Oct 29, 2020

Keeping the Music Alive During the Pandemic

The Kenari Saxophone quartet
The Kenari Saxophone quartet

Unable to hold live concerts since COVID-19 hit our region in March, Chamber Music Northwest has demonstrated flexibility and creativity in finding new ways to fulfil its mission of providing high quality chamber music to our community. One of the first acts of our Board of Directors was to advance payment to all of our Summer Festival artists so that they would have some means of support in the early spring, when no one knew what was in store. Once it became obvious that we would not be able to hold live performances, Artistic Director David Shifrin set to work, creating a Virtual Summer Festival, curated from archived performance tapes, plus five new performances that were produced specifically for CMNW. The Virtual Festival brought the very finest performances of chamber music to thousands of listeners—for free—and personalized the experience with commentary from David Shifrin and our incoming Co-Artistic Directors Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim. The artists shared their stories about the music they performed, many times from their own homes where they were spending the quarantine, and communicated with our audiences (who were also watching from home) in a way that helped strengthen that special bond between audiences and artists that is so integral to the Chamber Music Northwest feeling of “family.”

Perhaps most touching of all was the closing program video of artists paying tribute to David Shifrin—in his forty years as CMNW Artistic Director, he has mentored and helped launched the careers of countless young musicians. We are indeed lucky to have artistic leadership with incredible talent, commitment to supporting the next generation of artists, and the depth of personal connection exemplified by David Shifrin, and now, his successors, Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim.

At a time when so many performing arts and sports events were cancelled, Chamber Music Northwest emerged as a leader in the field of online programming. Our Virtual Festival served over 45,000 viewers (nearly 3 times our average attendance), providing technical support to ensure that everyone was able to access the programs, sharing:

  • five “live” concerts created specifically for our summer festival
  • three world premieres of new works commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest
  • three family programs for music lovers of all ages, and
  • three master classes for talented young students working with festival artists.

All programming was offered for free, and accessible to anyone who could connect with the internet. Programs could be viewed at any time the viewer chose, within a 48-hour window. Most importantly, CMNW was there for everyone experiencing isolation and uncertainty during summer 2020, providing music to comfort and soothe, or excite and invigorate us at a time when we needed music the most.


Looking ahead to the 2020-21 season, the inaugural season of our new Co-Artistic Directors, CMNW will provide a stunning virtual season of new concerts created specifically for Chamber Music Northwest. The Year-Round season offers at least one concert per month, plus a live “Musical Conversation” to bring context to the program. The schedule includes:

Week of                             Artist(s)                                                                                                                        

October 10                  Soovin Kim, Bach’s Complete Violin Sonatas & Partitas

November 14              Anthony McGill & Gloria Chien, Clarinet Tours de Force

December 5                 Marc-Andre- Hamelin & Gloria Chien, Virtuoso Pianos

January 30                   Alisa Weilerstein, solo cello works

February 13                 Catalyst Quartet, Uncovered

February 27                 Goldmud Quartet – Europe’s “Rising Stars”

April 24                       Parker Quartet Inventive & Inspired

May 15                        Kenari Saxophone Quartet Transforming Perceptions of the Sax

Keeping a close eye on COVID conditions, we expect to be able to offer a hybrid Summer Festival in 2021, with live performances for small audiences that will be recorded and shared virtually with our larger audiences on line. We will announce the Summer Festival programming in January, 2021.

We thank all the donors whose generous contributions have made it possible for CMNW to share the finest in Chamber Music with our community and a growing audience of online listeners. The Year Round concert series depends, in part, on income from subscription passes to access the concerts. However, donations received through GlobalGiving will make it possible for CMNW to share complementary concert access passes with those who really need access to the music but cannot afford to buy a ticket.

Your gift through GlobalGiving will underwrite distribution of free tickets through our education and community partners to those members of our community who most needed this assistance. Thank you!

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein
Anthony McGill, clarinet and Gloria Chien, piano
Anthony McGill, clarinet and Gloria Chien, piano


Jul 7, 2020

Virtual Summer Festival!

This is a most unusual year, isn’t it? When Chamber Music Northwest realized that it wouldn’t be possible to hold our fabulous 50th Anniversary Summer Festival due to COVID-19 restrictions, we wasted no time in planning an alternative solution. We firmly believe that the world needs the healing power of music now, especially during this pandemic, to provide beauty and a calming effect to soothe the anxieties of people confined by the quarantine.


Chamber Music Northwest has created an entirely virtual summer festival, offering 15 different concert programs, free-of-charge, during the five weeks of our summer festival, June 22-July 26, 2020. We have curated programs from our archival recordings of past performances, and are also producing five new programs specifically for this virtual festival. The programs are introduced by Artistic Director David Shifrin, and include real-time interviews with the participating artists to give context to the programs. We produced a virtual festival program book, available in print and online. Each program can be accessed for 30 hours; it is then taken down and the following program brought up. Programs run Mon/Tue, Thur/Fri, and Sat/Sun for five weeks. Please visit cmnw.org for complete details, and watch the current program.


In addition to the festival concerts, CMNW is also offering three family-friendly programs, which will each be accessible online for a 1-week period. Those programs include: The Silver River, a stunningly beautiful chamber opera that blends Chinese and Western music styles, and two children’s programs, Marita and her Heart’s Desire, and Carnival of the Animals.


CMNW is also offering free three master classes with our outstanding artists: July 11: Violin/Viola master class with Danny Phillips; July 17: Woodwinds with David Shifrin; and July 18 Flute with Tara Helen O’Connor. The live master class is at 11am Pacific time on the listed date—after airing it will be available through the CMNW education project archive. Participation for advanced student musicians is free, and anyone can watch the master classes, either in real time or after the classes have concluded.


