WEAVERVILLE Yes, that's a Haydn string quartet wafting down Weaverville's Main Street. Or is it a Shostakovich piano quintet ringing out of the Hyampom Community Hall?
Chamber music is reverberating throughout rural Trinity County thanks to the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival, now in its third season.
It began with an inspiration on the south fork of the Trinity River one summer evening in 2010. Ian Scarfe, a pianist and graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was sitting at sunset in a cottonwood breeze, still aglow from his three-week performance at a festival near Portland, Ore. As he watched the river meander past, he thought the only thing that could improve the bucolic scene was music.
Scarfe made one telephone call to Jim French, director of the Trinity Alps Performing Arts Center, and this chamber music festival in the middle of the mountains was born.
Scarfe is still stunned by French's enthusiastic response. "It's not often that your first phone call asking for help is as productive as this one!"
The 2013 season of free festivals, which continues through Aug. 11, includes wind and piano quintets as well as string quartets. The 40 different performing musicians come to Trinity County from Alaska and Europe as well as San Francisco.
For most of rural Trinity County, the music was foreign at first, said French. "We said, 'Try it, you'll like it.' "
The public reaction is implicit in the outpouring of offers to musicians from local businesses for free river trips, restaurant meals and housing.
It's the best of bartering, said French. "I take them backpacking. They bring me extraordinary music."
Plumas city suffers BofA branch closure
PORTOLA When the doors of Portola's Bank of America slammed shut late last month, the thud resounded throughout rural America.
The bank in this city of about 2,000 is the latest of thousands of branch closures, nearly 20 percent of them in towns outside the most populated areas.
As with many of the others, transactions at the Portola branch were declining, said Diane Wagner, a Bank of America spokeswoman. Customers are increasingly relying on mobile and online banking, she said.
Bank of America, the nation's second-largest bank by assets, leads the branch pruning with about 200 closures in 2012. It plans to eliminate some 12 percent of its remaining branches in the next few years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Many of the closings are taking place in states that were hit hardest by the mortgage meltdown and the bank failures that followed. Nevada, for example, has lost more than 10 percent of its branches since 2009, the Journal said.
The Portola closure leaves a hole in the economic heart of the Plumas County city, said Mayor John Larrieu. Businesses here are still recovering from the poisonings of Lake Davis in 1997 and 2007, he said.
In addition to the inconvenience, Larrieu cited the loss of six full-time jobs with the closure. That's significant in the city struggling to restore its tourism base after the chemical treatment to remove non-native northern pike from the lake that is its mainstay, he said.
The closest Bank of America branch for Portola residents is 30 miles away, and people can still bank there, Wagner said.
"People will adjust," said Larrieu, "because we have to. But some of us have been banking here for 50 years."
Conservation Fund rescues ranch near coast
SONOMA COUNTY Redwoods, coho salmon and the local community are all poised to benefit from the recent purchase of Preservation Ranch near the California coast.
A private-public partnership led by the Conservation Fund paid $24.5 million to rescue the 19,645-acre ranch from threatened development and conversion to vineyards.
The purchase not only preserves the redwood ecosystem forever, said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carillo. It also provides jobs for local woods workers doing stream restoration, light-on-the-land logging and forest thinning.
The vast expanse of ridgetop redwoods 13 times larger than Golden Gate Park is the final piece of the Conservation Fund's goal to reassemble what was once a single forested property stretching nearly 30 miles along the rugged North Coast range. Primarily in Mendocino County, this land was divided over time and sold in multiple parcels, said Chris Kelly, the Virginia-based fund's California program director.
Preservation Ranch, to be renamed Buckeye Forest, completes the consolidation of the 58,000-acre former ranch. With the Garcia and Gualala river forests to its north, it will be managed for long-term sustainability that provides critical habitat for the recovery of northern spotted owl, salmon and steelhead trout.
The acquisition by the nonprofit partnership will keep the property on the tax roll and contribute to the state's economy through an innovative approach that allows the California Coastal Conservancy to share in revenue from the sale of carbon offsets generated by growing trees instead of cutting them, Kelly said.
The world offers plenty of places for subdivisions and vineyards, Kelly said, but where else could you grow redwoods? "These iconic forests simply can't be replaced."
Jane Braxton Little, a freelance writer, covers science, natural resources and rural Northern California from Plumas County. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.