Music Festival.

Highlights of Mr. Pintscher’s 2018/19 season included serving as the Season Creative Chair for the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, as Artist-in-Residence at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and concluding a nine-year term as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Artist-in-Association. Last season, Mr. Pintscher made his debuts with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, and the Staatsoper Berlin, and returned to the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, the New York Philharmonic, the New World Symphony in Miami, and the Music Academy of the West. In Europe, he conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival and returned to the Orchestre de Paris, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and Helsinki Philharmonic. Mr. Pintscher also conducted the premiere of his work Nur, a new concerto for piano and ensemble, performed by Daniel Barenboim and the Boulez Ensemble in January 2018. An enthusiastic supporter of and mentor to students and young musicians, Mr. Pintscher served as Principal Conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra from 2016-2018 and worked with the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic in their 2017/18 season, culminating in a concert at the Philharmonie.

Matthias Pintscher began his musical training in conducting, studying with Pierre Boulez and Peter Eötvös in his early twenties, during which time composing took a more prominent role in his life. He rapidly gained critical acclaim in both areas of activity, and continues to compose in addition to his conducting career. As a composer, Mr. Pintscher’s music is championed by some of today’s finest performing artists, orchestras, and conductors. His works have been performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris, among many others. Bärenreiter is his exclusive publisher, and recordings of his compositions can be found on Kairos, EMI, Teldec, Wergo, and Winter & Winter. Mr. Pintscher has been on the composition faculty of The Juilliard School since 2014.

Ensemble Intercontemporain

Ensemble intercontemporain

In 1976, Pierre Boulez founded the Ensemble Intercontemporain with the support of Michel Guy (who was Minister of Culture at the time) and the collaboration and Nicholas Snowman. The Ensemble’s 31 soloists share a passion for 20th to 21st century music. They are employed on permanent contract, enabling them to fulfill the major aims of the Ensemble: performance, creation, and education for young musicians and the general public.    

Under the artistic direction of Matthias Pintscher the musicians work in close collaboration with composers, exploring instrumental techniques and developing projects that interweave music, dance, theater, film, video, and visual arts. In collaboration with IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), the Ensemble Intercontemporain is also active in the field of synthetic sound generation. New pieces are commissioned and performed on a regular basis with the support of the Fondation Meyer.

The Ensemble is renowned for its strong emphasis on music education: concerts for kids, creative workshops for students, training programs for future performers, conductors, and composers.  Since 2004, the Ensemble soloists have been tutoring young instrumentalists, conductors and composers in the field of contemporary repertoire at the Lucerne Festival Academy, a several week educational project held by the Lucerne Festival.

Resident of the Philharmonie de Paris, the Ensemble performs and records in France and abroad, taking part in major festivals worldwide. The Ensemble is financed by the Ministry of Culture and Communication and receives additional support from the Paris City Council. New commissions by Ensemble Intercontemporain are supported by Fondation Meyer.

IRCAM, the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music
IRCAM, the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music directed by Frank Madlener, is one of the world’s largest public research centers dedicated to both musical expression and scientific research. This unique location where artistic sensibilities collide with scientific and technological innovation brings together over 160 collaborators.

IRCAM’s three principal activities – creation, research, transmission – are visible in IRCAM’s Parisian concert season, its productions throughout France and abroad, and in its two annual rendezvous: ManiFeste, which combines an international festival with a multidisciplinary academy, and the Vertigo forum, which presents technical mutations and their tangible effects on artistic creation.

Founded by Pierre Boulez, IRCAM is associated with the Centre Pompidou, under the tutelage of the French Ministry of Culture. The mixed STMS research lab (Sciences and Technologies for Music and Sound), housed by IRCAM, also benefits from the support of the CNRS and Sorbonne University.

Incoming Artistic Director Chad Smith_image by Cindy Pitou Burton

Chad Smith, Incoming Artistic Director
Chad Smith is the Chief Operating Officer for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Mr. Smith joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association in 2002, serving as VP of artistic planning for over a decade before becoming COO in 2015. As COO, he is responsible for the artistic oversight and coordination of the orchestra’s programming, as well as the organization’s strategic planning, marketing, PR, production, orchestra operations, media, and educational initiatives.

