Under present circumstances, the joy of hearing great live music outdoors compares favorably with almost anything, especially when that joy involves gathering with the contemporary classical music world’s foremost leaders in Ojai.
This twice-postponed 75th edition of the august Ojai Music Festival promises to be a memorable one, as it unites music director John Adams, the greatest living American composer, with Rhiannon Giddens, the MacArthur Award–winning vocalist, banjo player, and pioneering music historian whose work excavating African-American contributions to country and bluegrass has changed the way that we think about American music history.
The festival begins with a “prelude” concert in Libbey Bowl at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 16. The program opens with a work by Igor Stravinsky, who famously graced the Ojai stage in the early years of the festival, and leaps from there into distinctly contemporary territory. Violinists Miranda Cuckson and Amy Schroeder will be joined by an all-star cohort for compositions by festival composer-in-residence Gabriela Ortiz, Timo Andres, Carlos Simon, and Samuel Adams, the son of festival music director John Adams.
Friday’s performances begin with Chumash stories told by elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie at 8 a.m., followed by an 11 a.m. concert in Libbey Bowl featuring Rhiannon Giddens and the Attacca Quartet. On Friday night, John Adams conducts the Ojai Festival Orchestra in a spectacular program featuring work by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the West Coast premiere of Samuel Adams’s Chamber Concerto.
As with every Ojai Music Festival, the opportunities for listening, learning, and discussion continue nonstop throughout the weekend. Highlights include a solo piano recital on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. by virtuoso Víkingur Ólafsson; a Saturday-night concert of music from Giddens and Francisco Turrisi’s most recent album, They’re Calling Me Home; and a truly stunning series of performances on Sunday stretching from early in the morning until the finale at 5:30 p.m. with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra joining all the festival principals for works by John Adams, Gabriela Ortiz, and Carlos Simon.
For more information and to arrange tickets, visit ojaifestival.org.