Tuesday, June 16, 2009

OK Mozart 25th Anniversary - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This week marks the 25th Anniversary of OK Mozart (OKM) here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and I've decided to take full advantage of many of the free concert and historical offerings. To begin, here is a history of the festival from the OK Mozart website. Besides the history, the site offers much information about the festival, including a very handy Planner.

The History of OKM

In 1983 Ransom Wilson and the orchestra he founded, Solisti New York, made a performance stop in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The musicians found a charming, cosmopolitan town with a magnificent performing arts building designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wilson quickly realized that this unique building held one of the finest concert halls in America. The OK MOZART International Festival was born of this serendipitous discovery, along with the imagination and vision of Wilson and his new-found colleague Nan Buhlinger, a Bartlesville musician, arts administrator and community leader.

In June 1985, the OK MOZART International Festival began with a three-day concert series. In 2005 Ransom Wilson, founding Artistic Director retired, and the name of the resident orchestra changed to Amici New York. Now entering its 25th year, the OK MOZART Festival continues to bring the best and brightest musicians to Bartlesville for nine days of world-class performances.

The Festival features orchestral concerts with the Amici New York Orchestra, which is in residence in Bartlesville for the Festival, chamber music ensembles, and world-renowned guest artists. Included are six concerts in the Community Center's acoustically near-perfect concert hall, an outdoor concert in a natural amphitheater at Woolaroc, an historic ranch and nature preserve; a chamber music series in the new Bartlesville High School Fine Arts Center and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church featuring members of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and guest artists.

Originally created to complement the orchestral and chamber concerts, OK MOZART began to present Showcase Festival Events, which featured local artists highlighting what Northeast Oklahoma and Bartlesville had to offer in both an artistic and historical context. As OKM has continued to grow, so have the Showcase Events. Today these presentations have grown to become an important extension of the Festival. They include everything from daytime teas to contemporary music to historical lectures to a special children’s series. With the wide variety the 75-plus Showcase Events have to offer, there is certainly something for everyone!

Throughout the Fetival's growth, state and national media have recognized this major classical music event. During the Festival's fifth season, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority produced a documentary, OK MOZART, which aired on Public Television. Over the years national media attention has produced articles in many publications including Southern Living, Delta Sky, Horizon and Symphony magazines; broadcast series on National Public Radio; and special features on NBC's Sunday Today, ABC's Sunday Evening News, and ESPN's Nation's Business Today. In addition, features have appeared on CNN during several of the Festival's seasons.

In 1989, OK MOZART Festival won the "Governor's Arts Award" given by Oklahoma's State Arts Council, and was named Oklahoma's "Event of the Year" by the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism and Recreation.
In 1997, the Festival swept the Oklahoma Festivals and Events Association media awards in all categories, and that same year OK MOZART won a silver and two gold awards at the International Festivals and Events Association's Pinnacle Awards Competition held in Montreal, Canada.

In 2006 the Oklahoma Governor's Conference on Tourism identified the OK MOZART International Festival as the 2006 Outstanding Event of the Year.

This afternoon I began my OKM experience at the First United Methodist Church, listening to the classical chamber ensemble enhake. According to the program notes, they "are an emerging ensemble comprised of members from South Korea and the United states. Drawing its name from the Seminole (Creek) word for sound or call, enhake is committed to bringing sublime chamber music to its audience with a sincere respect and love for the score. Its distinctive instrumentation (clarinet-cello-violin-piano) allows its musicians the flexibility to perform repetoire from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras to the most captivating contemporary works."

They are going to perform a different composition each day of the festival, beginning today with "Quartet for the End of Time" (Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps pour violon, clarinette en si bemol, violoncelle et piano). This work was composed by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) in a prisoner of war camp in Germany.

1939 September France declares war on Germany; OM called up for military service.
1940 15 June OM captured by German forces in the fall of Verdun.

July OM moved to a prisoner camp in Silesia, Germany (now Poland).
1941 15 January Premier of Quatuor pour la fin du Temps, Stalag VIIIA, Görlitz, Silesia, Germany.

Each performer in the composition had a chance to shine with haunting solos or solos accompanied by the young, outstanding pianist Eun-Hee Park. The clarinet player, Wonkak Kim, was able to coax sounds from his instrument I've never heard before, especially long controlled notes that began almost inaudibly then gradually became louder and full-toned. Jayoung Kim, who played the cello, and M. Brent Williams, violin, at times played in unison, a beautiful sound.

The ensemble, formed at Florida state University in 2007, has won many awards, including the Grand Prize at the Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition (2009), Bold Medal at the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition (2008). They debuted in Carnegie Hall at the 2008 ICMEC Winner's Concert and have concertized throughout the United States and Costa Rica.

Please explore their website, including samples of many of their performances, including parts of two movements they performed for us this afternoon. Here is the website: enhake Click on "Sound" at the top menu to listen to some extraordinary music.

For something different, tomorrow I'm going to hear the Kilkenny Road Band, a local Irish group.

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