During his tenure, Mr. Smith has implemented an expansive vision of what an orchestra can be through a deep commitment to living composers, the development of multi-disciplinary collaborations, and thematic festivals which have positioned the Philharmonic at the center of the city’s cultural discourse. Committed to making classical music more inclusive, he has overseen the launch of many of the organization’s defining educational programs, including YOLA, a program which has provided daily after-school music training to thousands of children in several of LA’s most underserved communities.

He currently serves as a trustee of the New England Conservatory of Music, as a member of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Prize executive committee, and on the artistic advisory board for the Music Academy of the West. Mr. Smith began his career in 2000 at the New World Symphony, after receiving his B.M. (Vocal Performance) and B.A. (European History) in the NEC/Tufts dual degree program. He received his M.M. in 1998 in Vocal Performance from NEC.

The Ojai Music Festival
From its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has become a place for groundbreaking musical experiences, bringing together innovative artists and curious audiences in an intimate, idyllic setting 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The Festival presents broad-ranging programs in unusual ways with an eclectic mix of new and rarely performed music, as well as refreshing juxtapositions of musical styles. The four-day festival is an immersive experience with concerts, free community events, symposia, and gatherings. Considered a highlight of the international music summer season, Ojai has remained a leader in the classical music landscape for seven decades.

Through its signature structure of the Artistic Director appointing an annual Music Director, Ojai has presented a “who’s who” of music including Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Robertson, Eighth Blackbird, George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, Leif Ove Andsnes, Mark Morris, Jeremy Denk, Steven Schick, Peter Sellars, Vijay Iyer, and Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Following Barbara Hannigan’s 2019 Festival, Ojai welcomes Mathias Pintscher as its 2020 Music Director.

As the Ojai Music Festival approaches its 75th anniversary and looks toward the future with incoming Artistic Director Chad Smith, the innumerable contributions of outgoing Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris over his sixteen-year tenure will continue to be felt through the 2019 Festival and beyond.

Live video streaming of the Ojai Music Festival
The Ojai Music Festival continues to draw thousands of curious and engaged music enthusiasts from across the country. Ojai includes free access to the Festival experience through live and archived video streaming online at OjaiFestival.org. This year’s live streaming runs June 6 through June 9 and will include guest interviews throughout the webcasts. Hosting this year will be Director of Publications for National Sawdust and longtime journalist Steve Smith and Los Angeles-based composer and Classical KUSC host Thomas Kotcheff.

Series Passes for 2020 Ojai Music Festival
Advance 2020 series subscriptions will be available for purchase during the 2019 Festival and online at OjaiFestival.org.

Single Tickets for 2019 Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Barbara Hannigan
2019 Festival single tickets are available and may be purchased online at OjaiFestival.org or by calling (805) 646-2053. 2019 Ojai Music Festival ticket prices range from $45 to $150 for reserved seating and lawn tickets are $20. Student discounts are available.

A Grand Finale: Barbara Hannigan

This year’s closing concert highlights that music, to thrive, must always be about the joyous urgency of now. With a series of contrasting pieces, festival director Barbara Hannigan celebrates the “synthesis of dark and light: chiaroscuro,” as she puts it.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, composed in 1768, demonstrates the process in which old and new huddle together at the threshold of change. The orchestration and structure are conventional and yet the content reflects the unprecedented emotional turbulence of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang period: dynamic extremes, dramatic melodic leaps, and unexpected accents and silences. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a ballet interspersed with songs featuring stock characters, echoes Baroque composer Pergolesi and creates new perspectives for the present.

George Gershwin’s Girl Crazy, inspired by jazz, Tin Pan alley, and Broadway theater, premiered in 1930 and featured an all-star cast that included Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers, and a pit orchestra teeming with luminaries. Featuring Barbara Hannigan as both conductor and soprano, Bill Elliott’s Girl Crazy Suite enfolds the show’s hits in a series of droll arrangements that extend from gauzy impressionism to brassy Broadway swagger, bringing the dramatic finale of this year’s festival to a fitting close.

2019 Festival Program Notes

The 73rd Ojai Music Festival, June 6 to 9, is on the horizon. Get a head start by reading the 2019 Festival program notes by musicologist and program book annotator Christopher Hailey. Download the PDF via the link.

