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The Oregon Bach Festival’s incoming artistic director is Matthew Halls/Courtesy OBF

Last week, Eugene’s Oregon Bach Festival announced the appointment of English conductor and organist Matthew Halls to succeed founding artistic director Helmuth Rilling in 2013. Though the timing came as a surprise — the festival earlier suggested that Rilling’s replacement wouldn’t be named till after next summer’s festival — the choice wasn’t. The 36-year-old conductor impressed everyone in his debut festival performance this summer, and the feeling was mutual. “I felt like I was walking into a giant family,” he told me in an interview the day after his appointment was announced. “I felt a great sense of warmth from the community as well as from the staff and musicians at the festival. I’m delighted to be becoming a part of the family as I embark on this exciting musical journey.”

Coupled with the 2007 appointment of former British Broadcasting Corporation executive John Evans, a former BBC executive who succeeded the much-admired founding executive director Royce Saltzman, who co-founded the University of Oregon program in 1970, the move completes the festival’s reinvention and sets the stage for new directions for the venerable Oregon classical music institution.

“Radical changes are coming,” Evans promised in an interview last year. Halls’ hiring is only the latest. Where will he and Evans take the Oregon Bach Festival?

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