With Change Coming to the Ojai Festival, Watch What Makes it Unusual

With Change Coming to the Ojai Festival, Watch What Makes it Unusual


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A rehearsal in June at the Ojai festival, whose music director this year was Vijay Iyer.

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Jake Michaels for The New York Times

Change is coming to the Ojai Musical Festival, which celebrates contemporary music in an idyllic California valley each year: its artistic director, Thomas W. Morris, announced Friday that he would retire in 2019 after 16 years of guiding, and broadening, the festival.

Ojai has an unusual model: its artistic director works with a different music director each year to create its often-unusual programs. Mr. Morris’s music directors have come from a variety of backgrounds. His final two music directors will be the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja next June, and the singer and conductor Barbara Hannigan for his final festival in 2019.

Mr. Morris said that he was stepping down to give his successor time to plan the festival’s 75th anniversary in 2021 and 2022. Under his leadership Ojai expanded its reach, streaming videos of its concerts.

Here are highlights from recent years:

Ojai Music Festival 2014: World Premiere of “The Classical Style: An Opera (Of Sorts)” Video by Ojai Music Festival

The 2014 festival featured the premiere of “The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts),” with music by Steven Stucky and a libretto by the pianist Jeremy Denk that he improbably based on the seminal music book by Charles Rosen, “The Classical Style.”

Ojai Music Festival 2016: Saturday June 11, Ojai Late Night Concert at 10:30pm Video by Ojai Music Festival

The 2016 festival featured “Josephine Baker: A Portrait,” the avant-jazz composer and musician Tyshawn Sorey’s brilliant arrangement and translation of songs Baker was famous for, featuring the soprano Julia Bullock and the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Ojai Music Festival 2017: Evening Concert, Thursday Video by Ojai Music Festival

The music director of this year’s festival was the pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, and the American premiere of his work “Emergence,” for trio and orchestra, was featured. The work — played here by a trio including Mr. Iyer on the piano, Mr. Sorey on drums, and Stephan Crump on bass, and the International Contemporary Ensemble — can be seen here at 33:10.



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