Valley of the Moon Music Festival Goes the Distance for 2021 Season

Classical and Romantic chamber music will ring out once again in the Sonoma Valley and online during the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, which presents world-class artists in digital and in-person performances from July 17 to Aug. 1.

The upcoming 2021 season includes several curated programs that center on the theme of “Love and Longing: Reaching Across the Distance,” inspired by the fundamental human desire to connect.

That connection was lost for many in the North Bay and across the globe this past year due to the pandemic, and the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s 2021 program tells stories of separation, longing and coming together through the chamber music of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvořák and more.

Formed in 2015 by musicians and partners Eric Zivian and Tanya Tomkins, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival annually reaches across time to present Romantic-era music performed on historical instruments, including gut-stringed instruments and classical fortepianos that are similar in size to harpsichords.

“Often with steel strings, as a player you are making as much noise as you can possibly make,” Tomkins says. “These historical instruments lend themselves to a different sound that I think brings the music alive and makes it more accessible.”

“We have no idea how it really sounded in 1800 or 1850,” Zivian says. “But, playing these instruments brings us into context of something like how it might have sounded, and it spurs our creativity and makes us think of this music in a totally different way.”

In addition to musically reaching across time, this year’s festival theme of “Love and Longing” also reaches across the distances created by the pandemic to reinforce the fundamental human need to connect socially. The festival’s virtual and live concert programs each encapsulate one aspect of that theme, with concerts titled “Longing,” “Romance,” “Collaboration” and “Friendship.” 

“There’s so much expression of love and longing in music of the 19th century; in the words, in the poetry, in the songs and the chamber music,” Tomkins says. “It fits the feeling of what we’re all experiencing now, which is we’ve all missed being together. We wanted to choose music that reflected that feeling, and also the celebration of coming back together.”

Virtual concert subscriptions are available starting at a $35 reservation fee and individual virtual concerts are available starting at a $5 reservation fee. A limited number of tickets for the live, outdoor concerts, including the finale concert featuring musicians from VMMF’s Apprenticeship Program taking place at Hanna Boys Center, are also available.

“You can attend everything, including the live concerts—which will also be livestreamed,” Tomknis says.

Complementing the Festival’s main musical programs, VMMF’s Blattner Lecture Series will feature dynamic speakers who will give historic and social context to the music. This year’s featured speakers include Alex Ross, a critic at The New Yorker; Kate van Orden, a bassoonist; and Dwight P. Robinson Jr., professor of music at Harvard University, who also oversees the lecture series.

Valley of the Moon Music Festival runs from July 17 to Aug. 1. For tickets and program information, visit valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org.

This article was updated on June 30, 2021.

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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