Orchestra cultivates appreciation of classical music

Sharing the classics

In the dimly lit sanctuary of Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna two musicians practiced "Star of the Country Down," an old Irish Ballad. Trina Uvaas swayed a bow across a fiddle while Aaron Lohmeyer strummed on a guitar.


Fellow musicians sat in silence, tapping their feet and nodding their heads to the melody. Uvass and Lohmey are two of the musicians who will perform Friday night at the church.

Local musicians are set to perform this Friday at the 10th annual "An Evening of Classics" fundraising concert. The concert, presented by the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, features mainly classical pieces, but this year's lineup includes the Celtic folk song and two songs from the Broadway musical "Les Miserables."

It is being presented as a formal event, but the organizers like to create a fun atmosphere for the evening as well, Maria Allison, event organizer and orchestra member, said.

"Our emcee, Marc Berezin, gives a bit of information about the performer beforehand. He tells little, funny stories about them and makes it an entertaining evening," she said.

Musicians are picked by word-of-mouth. Allison and orchestra conductor Tammy Vollum-Matturro know many of the musicians in the area, and musicians offer suggestions of people new to the area. Others contact organizers and offer to perform. The orchestra does not hold auditions.

Performers are encouraged to choose classical pieces for the event, but the decision is ultimately up to them. This year's performance looks to be one of the largest yet with 14 to 16 different ensembles and soloists.

"Some years we have it's really small, but this year we're expecting a larger program," Allison said. "It will be a nice, lengthy program."

The program will include works from Ludwig von Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Vollum-Matturro describes the evening as a variety concert. Singers, instrumentalists and pianists will play in hopes of encouraging people to listen to classical music, she said.

The mood set for the night is "serious," but the organizers planned to end on a lighter tone. Performing last, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra will play lighter songs, such as "Emperor Waltz No. 1" by Johann Strauss, a light happy tune, and "Blue Tango" by Leroy Anderson, which Vollum-Matturro described as easy listening.

Soloist Bill Garry will be performing "Stars" from "Les Miserables." Garry chose the song because he is fond of the role of the jailer, the character who sings the song in Act I of the play.

"Stars" fits the evening's serious mood. Javert, the jailer, is strict with himself when it comes to his goals, driving himself mad by the end of the musical.

"It's just great music and great drama," Garry said. "And that's the essence of opera."

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra was formed in 1983. It is composed of volunteer musicians whose ages range from 12 to 75. Players come from the entire Kenai Peninsula, including the communities of Soldotna, Homer, Kenai, Seward and smaller Peninsula hamlets.

The concert will also feature a baton auction. Attendees will bid for the chance to conduct a single song, a march. The experience does not include full training. Instead, it is meant to give the winner a feeling of being the leader of a band.

Christ Lutheran Church is the preferred venue for the fundraising concert because of its acoustics, size and the closeness performers have to the audience. It's very intimate for the performers, Vollum-Matturro said.

"You're in the audience when you're playing," she said. "So, you're right on top of them they're right on top of you. And I think the audience likes it because they're right in on the action."

Orchestra members are hoping for a large audience and enough donations to help fund their endeavors. The money goes toward organizing performances, a music collection and music workshops.

In general, the orchestra is able to raise between $2,000 and $5,000 from the concert. A small sum of $2,000 would help the orchestra immensely, Allison said.

"Most important we just want a lot of people to listen to the music," Vollum-Matturro said.