Download PDF here
Download Rake’s Progress libretto 

Celebrating Oliver Knussen

Saturday Morning, June 8th Preview

This Two-part concert opens with a tribute to the late Oliver Knussen (2005 Ojai Music Director), a composer of infinite wit, imagination, and refinement, qualities readily in evidence in this wide-ranging selection of chamber works. In the dramatic scene, Twice Through the Heart, Mark-Anthony Turnage (who studied with Knussen), filters his fascination with contemporary social issues through jazz and classical idioms. Rachmaninoff’s idiom is lushly Romantic. Here, though, LUDWIG presents his orchestral tone poem, The Isle of the Dead, in an arrangement for chamber ensemble. 

This is a concert Olly Knussen would have loved. He was a champion of new music, including that of his student and close friend Mark-Anthony Turnage, but he also loved the delectable harmonies and rich orchestral textures of such late Romantics as Sergei Rachmaninoff. 

The works on this tribute are all relatively short but chronological. Masks, the rare early piece that survived Knussen’s critical scrutiny, is heard here with its ad libitum glass chimes. It has joined Debussy’s Syrinx and Varèse’s Density 21.5 as one of the classics of the solo flute literature. Knussen described the next three works that make up a triptych as “diary-like expressions” that were at the same time explorations of new harmonic spaces.

Autumnal, written in memory of Benjamin Britten, has two movements – Nocturne and Serenade – named after two of Britten’s own song cycles.

In Sonja’s Lullaby, written for Knussen’s infant daughter (now an accomplished singer specializing in new music), the lowest registers of the piano anchor a gentle rocking motion and widely spaced sonorities and filigree in the voices above.

Cantata for oboe and string quartet, the longest movement of the set, is more episodic, a quality that reminded Knussen of 18th-century solo cantatas in their alternation of recitatives and self-contained numbers. There are moments of high drama before an introspective coda recalls the work’s opening.

Eccentric Melody, written for Elliott Carter’s 90th birthday, is a compact, powerful work that explores the cello’s full expressive range.

Ophelia’s Last Dance is fashioned from one of the many fragments in Knussen’s compositional workshop (this one dating from 1974). The melody continued to haunt him and in 2009-10 he brought it together with several other “‘homeless’ dance fragments” to produce a piece “related more by personal history and by mood than anything more concrete.” Study for “Metamorphosis” – another early work – was revised just before Knussen’s death and dedicated to the memory of the composer Alan Stout.

Who is John Zorn?

The Ojai Music Festival kicks off Friday morning, June 7 with the music of composer John Zorn, the prolific saxophonist whose creative force has spawned album after album across several decades of work, samples of which can be heard in the links below.

Friday’s chamber works by John Zorn with Stephen Gosling and the JACK Quartet include HexentarotGhosts, and The Aristos for piano trio, The Unseen, and The Alchemist for string quartet. 

About the composer – John Zorn is an American composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist, and multi-instrumentalist with hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, and producer across a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore, classical, surf, metal, soundtrack, ambient, and music improvisation. He incorporates diverse styles in his compositions, which he identifies as avant-garde or experimental. Zorn was described by Down Beat magazine as “one of our most important composers.”

Debussy, Schoenberg, & Vivier

Prepare yourself for a dream beyond time as Barbara Hannigan leads Vivier’s powerfully enigmatic Lonely Child to end a thrilling, picturesque evening featuring Debussy’s Syrinx and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Friday June 7th at 7:30PM

The myth of Syrinx is the story of a chaste nymph transformed into river reeds to escape Pan’s pursuit. Pan, in turn, creates from these reeds the pipes with which he laments his loss. Debussy’s piece for solo flute, scarcely three minutes long, serves as the prelude to another work of transformation: Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). 

Considered at that time to be offensive to the modesty of chamber music, the steamy program Verklärte Nacht (drawn from Richard Dehmel’s poem of the same name) is a work of one single movement filled with chromatic harmonies and dense textures. Schoenberg’s music closely follows a woman’s tortured confession to her lover that she is carrying the child of another man. In the radiant conclusion, the man assures his partner that the stranger’s child will be his own, transfigured by their love.

Vivier has described Lonely Child as “a long song of solitude” composed “without using chords, harmony, or counterpoint,” a homophonic texture that becomes one single, “intervalized” melody: “Thus, there are no longer any chords, and the entire orchestra is then transformed into a timbre. The roughness and the intensity of this timbre depend on the base interval. Musically speaking, there was only one thing I needed to control, which automatically, somehow, would create the rest of the music, that is great beams of color!”

