- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Bach Festival has received a record-setting gift of $7.25 million from University of Oregon alumni Phyllis and Andrew Berwick. The 17-day summer festival will use the money to create an orchestral training and touring program that will be one of the first of its kind in the country.

Scheduled to launch in summer 2015, the Berwick Academy will focus on historically informed performance practice of music from the 17th to the 19th centuries, open to young professional musicians.

The emphasis on period-style playing, while widespread in Europe, is a significant change for the festival, which largely avoided the style under former artistic director, Helmuth Rilling. But with Matthew Halls, a proponent of historically informed performances, taking over from Rilling this summer, audiences will enjoy the leaner sound of gut strings and wind instruments in stylishly appropriate playing.

By far the largest single contribution in the festival’s 45-year history, the gift enables the academy to be tuition-free. Through immersive training, specialized faculty such as Monica Huggett, who leads Portland Baroque Orchestra, and keyboard virtuoso Robert Levin, and a concert tour, the festival hopes the Academy will attract aspiring musicians serious about playing music the way Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven may have envisioned it.


The Berwicks met as UO students in the 1950s and have been significant donors to the University of Oregon and the festival. “I think the Berwick Academy will set the stage for young musicians to enhance what they’ve already learned in their conservatory,” Phyllis Berwick said in a statement. “It will give them a deeper understanding of where all this began, especially with Bach.”

“The Berwicks’ contributions to this university are simply astounding,” said President Gottfredson.

In 2015, Berwick Academy participants will train over a three-week period with Halls, guest director Masaaki Suzuki (director of the Bach Collegium Japan) and faculty and guest artists led by Huggett (The Juilliard School) and Levin (Harvard University).

A six-concert tour in Eugene, Florence and Portland will follow, with plans to extend the touring coast to coast. The Academy is modeled on the European Union Baroque Orchestra, an early-music training program founded in 1985. Matthew Halls is a EUBO graduate.

Andy Berwick is a real estate developer and founder of Berwick Pacific Corporation in San Mateo, Calif. Phyllis Berwick is a former teacher. They have long been involved with the San Francisco Symphony, but attended their first Oregon Bach Festival concert only 10 years ago. They have been significant donors to the Oregon Bach Festival since 2005, and gave $1.7 million to the final phase of OBF’s $10 million endowment campaign. The festival’s professional chorus is called the Berwick Chorus of the Oregon Bach Festival.

The festival runs June 26 to July 13 this year, with nine concerts in Portland.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com