When I saw the Leader headline about the festival’s venue change, I went through the stages of grief. No! It can’t be! But it was winter, not April 1st. Then anger: I gave them donations so there would be future concerts in the barn, not at Fort Worden. Bargaining–there has to be a way to buy the property from Alan Iglitzin, a foundation or something. But the chances of Alan giving up the family property were obviously slim to none, leading to general depression, and finally acceptance. We had a great run, I went to dozens of concerts over the years, and I get to say a few folks, “See! Shoulda gone last year, now you’ll never be able to experience the greatest chamber music event in the state! Nyah nyah nyah!”
Somehow, though, the Nyah’s aren’t as satisfying as listening to Sarah Chang. While I understand that the move is inevitable, and that Centrum in Fort Worden is the best option, it’s still a big loss. Only five weeks of concerts means at best I’ll be able to attend three, and a misplaced vacation could mean missing the whole season for some people. Much of the appeal of the Olympic Music Festival (OMF) was sitting in the sun, eating decadent deli foods, having a glass of wine, and sometimes being lulled to sleep by wonderful music. For small children, it was a great introduction to classical music–they could run around or listen as the mood struck them. Inside the barn, I always snagged a high bale by the stage; the sometimes uncomfortable seating was compensated by a ringside view of the performers. At intermission, a stroll through the grounds sneaking a few blueberries while drinking a glass of wine–well, try recreating that at Fort Worden, or anywhere else, for that matter. Don’t try and tell me next year will be just as good as always–it won’t even be close.
It seems to me what we’re really missing is the barn. Alan’s farm was great, but a stroll around the Rhody Garden with a disguised glass of wine during intermission wouldn’t be too bad. The Wheeler auditorium is serviceable, but lacks charm compared to the barn. But what if an OMF foundation were to partner with Centrum and build a new barn at Fort Worden? I think the support might be there, and perhaps we could get matching funds for a building grant. There could be an outside wine-garden area with a speaker system to accommodate picnic listeners and wandering children. It wouldn’t have to be fancy–in fact, rustic is better. There’s land out there that could fill the bill. I imagine there are obstacles to changing the nature of the Fort, but they got the Commons built, a barn shouldn’t be impossible. If it were part of a five year plan, listeners would keep coming knowing that the true OMF experience would return soon. We’ll see how this first year goes–but I fear a lot of people will give the festival a miss after one concert not-in-the-barn next year.