Ravel, Messiaen, Debussy, & Schoenberg

The Ojai Music Festival celebrates works by Debussy, Messiaen, and Schoenberg in Part One of our Friday evening concert on June 7. Prepare yourself for a journey through shadowy forests, across oceans, soaring through the wind, basking in the light of the moon, breathing in the air of another planet. 

Poetic imagery, painting, and nature served to stimulate Debussy’s imagination, as did his encounter with non-Western music. In Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (And the moon descends on the temple that was), one hears in its suspended stillness elements of the music of Bali.

Ravel’s Une barque sur l’océan (A boat on the ocean), the third of his five-movement Miroirs, is a study of motion, captured in surging arpeggiated currents.

Un reflet dans le vent (A reflection in the wind) is the last of Messiaen’s eight Préludes, all of which bear the hallmarks of his distinctive harmonic and rhythmic language. Their descriptive titles suggest influences from Debussy and crisp textures from Ravel. 

Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet is relatively short, its textures and formal layout clear and transparent. The impassioned first movement is an abbreviated sonata form; the second, a fidgety scherzo. The third movement delivers an unprecedented shock: the commanding voice of soprano Barbara Hannigan.

Barbara Hannigan talks “Rites of Passage” and Gérard Grisey

Soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan brings singers from her newly launched Equilibrium Mentoring Initiative to perform at the 73rd Ojai Music Festival, June 6 to 9, at Ojai’s Libbey Bowl. One of the curated programs on June 8 will be “Rites of Passage” – folk songs performed by the EQ artists who will share music from their native countries.

Ojai Music Festival Seeks Housing Hosts and Volunteers – June 6-9, 2019

The Ojai Music Festival welcomes Ojai Valley residents to get involved in the upcoming Ojai Music Festival slated for June 6 to 9, 2019 with Grammy-winning soprano Barbara Hannigan as music director. The Festival is seeking guest housing for musicians, production crew, and interns that include guest cottages, private rooms, and homes. The Festival also includes volunteer opportunities in various positions in the following areas: ushering, venue set up, special events, and merchandise sales. Volunteers receive special perks for their generous donation of time and talent.

The 73rd Ojai Music Festival, June 6-9, 2019, celebrates and explores the creative breadth of Music Director Barbara Hannigan, as conductor, singer, and mentor. Joining Hannigan will be the US debut of her mentoring initiative for young professional artists, Equilibrium (EQ), and the US debut of the orchestral collective from Amsterdam, LUDWIG, with whom Hannigan made her Grammy Award-winning conducting debut CD “Crazy Girl Crazy” in 2017. Returning to Ojai will be 2015 Music Director Steven Schick, who will both perform and conduct, and the JACK Quartet performing works by John Zorn, Tyshawn Sorey, and Arnold Schoenberg.

Program highlight include the staged production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress with Hannigan conducting and members of EQ as the cast; Hannigan as singer in Gérard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, John Zorn’s Jumalattaret, and Girl Crazy Suite, a special arrangement by Bill Elliott of songs from the Gershwin musical; Hannigan conducting Vivier’s Lonely Child, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Stravinsky’s complete ballet Pulcinella. In addition, the Festival will give a concert in memoriam for 2005 Music Director Oliver Knussen. 

For more information on housing hosts or volunteering for the Ojai Music Festival, please call 805 646-2094 or email info@ojaifestival.org, or download application here. 

Equilibrium Young Artists are Born!

Founded by soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan, Equilibrium focuses on young musicians who are finished with their training and in the first substantial phase of their professional career, with special attention to singers. Suited for musicians who already have professional solo experience on stage, Equilibrium aims to help young artists further their professional development, elevating their total musicianship and discipline, offering projects with leading orchestras and ensembles. Seven of her EQ artists will be performing at the 73rd Ojai Music Festival, June 6 to 9, 2019 with Barbara Hannigan.

Barbara Hannigan, 2019 Music Director

Ojai Quarterly: Q&A with Thomas W. Morris


After years at the helm of the Ojai Music Festival, Artistic Director Thomas W.  Morris is ready for his next chapter. He says that the festival will be in good hands and that new creative directions are on his personal horizon. Morris ends his stay having fostered a legacy of eclecticism and invention, and he’s grateful for all that he’s learned at the helm   of one   of the world’s most iconic musical gatherings. On   a sunny winter day, he took time to sit down with the Ojai Quarterly to reflect on his time introducing our ears to sounds strange and wonderful.  conversation has been edited for length.

