Artists: Sarah Brady, flute; Rodger Burnett, horn; Jennifer Caine, violin; Timothy Christie, violin/viola; Christina Dahl, piano; Oksana Ezhokina, piano; Jennifer Goltz, soprano; Billy Ray Hunter, trumpet; Andrew Jennings, violin; Norbert Lewandowski, cello; Christina McGann, violin; Steve Miahky, violin; Philip Payton, violin; Paul Rafanelli, bassoon; Maria Sampen, violin; Kevin Schempf, clarinet; Stephen Schermer, double bass; Sally Singer Tuttle, cello; Kristin Vining, piano; Volta Piano TrioDan Williams, oboe; Wei-Han Wu, piano.

Each June the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival presents some 34 events around the Walla Walla and Touchet Valleys. Many of these events take place in area wineries or other social settings. Tickets can become scarce quickly, as venues vary in size and the events are very popular with locals and visitors alike. While scoring a ticket to the annual Special Event performances in may prove challenging (June 2015's event sold out in early April), there are many more opportunities to experience great music around the valley.

Are you new to chamber music? Perfect. The Festival is designed to satisfy both lifelong fans of classical music and newcomers alike. Supporting the slate of ticketed evening performances are a host of free events such as Open Rehearsals (10 events) and children’s concerts (4 events) all set in public spaces around the community. These events take place daily, and offer great opportunities to deepen your understanding and appreciation of both classical chamber music and music in general.

Listening to classical music is not so different from listening to pop music. We internalize pop songs through repetition. You hear a song several times in several different settings and intuitively make connections. Usually, the chorus gets stuck in your head first. It’s probably catchy, and the words are easy to remember (“I’m all about that bass, ‘bout that bass, 'bout that bass...”). Then you begin to internalize the structure of the music; the intro, the number of verses, the chorus and the ending. Before you know it, you are singing along with the radio in your car, and you are only one step away from American Idol.
WWCMF applies the same tactics to classical music. Open Rehearsals are a great way to familiarize yourself with the music. Performers work through passages, and fine tune their interpretation of the music. Form, while expanded in duration, is often exactly the same as in a pop song. There’s usually an intro, a verse/chorus structure and a clear ending. Rather than the 3-minute format of a pop song, the music unfolds in 10-minute chunks called movements. Two of the immediate differences between classical chamber music and pop music are evident right away: chamber music is generally performed acoustically (without amplification) and there is no such thing as “autotune." Musicians must take apart complex chords and harmonies and carefully adjust balance and intonation within the musical context. Through careful repetitions, the music comes together to form a coherent whole, and the audience takes part in every step. You may find a Mozart string quartet replacing that catchy new pop song in your head. All Open Rehearsals run from 10AM to 12PM. Audience members are free to come and go as their schedule allows.

Kid’s concerts are not just for kids. Set in the Public Library or a community center such as the YMCA or Ft. Walla Walla Museum, our free series of children’s concerts, titled “Sounds Like Fun!”, offers a great way to get more familiar with chamber music. Musicians perform short selections, and bring attention to different aspects of the music like rhythm, melody, harmony and instrumentation. While priority seating goes to the kids, there’s plenty of room for all. Kids’ events run about 45 minutes from start to finish. The Sounds Like Fun! Series of free children’s concerts is presented by Columbia REA.

WWCMF runs June 4-27, 2015 and is presented by Banner Bank. Free programming is offered on an almost daily basis.