Nehalem Winterfest capitalizes on the coast’s off-season

Festival music ranges from crocodile rock to chamber to jazz. In Cannon Beach and Tillamook, theatrical comedies brighten the dark days

This is the quiet time on the Oregon Coast. The holidays are over, spring break still a ways off, and with the exception of a couple of three-day weekends, there’s not a lot of opportunity for extended bouts of R&R here. While that may not be bad news for locals, for businesses, it can make for some lean stretches. Such was the inspiration last year for the first Nehalem Winterfest.

“In the summer, there are competing interests, you go to the beach, you build bonfires, you go hiking. You do all sorts of things like that,” said Mary Moran, head of the North Coast Recreation District’s Performing Arts Center, where Winterfest performances are held. “You don’t necessarily want to sit inside a theater and listen to music. In the winter, you don’t expect to do outside things so much as inside things. We just decided it’s a great time to have music and concerts, and get people to come to the beach and enjoy themselves.”

It went over so well — with visitors coming from all over Oregon, Washington and beyond — they’re doing again.

The 2nd Annual Nehalem Winterfest kicks off Friday, Feb. 8, with Kate & the Crocodiles. Featuring vocalist Kate Morrison, trumpeter Gavin Bondi, pianist Craig Bidondo, and drummer Brent Follis, the band plays rock originals and covers, jazz, classical, “and other surprises from far and wide.”

“Kate and the Crocodiles are always a good seller here,” Moran said. “Great people, great music and lots of fun to listen to.”

On Saturday, Feb. 9, it’s 2017 and 2008 Grammy winners, the Pacifica Quartet. The chamber ensemble is known for its “virtuosity, exuberant performance style, and often-daring choices,” according to a press release. Quartet members live in Bloomington, Ind., where they are quartet-in-residence and faculty members at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. They’ll take the stage at 7:30 p.m.

Pacifica Quartet members are (from left) Austin Hartman on violin, Mark Holloway on viola, Simin Ganatra on violin, and Brandon Vamos on cello.

“We had the Newport Symphony in November and filled the theater,” Moran said. “It’s just something different. We don’t want to do the same music every day. The Pacifica Quartet should be really exciting.”

Winterfest closes with the Mel Brown Quartet at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, with the only afternoon performance of the weekend. Brown formed the quartet in 2002 at Portland’s Jimmy Mak’s jazz club, and it has become a mainstay in the Portland jazz scene.

It’s also a hit on the Coast.

“Everyone loves Mel Brown,” Moran said. “He was here last year and he was so popular we decided to have him back again. People, as soon as they heard it was Mel Brown, started buying tickets.”
Besides Brown on drums, band members are bassist Ed Bennett, pianist Tony Pacini, and guitarist Dan Balmer.

You can find show times and ticket information here.

ALSO ON THE NORTH COAST: The 2013 Tony Award winner Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike opens Friday, Feb. 1, at the Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach. The play by Christopher Durang centers on three middle-aged siblings sharing a home in Bucks County, Pa., where they complain incessantly about their ho-hum lives. After their movie-star sister arrives with her new beau, chaos reigns. The play runs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through the Feb. 23 with two Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Feb. 10 and 17. Coaster warns the language and situations are PG-13. Tickets are $20 and $25. More information is available here.

At Tillamook’s Barn Community Playhouse, the Tillamook Association for the Performing Arts (TAPA) presents Beer for Breakfast, opening Friday, Feb. 1. The play by Sean Grennan follows a group of middle-aged men gathered for a guys’ weekend in a snowed-in cabin. When the wife of an absent friend shows up in his place, “an epic battle of wits and stamina ensues.” Catch the show at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 17. Tickets are $15 and $10; you can purchase tickets and learn more about TAPA here.

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