By JESSE PHELPS. Reprinted by permission by Ojai Quarterly / SPRING 2019

OQ: When did you come on board, and what did that process look like?
TOM MORRIS: My first Festival as Artistic Director was 2004. I was approached about three years before that. You know, the way we work, you have to plan three-plus years ahead. From my standpoint, the timing was impeccable because when I got the first call … I was going to retire from the Cleveland Orchestra. It was 17 years there and I decided at age 60, it was time to move on … And the other two things that were intriguing to me about this – I mean, I ran the Boston Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra for 35 years as the chief executive – but my real interest was in the artistic side. I was involved in all that in the orchestra world, I wasn’t responsible for it. And so, in essence, switching a career from the executive side to the artistic side was intriguing to me. It fit what I love. It actually focused it. Obviously, the reputation of the Festival goes without saying. But the fact that it was small-scale but high-impact also appealed to me.

OQ: Had you been to Ojai previously?
TM: I had. I started with the Boston Symphony in May, in the summer of 1969, and lo and behold, who should arrive as the Symphony Conductor but (current San Francisco Symphony M usic Director and seven-time Ojai Music Festival Music Director) Michael Tilson Thomas, a young hotshot conductor. And Michael, as I got to know him, was always talking about this Festival, the Ojai Music Festival, which I’d not heard of, and Ojai really gave Michael his break. But I never went to the festival, for various reasons, until 1996. And I fell in love with it.

OQ: You feel like there’s a different kind of integrity here, in service to the art?
TM: If you look at my career – where I went from the Boston Symphony, which is a huge conglomerate – Boston Symphony Orchestra Incorporated, which I was the CEO of, ran the Boston Symphony, it ran Tanglewood, it ran the Boston Pops – it’s massive. I went from there to the Cleveland Orchestra, which I think is the best anywhere, but it was a much smaller and more focused organization and it had a far greater belief system around the culture of art. And then to Ojai. So my whole career, I like to think of it as sort of an increasingly deep focus, less about size than meaning.

OQ: The impact of what you’re doing hasn’t lessened any.
TM: It’s gotten bigger in fact… Everyone thinks growth means bigger stuff. But it can also be smaller stuff or better stuff, or it can be different stuff.

OQ: What have you learned?
TM: It’s basically about a far broadened set of musical possibilities. And when I came here, I immediately sort of said, well, we’re not going to be orchestral. There are times in Ojai’s history when there was a lot of orchestra. I just didn’t want to do that. First of all, the facility is too small for a big 100-piece orchestra and also there’s a pretty great orchestra just down the road at Disney Hall. The music, to me, has grown from this magical setting and has this incredible audience. It s a magic alchemy, if you will. So I would describe my 16 years here as sort of the education of Tom Morris and the immersion of Tom Morris in these other worlds of music. Society’s changing, but the world of music is completely changing now. Because genres are disappearing and everything is melded together and in fact a lot of the creative excitement is actually between the genres.

OQ: Ojai really does offer this opportunity for that collision. I was fortunate to come and interview (2017 Musical Director) Vijay Iyer, and through that talk was inspired to go to the Sunday show where he was playing with (percussion master) Zakir Hussain and…(Indian Carnatic vocalist) Aruna Sairam…
Right! And that was like something transcendent. TIhat’s the only way to describe what I witnessed there.
TM: Of course! And you can’t describe what kind of music that was.
TM: It was a collision of four artists who had not worked together before, who wanted to work together. And we created the opportunity for them to work. And I remember Vijay had said to me, you know, I’ve never worked with Zakir Hussain and I’ve never worked with Aruna Sairam and I want to do that. So we put it together. They all came with ideas and to watch the creation of music in front of your eyes- and the give and take and how it was morphing- you were watching creativity in real time.

OQ: High, high, high level creativity.
TM: Beyond high level. And to me, to be involved in that kind of artistry, that’s not something you simply can do in a symphony orchestra. So, my learning here has been one of vastly expanded horizons and expanding and changing personal tastes and a whole new world of artistic friends. And what’s interesting, I find, if you look at my work here, it’s very organic and cumulative.

