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Christmas concert includes jazz, Hanukkah piece

Posted: December 15, 2011 - 8:48am

It includes doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs. Redoubt Chamber Orchestra's "An Evening of Christmas 2011" is a reflection of the Kenai Peninsula's community, said Maria Allison, orchestra member.

"The community is in the orchestra, and it's nice for people that come to the concert to see their neighbors and friends play (music)," she said.

The orchestra's Christmas concert is scheduled for Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at Kenai Christian Church. Musicians will play Christmas tunes, as well as a Hanukkah piece and jazz arrangements -- both new features of the annual concert.

"An Evening of Christmas" has been around in some form for over two decades, Allison said. It features orchestra music, soloists and ensembles.

Allison will accompany soloists and ensembles on keyboard, as well as play in the orchestra. She will play piano during "Mary, Did You Know?", a Christmas song and Marian hymn -- Christian songs focused on the Virgin Mary --with lyrics written by Mark Lowry and music written by Buddy Greene.

The Redoubt Chamber Orchestra existed when Allison came to the Peninsula in 1979, she said. It disappeared for years until local musicians with the desire to play more frequently took the name and reused it, said Tammy Vollum-Matturro, orchestra conductor. The Redoubt orchestra also includes members from the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.

Vollum-Matturro said she has conducted the Christmas concert since the orchestra reformed seven to eight years ago. The concert is now the orchestra's most popular event.

The concert took place at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna previous years but was moved to Kenai Christian Church as the audience outgrew the venue. Kenai Christian holds 350 to 400 people, and they've been packing in, Vollum-Matturro said.

She said the concert is popular because it's right before Christmas and takes place when schools break for the holidays.

"It's the very last thing people do before they kick off their holidays," she said. "People have expressed their feelings about the concert to me, explaining that it gets them in the holiday mood because of the music we play and the feelings that it gives everybody."

The orchestra's brass ensemble will perform "Hanukkah Suite" during this year's concert. Last year, community members requested the inclusion of a Hanukkah piece, Vollum-Matturro said.

Conducting is generally Vollum-Matturro's main role, but this year she and other musicians will perform jazz arrangements of Christmas classics during the concert's intermission.

The jazz, or big band, arrangements were added as a tribute to prominent Peninsula musician Mike Lyons who recently passed away. He was scheduled to perform at the concert.

"His forte was big band jazz music, so we're going to play some Christmas jazz in remembrance of him," Vollum-Matturro said.

Songs chosen for jazz arrangements include "Jingle Bells," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Feliz Navidad."

Sing-along pieces will return to this year's concert. There are three different songs the audience can participate in. In addition, the audience will be invited to shake, or jingle, their keys during "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson.

Audience participation was a major focus for this year's concert, Vollum-Matturro said.

"Because of the nature of the concert being holiday themed we like to include the audience to make them feel that they're part of the concert," she said. "The (sing along) songs are spread out throughout the evening."

Sue Biggs, concertmaster for Redoubt Chamber Orchestra and Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, agrees that the sing along portions of the concert are important.

"It's like accompanying a large choir," she said.

Biggs and her husband Jack Will also are performing "Baby It's Cold Outside," which she described as a "jazzy pop tune."

The orchestra requested something light, as the Christmas concert tends to feature classics that can give the evening a serious tone, she said.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12 and $25 for family admission. Tickets are only available at the door.

Redoubt Chamber Orchestra uses the admission revenue to purchase music and organize future events.  

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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