In an April 20th email sent at 10:06pm, the Oregon Bach Festival cancelled the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The "official announcement" list of 543 people included alumni, patrons, donors, musicians, and faculty members. Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon's communication called the move a "postponement" to 2021, replacing next year's festival with the current program, and delaying its decision to audition three "world-renowned maestros" for Artistic Director: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Eric Jacobsen, and Julian Wachner.
Dean Madison-Cannon wrote "as a part of their decision-making, we consulted with many stakeholders, including the finalists for our Artistic Director."
The cancellation of the 2020 festival came as a surprise to musicians involved, some of whom found out on social media this morning. One orchestra member discovered it in a private Facebook group. Another player said it was the first communication they had received in over a month. At least two choir members new to the 2020 season, not added yet to the general mailing list, found out through alumni or social media.
According to one source, members of the Oregon press were privy to the information as early as April 19th.
Communication with artists appears to be a hot-button issue for at least five musicians interviewed. One chorister who has been with the company nearly 15 years, said, "communication is near the top of the list of things they don't do well." This chorister purchased their flights ahead of time "in good faith" without a contract, and felt lucky the airlines offered no-penalty cancellations.
One long-term orchestral player said, "Of course I'm not surprised it's cancelled, nor am I surprised that this is how I'd find out."
Multiple musician sources cite a pattern of erratic and conflicting communications from the Oregon Bach Festival. For example, a few years ago one long-term chorister received an email on Christmas Eve informing them they were not accepted to the festival, and in early January were re-invited.
The artistic director candidate contacted declined to comment.
The full text of the communication sent by the University of Oregon is provided below:
More to follow as the story develops.