OQ: It wasn’t a planned arc.
TM: What was really happening was as we started to try different things. It expanded the range of possibilities, which expanded the range of possibilities, and if you look at the sequence of Music Directors, you can see that each one was in such a completely different direction, which is one of the beauties here.

OQ: I imagine you wouldn’t be stepping away if you didn’t have full confidence in your successor.
TM: I have complete confidence in (incoming Artistic Director) Chad (Smith). I couldn’t have a better successor. In my view, Chad is creative, he’s got a broad range of interests. He’s been in the orchestral world, but all you have to do is look at what he’s been doing (as the COO) at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the range of artistic offerings there, which puts most other orchestral offerings to shame, in my view.

OQ: Do you think he’ll be as eclectic?
TM: What I hope is that he treats it as a learning laboratory for him, as I was able to do. What I’ve learned is that music exists in space, in a space, and how that space feels is where you pull the energy from. And this is one of the most spectacularly beautiful settings in the world.111ere’s nothing normal about the concert facilities. I mean, it’s outside, it’s amplified, and it has this audience which just is so into it. Every artist who comes says it’s the greatest audience we’ve ever played for because they trust, they respond, whether they like it or they don’t. In Ojai, it’s about the idea of Ojai. The Festival is about adventure, it’s about challenge, it’s about surprise.

OQ: There’s always the possibility of that magic we talked about.
Correct. And it’ll always happen v somewhere. And think about that from an audience perspective.

OQ: Right. Just the act of attendance is in some way experimental. But with that experiment comes sort of an infinite range of possibility of experience.
TM: I’ve been widely quoted on this. I look at concerts as experiences, as events. It happens at a certain time. And I think we can learn something from sports events. Why do people go to live sports events?

OQ: You don’t know what the outcome is going to be.
TM: Correct. And every concert that I’m interested in putting on, and everything we do here, the outcome is uncertain. That edge is why people who want to go to art exhibits or shows, that’s what excites them.

OQ: So why are you leaving us, and what’s next? 
TM: I don’t think you should overstay your welcome. A good friend of mine once said, “Never run the risk of being forgotten but not gone.” I seem to have this habit, Boston was 17 years, Cleveland was 17 years, and this is 16. It actually adds up to 50, which I find curious. I’ve changed it a lot here and it’s time for somebody else to take it to the next stage. So that’s the first reason, which is very personal. And the second is, the organization in 2021 and ’22 is celebrating its 75th anniversary. There was some talk that I would see it through the anniversary, but the 75th anniversary ought to be a time to propel forward.

OQ: So what are you going to do?
I don’t know yet. When you change what you’re doing, I look at it as two decisions. It’s a decision to leave and it’s a decision to go someplace. And that’s happened consistently in my career … I’ve found that one you’ve jettisoned what you’re doing, the possibilities explode. And I’ve been very active recently with Interlochen (the famous youth arts education institute in Miichigan) as a board member, and I’m very interested in how artists are trained. So my guess is somehow that’ll be a factor in what I’m doing going forward. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that there might be another festival in the offing. I’m a complete failure at retirement. I keep going back to this learning thing. The greatest thing about doing what I do is I get to work with the most creative people. It’s a very sparky, creative existence. And that’s something I just don’t want to leave. I’d rather have an effect through doing than reflecting.

OQ: You’re all about the experience.
This place is just such a freeform laboratory. It’s a humbling experience having the artistic responsibility for a venerable organization. It’s gone from being sort of fundamentally contemporary classical, and almost European music, to much wider, which to me reflects what’s going on in society and in the world today.1he range of artists who come is just completely broader and different and the possibilities have expanded, radically.

OQ: Thank you for helping to shepherd that. 
TM: It’s not been a burden. It’s a personal quest for me too. It’s affected me and taught me. You know, one of the great things about not-for-profit organizations like this one is , that they give you the opportunity to lead and to create and I’ll forever be grateful to the Ojai Music Festival for the belief and support and enthusiasm. And the complete lack of fear.

OQ: We’ll always be grateful to you for being willing to fearlessly undergo that journey in front of us and with us.
It’s very personal to me, and I think that’s what it has to be. I will say that I’m the luckiest person. I’ve had the luckiest career of anyone I can imagine. I’m actually paid to do what I love. What’s better than that? And this year’s going to be about as perfect a capstone as I can imagine. There are going to be moments of awe and moments of laughter and moments of fright. And the level of artists coming, you just can’t get better artists than are here this year anywhere.

