Abbot Jeremy Driscoll chats with guests during the 2018 Abbey Bach Festival, when the audience can share a picnic with the monks of Mount Angel Abbey. (Courtesy Mount Angel Abbey)
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll chats with guests during the 2018 Abbey Bach Festival, when the audience can share a picnic with the monks of Mount Angel Abbey. (Courtesy Mount Angel Abbey)
ST. BENEDICT — For Oregon Catholics, and others, it’s become a rite of summer.

For almost 50 years, the monks of Mount Angel Abbey have hosted the Abbey Bach Festival, a classical music concert series. Established in 1971 on the hilltop monastery overlooking Willamette Valley farmland, the festival has grown to three evenings of music each July, with performances by international artists and a picnic dinner on the scenic abbey lawn.

During this year’s festival — held July 24 ¬– 26 — each evening begins with guests invited to join the monks for vespers in the abbey church. Immediately following vespers is a concert by the Big Horn Brass.

At 6 p.m., the monks and guests share an outdoor picnic buffet prepared by the abbey’s chef and accompanied by Willamette Valley wines. The picnic is an opportunity to visit with the monks, learn their stories, and hear about their lives and ancient Benedictine spirituality.

After the picnic, everyone gathers in the Damian performance center for the feature concert. This year, the festival’s artistic director and pianist, Alon Goldstein, will be joined in concert by the Fine Arts Quartet and the Bergmann Duo.

Wednesday’s concert — “To be (Bach) … or not to be (Bernstein)” —features Baroque selections from Bach and Scarlatti, followed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Mozart’s “Elvira Madigan,” finishing with the rarely heard “The Masque,” from Bernstein’s “The Age of Anxiety.”

On Thursday, the Fine Arts Quartet and Goldstein will present The Three B’s: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

Friday features the piano duo Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann, in a concert titled “From Bach to Broadway.” Selections include Bach plus Debussy, Dave Brubeck, Astor Piazzolla and Chick Corea.