Although we miss the experience of live performances, there are some advantages to the virtual festival: it is more accessible, as anyone with internet access can watch the programs in their own homes, at any time they choose during the 30 hours the program is live. We have already heard from some listeners that they appreciate the artists’ comments, and being able to see the artists in their own homes—a different experience from the concert hall. During the first week of the festival, we averaged over 2,000 visits per program—considerably larger audiences than attend a live chamber music concert.


Chamber Music Northwest is supportive of our artists, whose livelihood from performing has been stripped away by the pandemic health safety restrictions. Weeks before we made the decision to cancel the festival, we sent every one of our artists 50% of their summer performance fees. The artists were most grateful for this payment—some hadn’t had a paycheck for many weeks.


Running a virtual festival is a new experience for our staff, who have been terrific in learning new skills related to producing, marketing, trouble shooting and providing customer assistance with online programming. While producing the virtual festival is not as expensive as producing live concerts, we do have expenses of paying the artists, audio and video tape editing, producing a completely new program book, and marketing the virtual festival – that plus the artist payments come to over $192,000. On the revenue side, we have no ticket sales—our largest source of income! Fortunately, our audience is responding by donating their tickets or making online contributions, and we have received a few grants for help during the COVID restrictions. But there is still a significant gap ($86,000) between virtual festival income and expenses.


Your gift through GlobalGiving will help Chamber Music Northwest provide the world’s finest chamber music to a virtually unlimited audience, free of charge. We invite you to enjoy the Virtual Summer Festival, and thank you for considering a gift to help; support this unique effort.


We look forward to bringing you live concerts again, as soon as it is safe to do so!


Mar 10, 2020

50th Anniversary Summer Festival

CMNW Artistic Director David Shifrin
CMNW Artistic Director David Shifrin

Chamber Music celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with the most fabulous summer festival ever! This is Artistic Director David Shifrin’s final festival before he passes the baton of artistic leadership to Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim this fall. To celebrate his 40th and final season as artistic director, David has programmed his favorite artists and works, along with six new works commissioned by CMNW.

The world premiere commissions include:

  • Marc Neikrug: A Song by Mahler chamber opera about how a celebrated diva with early onset Alzheimer’s copes with the disease that is affecting her and her husband/accompanist’s careers.
  • George Meyer: Duo for Violin & Viola, written for and performed by Katie Hyun, violin and George Meyer, viola.
  • David Ludwig: Les Adieux, a new concerto for clarinet and chamber ensemble, to feature David Shifrin as soloist.
  • Bruce Adolphe: Are There Not a Thousand Forms of Sorrow? Commissioned in honor of our 50th anniversary and scored for 2 violins, viola and 2 celli.
  • Kevin Puts:Work for the Miró Quartet
  • Valerie Coleman, Hannah Lash and Nokuthula Ngwenyama: each composer will write one movement and all three will perform this piece for flute, viola and harp.
  • Lowell LiebermannFour Seasons for mezzo-soprano and strings

In addition to the nationally acclaimed artists in our Summer Festival, CMNW will also continue its extremely successful Protégé Project for exceptional rising-star musicians. The Protégé Artists’ summer-long professional residency includes mentorship from our festival artists, extensive performance with them in mainstage and their own concerts, and in turn, coaching young students at local music education programs.

Our 2020 Summer Festival continues last year’s theme of celebrating the diversity of chamber music: diversity of cultures, styles, periods and instruments. The highlight of the festival will be the 50th Anniversary Gala Concert, emceed by Performance Today’s on-air host, Fred Child. David Shifrin’s favorite artists will perform in this celebration, including the Emerson and Dover string quartets, Andy Akiho, Edgar Meyer, Ransom Wilson, Nancy Allen, Anna Polonsky, Peter Wiley, Fred Sherry and a host of others! The program will be recorded for broadcast on National Public Radio. There will truly be something for everyone, ranging from beloved classics and familiar artists to exploring new work, and introducing the rising stars of the chamber music world at the early stages of their careers. 

Outside the concert hall, our artists will be busy taking the music out to our community. We seek partnerships in the community, playing in assisted living and memory care facilities, working with students in music camps, homeless teens in community centers, hospitals and many other organizations that serve people who can’t come to the concert hall. This summer we will offer over 40 free events designed to educate and engage music lovers of all ages.


  • Education and Community visits by musicians to student music camps, community centers, and youth service programs.
  • Free Family Concert and Instrument Petting Zoo: children get hands-on experience making sounds on musical instruments, and then enjoy an age-appropriate program about the Four Seasons, followed by a picnic.
  • Free Community Concerts at Portland Art Museum, Parklane Church in East Portland and in Beaverton.
  • Masterclasses: Artists offer masterclasses and coaching for young musicians, offered free to participants and observers
  • Musical Conversations: Pre-concert talks by Festival artists and composers, discussing the program to be performed
  • Open Rehearsals: Behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating music.
  • New@Noon: an informal concert series that allows audiences to hear from composers and artists performing works by living composers.
  • Conversations with the Composer: Audience members talk with the composers of the works performed at the New@Noon concert.
  • Broadcasts on All Classical 89.9 FM, reaching up to an additional 73,000 listeners throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington with our recorded performances, artist interviews, previews, and live in-studio concerts.

Your support makes the music happen. Thank you so much for your partnership and investment in Chamber Music Northwest!

Chamber Music Northwest celebrates 50 years
Chamber Music Northwest celebrates 50 years
umama womama will compose and perform a new work
umama womama will compose and perform a new work
icarus quartet is our Protege Project ensemble
icarus quartet is our Protege Project ensemble


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