The Ojai Music Festival returns for one last go-round with Thomas Morris as Artistic Director this June 6-9. This year’s Music Director is multi-faceted Canadian conductor and soprano, Barbara Hannigan. Tickets and more information about the events can be found at ojaifestival.org.

The Progress of a Rake Begins…

The Rake’s Progress premiere with Barbara Hannigan, EQ Artists and the Gothengurg Symphony. Photo by Mats Backer

Special Report from Thomas W. Morris (December 13, 2018)

I am writing this from Gothenburg, a beautiful quiet city in southern Sweden, home of the Gothenburg Symphony, the National Orchestra of Sweden. The widely recorded orchestra has a distinguished conductor heritage with Barbara Hannigan along with Christoph Eschenbach serving as Principal Guest Conductors and Gustavo Dudamel as Honorary Conductor. Former Ojai Music Director Kent Nagano served as Principal Guest Conductor for the last five years.

The occasion here was the world premiere of the new fully staged production of Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, The Rake’s Progress, a co-production of the Gothenburg Symphony, Brussel’s Klara Festival, the Munich Philharmonic, and the Ojai and Aldeburgh Music Festivals. This same production will open the 2019 Festival on Thursday, June 6 in Libbey Bowl.

The Rakes Progress is an astonishing morality tale of good and evil, with text by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, and composed in Stravinsky’s most delicious neoclassic style. The 45-piece orchestra has all the rhythmic clarity found in the classic operas of Mozart, down to the ever present sparkle of a harpsichord continuo. There are arias, ensemble pieces, recitatives, and choruses, all framed in some of Stravinsky’s most bracing, stylish and rhythmically pointed music. The work is full of deep and stark drama, but also enormous humor – a perfect meld of the sublime and the ridiculous.

The production is and performances were out of this world. The mastermind was Barbara Hannigan who conceived the project and conducted, in fact it was her operatic conducting debut. Two years ago, Barbara founded Equilibrium (EQ), her mentoring initiative for young professional artists in the early stage of their careers. She reviewed over 300 applications for the project and personally auditioned over 100 singers and conductors a year ago. 22 were selected to participate during this first year, who come from all over the world.. Through the course of the year, Barbara conducts about three weeks of workshops outside Paris with the group, with the goal of teaching performance practices, refining interpretive issues in particular works, coping with the peculiar challenges of an artist’s life on the road, and functioning at the highest level of professionalism in the face of often challenging circumstances. Joining her in teaching are a yoga instructor from Amsterdam and the incredible Jackie Reardon, world famous tennis player and tennis coach who now spends her career as a life coach and motivational teacher, and author of several books and online teaching courses called Mindset and Friendly Eyes.

The artists also work with Barbara in her own various projects, including The Rake’s Progress. EQ singers form three separate casts for Rake’s (the opera requires six singers). This rotating cast will be working with Barbara in this new production to be performed three times in Gothenburg (I heard the first two performances), two performances at Brussels Klara Festival in March, two performances with the Munich Philharmonic in early May, five concert performances in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, Dortmund and Dresden in late May, and then one performance in Ojai June 6 and a final one in Aldeburgh June 20.The Brussels cast will be the same that comes to Ojai and Aldeburgh.

Barbara engaged the noted young director Linus Fellbom to create, design, light, and direct the production, originally conceived as a “semi-staged” production – vastly simpler than traditional fully-staged productions and usually necessary because of the need to adapt a production to many difference places, different kinds of halls (concerts halls in Gothenburg, Munich, and Aldeburgh), a traditional opera house in Brussels), and different environments such as the unique outdoor setting of Ojai’s Libbey Bowl. “Semi-staged” productions also have the advantage of requiring far less preparation times to set up, a significant factor with so many performances in different places, as well as usually far less in terms of budgets. What Linus has incredibly created is a “fully-staged” production under “semi-staged” limitations. It is a marvel of compactness, power and simplicity – one that will be fascinating in so many different settings.

