Ojai Music Festival pushes from June to September. Rhiannon Giddens leads lineup

Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens will play the Ojai Music Festival, which moves from June to September in hopes COVID-19 vaccinations will have created a safer environment for a live audience.
(Rick Loomis / For The Times

The Ojai Music Festival announced Thursday that it can salvage its 75th anniversary event by postponing it from June until mid-September — a bet that falling COVID-19 infection rates, increased vaccinations and comprehensive health and safety protocols will allow the four-day celebration to return with a live audience.

Since its founding in 1947, the Ojai festival has been known for innovative and experimental music programming and for highlighting up-and-coming talent. But as the COVID-19 pandemic grew last March, organizers canceled the festival for the first time in its history

The full lineup for the 75th anniversary festival, to open Sept. 16, has yet to be announced but it will feature debuts by Americana musician Rhiannon Giddens, Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson and violinist Miranda Cuckson. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group will perform the world premiere of “Sunt Lacrimae Rerum” (These Are the Tears of Things) by Dylan Mattingly. John Adams is serving as music director, and Ara Guzelimian is artistic and executive director.

The nation’s summer festival season remains in flux. The L.A. Phil has not yet announced a timeline for a return to the Hollywood Bowl after that venue’s historic closure last year. The Ravinia Festival said this week that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would return in July for a six-week residency, but the Boston Symphony Orchestra has not yet revealed its summer plans at Tanglewood.

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Ojai sits in Ventura County, which graduated with Los Angeles and Orange counties this week from the purple to the red tier in California’s color-coded classification system for the reopening of businesses and institutions. The state Department of Health’s recently released guidance, going into effect April 1, stipulates that outdoor live performances can take place at 20% audience capacity in the red tier, and 33% in the orange tier. Capacity limits jump to 67% when counties reach yellow, the least restrictive tier in the reopening blueprint.


Gov. Gavin Newson has said the state is working on guidelines for a green tier, raising hopes for even higher capacity.

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