Passing the Baton…
Island Consort—this small, lovely non-profit chamber music organization under the umbrella auspices of Whidbey Island Arts Council--was initially conceived over the course of 2012. Sparked by a combination of inspiration, whimsy, and naivetee and inspired by the music I enjoyed in Tekla Cunningham’s annual Whidbey Island Music Fest, I first imagined the Consort as a resident, semi-professional early music ensemble. After much discussion with friends and colleagues Chris Harshman, Franny Kenney, the late, great Buell Neidlinger, and Dianne Vars, Island Consort took form and performed its first concert in October of 2013 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island. The Consort performed with both an instrumental and a choral division—the choir singing under the baton of the inimitable Dr. Dianne Vars, who also conducted with the two divisions performed concerted works together. The instrumental division, when performing on its own, was mostly unconducted (though one of my personal favorite experiences was conducting Copland's Quiet City!).
We quickly widened our purview, and ultimately performed chamber music from the 1600s to the present day. The Consort produced a few festivals—Women in Music concerts, two New Music on the Rock festivals featuring contemporary, Pacific Northwest region composers, and a Schubertiade or two. Our programming was interesting and varied and full of wonderful juxtapositions, such as pairing Britten with Purcell for a St. Cecilia’s Day concert or sidling Renaissance motets up alongside Brahms’ Liebeslieder for a Valentine’s Day special. We performed concerts of British music, French music, 20th Century American music. We performed motets and madrigals, concertos and requiems.
Then came 2020 and the global pandemic. I was freshly back from India in January of that year when the first news of Covid was hitting the airwaves. I managed one salon concert in February, after which it was Cancelled! Cancelled! Cancelled! All Island Consort concerts for the duration of the 2019-20 season went the way of all things. As it happens, what would have been our Spring concert of 2020 was going to have been Dr. Vars’ last concert with Island Consort. With her retirement and the ongoing pandemic, Island Consort has been on hiatus, save for sponsoring a couple of small ensemble projects along the way.
Now it is the Spring of 2022. The Island is exploding with the greening of the trees and the blooming of bulbs and bushes everywhere. New life is revealing itself, as it must. For everything there really IS a season, thus there will always be endings and beginnings, fadings away and new emergences. No doubt the pandemic has given us all the opportunity to till under our green crops, preparing our inner soil for whatever must emerge anew.
As it happens, I have been as busy as ever with my music endeavors. Concerts are resuming for me, and I have a few new projects occupying my attention and my practice and rehearsal schedule. After much long and heart-centered contemplation, I have become a way that my time with my “baby,” Island Consort, is coming to a close. I am so happy with this labor of love and proud of what we have accomplished. But my energies are flowing in other directions now, so—finding myself at the proverbial crossroads—I had to decide whether to till the Consort under or find a way for it to have renewed expression. The latter became the obvious path.
To all of you who have faithfully attended Island Consort concerts, sent your words of encouragement, and donated funds to support our concerts: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I remain in deep gratitude to you always. Without an audience there is no performance—music is ALWAYS a partnership and Island Consort is indebted to our supporters and collaborators in this little effort of the heart.
With much love and thanksgiving,
Sheila F. Weidendorf
~former Island Consort Director