While not wanting to give away the surprises, I will say the production is based on the concept of an opera production which lands mysteriously in the various settings in gigantic wooden box, plopping itself down the center of the stage, behind which is the orchestra and on the sides of which is the chorus. As the opera unfolds, the box assumes life of its own, framing not only the singing and acting but astonishingly becoming the center of the drama itself. The work’s powerful climax contains a most stunning coups de theater that will take your breath away.

I saw two performances in Gothenburg, and both were thrilling. The production was over the top in its power and meaning, and the singing and acting by the unique Gothenburg cast from EQ simply the best I have ever heard in this opera, both individually and also as an ensemble. A note that singing the title role of Anne Truelove was Aphrodite Patoulidou, a young Greek soprano, who will also sing the role in Ojai: remember this name and the fact that you can say you discovered her in Ojai, much the same as discovering the young Julia Bullock in Ojai in 2011. The sheer energy, ensemble and vocal art of all of these young performers was totally captivating. The audience rose to its feet at the end in loud cheers each night. Reviews have been ecstatic. And above it all, Barbara Hannigan’s mastery of the score, her incisive conducting and her electrifying presence gave coherent shape, energy and power to the whole score.

Ojai is in for a treat. The Rake’s Progress has not been widely performed in southern California, only two touring performances in the 1960s and a performance about five years ago by Opera Pacifica. (Neither the LA Opera or LA Philharmonic have performed the work.) Ojai amazingly has heard performances of three excerpts from the work – the so-called Bedlam Scene in 1962 conducted by the Lukas Foss, and Anne Truelove’s famous aria scene in 1956 conducted by Robert Craft, and again in 1968, conducted by Lawrence Foster. I am so proud we can open the 2019 Festival with this fully-staged production – which not only expands our range of production capabilities but ties neatly to the fact that Stravinsky himself was Ojai Music Director in 1956, just five years after composing Rake’s.

As the devilish Nick Shadow says at the end of the first scene – “the progress of a Rake begins” –  indeed, a journey that will last the whole season for Barbara Hannigan, and of which we will be the beneficiary in June, an event not to be missed.


Imagine Concert on March 1 at the Ojai Valley School featuring the UCSB Middle East Music Ensemble –  Music Van brings instruments to Ojai Valley school students

For over 30 years, the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO Program has been bringing music to the Ojai community.  Through music education to Ojai Valley Public School students, engagement at senior living centers, and free concerts throughout the year, BRAVO makes music an integral, enjoyable, and exciting part of the everyday learning process at any age.

To celebrate Music in the Schools month in March, the BRAVO program will feature two of their signature programs for both students and the community starting with the Imagine concert on Friday, March 1 at the Ojai Valley School.

Thanks to a special grant from the Ojai Valley School-Barbara Barnard Smith Fund of the Ventura County Community Foundation, the Imagine concert will present the UC-Santa Barbara Middle East Ensemble in two school performances at the Greenberg Center on the OVS campus. Fourth, fifth and six graders will enjoy world music with a program that will emphasize Middle Eastern music and dance. All are welcome to enjoy the ensemble at a free concert from 4:00pm to 5:00pm Friday, March 1. It is completely open to the general public with no reservations required and seats will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. These programs provide a lasting legacy of enduring support for Ojai Valley School’s continued education in world music.  Along with related arts, it is intended to engender a broad perspective and appreciation of music from all world cultures. This occurs primarily through live performances of traditional music in major non-Western cultural regions. When possible and suitable, the ancestral cultural heritage of the Ojai community and its students are also focused upon.  Thanks to Professor Smith, these funds annually open the doors to an engaging multicultural experience for students, teachers, parents and the community, embodying true world view of music.  Ojai Valley School is indebted to Professor Smith for her foresight and generosity.

Also in March, BRAVO’s Music Van will set out to demonstrate the instruments of the orchestra to elementary students. This year, 50 volunteers will visit 10 public and private schools with a selection of instruments that more than 400 fourth and fifth graders are invited to try out

Coordinated by Ojai longtime resident and 2018 Ojai Treasure Lynne Doherty has spearheaded the Music Van for more than 25 years, “The look of delight on a kid who makes a mighty racket on the trombone or coaxes a sweet note from the violin is wonderful to see,” she said. “Music instruction in the schools has suffered from years of budget cuts to the arts, and we are continuing to fill that gap.”

You can’t learn to play the violin without first holding one in your hand and awkwardly finding a note.

For more information on the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO programs visit OjaiFestival.org or call 805 646 2094.