The Bard Meets Jazz

The 18th annual PICFEST welcomes Shakespeare and the Yellowjackets


The Pacific International Choral Festivals (PICFEST) celebrates its 18th season this summer with the premier of Shakespeare & All That Jazz, Sunday, June 26, featuring jazz greats the Yellowjackets, and a 300-voice Youth Festival Chorus, all under the direction of guest conductor and composer Bob Chilcott.

PICFEST draws choirs from all over the country to Eugene, for an opportunity to learn, collaborate and perform.

After nearly two decades, Artistic Director Peter Robb, says PICFEST is “a template we know really well.”

And this year’s effort takes the cake:

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the June 26 program sets the Bard’s words to music, with a twist:

“The original concept had Chilcott setting three Shakespeare texts to music,” says Robb.

But through a chance meeting between Robb, and Yellowjackets’ founding member and jazz pianist Russell Ferrante, things got a little bigger and broader:

The day after meeting Ferrante, Robb recalls, he was on the phone with Chilcott,“to ask if the commission could be composed in a jazz idiom, for the festival chorus and a jazz quartet.”

And what a quartet: The internationally recognized Yellowjackets have spanned four musical decades, garnering both public and critical acclaim.

British poet Charles Bennett jumped into the collaborative mix, focusing on three disparate Shakespearean characters (Ophelia, Caliban and Miranda) as his lyrical muses.

The performance brings together artists from across the country and across the pond, giving local audiences the chance to hear a brand new piece of music.

“What always impresses me about really excellent musicians with a long career is that they’re consummate musicians, and tremendous human beings,” Robb says.

“I’m continually inspired with the artists involved. With their experience, they know you don’t have to sacrifice artistry to nurture the participants.”

PICFEST with the Yellowjackets kicks off 7:30 pm Sunday, June 26, at the First Baptist Church; $24.50-$31. Tickets at