Arts & Culture

Olympia Symphony’s Huw Edwards says upcoming season will be his last

Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s Huw Edwards says the 2019-20 season will be his last in Olympia.

This is Edwards’ 17th year with OSO, where he is music director and conductor. The Wales-born maestro signed a 10-year deal with the organization in 2015 that gave him the option of staying on every year.

In a statement announcing his departure, he said he wants to spend more time with his ailing parents in the United Kingdom.

“I am not sure if there is ever a right time to leave … but there is definitely a wrong time to stay; how I live is more important (than) what I do,” he said.

“The orchestra is playing really well, sounding fantastic and I’d like to think it has improved during my tenure. However, it is time for someone else — a fresh voice with different tastes,” he said, joking his departure is a “negotiated” Brexit.

Jennifer Hermann, OSO’s executive director, said the board heard the news Tuesday and the orchestra learned Wednesday at its first rehearsal of the season.

“It’s all very, very, very fresh and we’re still processing it,” she said, adding the orchestra is prepared for the transition. “Of course they will miss him, the community will miss him. Huw is an icon. … But he has created an orchestra that will be able to withstand that transition.”

In 2015, Edwards told The Olympian OSO is a cultural resource the community can be proud of, adding he enjoyed challenging both the musicians and audiences.

An offer to work for the Portland Youth Philharmonic brought Edwards to the Pacific Northwest in 1995. Later he directed the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.

In a 2008 Olympian profile, Edwards described finding his calling at the opera at age 11.

“I was far more taken with this guy with the little white stick making these gestures than I was with the action on stage,” he said.

OSO’s 2019-20 season kicks off Oct. 13.

Abby Spegman joined The Olympian in 2017. She covers the city of Olympia and a little bit of everything else. She previously worked at newspapers in Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.