When Tammy Vollom-Matturro and several of her Kenai Peninsula Orchestra peers approached their conductor Mark Robinson almost 10 years ago asking to play Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9", Robinson laughed at the request.
Not in a derisive way, but in a that's-virtually-impossible kind of way.
"A lot of people shy away from it because of how big it is," Vollom-Matturro said of Beethoven's behemoth of a symphony.
Now, 10 years later, the orchestra will have its chance to tackle the magnum opus during KPO's duo of gala concerts for its summer music festival. Robinson will be conducting "Symphony No. 9," while Vollom-Matturro - his protégé of sorts - will be conducting the preceding Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture."
Composed of musicians from all of the country, but specifically drawn from Anchorage and the Peninsula, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra has been entertaining audiences since the late 1980s. What started as a handful of talented musicians has grown into a professional-level orchestra with dozens upon dozens of participants.
"I think that people have not known in the past that there was an orchestra - I'm talking like 10 years ago," Vollom-Matturro said.
"When we would do concerts, we'd have a few people but not a whole lot. But the last few years we've had really great crowds."
In addition to the two gala concerts which will feature the Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov pieces, the orchestra's summer festival also hosts a two-week-long series of "noontime tunes" in the Kenai/Soldotna and Homer areas. Each weekday at noon, a performer or group of performers will play a free show at a different venue around town.
"We tried to have a diverse representation of music," Vollom-Matturro said of the noontime tunes. "So we have some classical, we have some acoustic guitar, some fiddle music. We have a wide variety just so people can have lots of different experiences over the two weeks."
As far as the main event goes, Vollom-Matturro says that even if you're not a hardcore aficionado of classical music, you won't be disappointed.
"The music we're doing this year is very accessible, meaning that it's very audience-friendly," she said. "The Rimsky-Korakov overture, because of its huge orchestrations, never has a dull moment; there's always something going on, something to watch, something to listen to."
A 150-plus member voice choir will also take the stage during the last movement of "Symphony No. 9," leaving more than 200 people on stage at once.
For those interested in a more low-key show, the Madison String Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m., Friday, at Soldotna's Christ Lutheran Church.
"It's an intimate audience and they play a wide variety of music," Vollom-Matturro said. "They do a lot of Latin music, too; it's very fun.
"They play so phenomenally. When they get going on this Latin music, you just can't help but tap along and you want to jump out of your seat. Even if you're not a classical music connoisseur, per se, you can definitely love this group."
For a more extravagant evening, concert-goers can shell out $120 to take a cruise to the Tutka Bay Lodge at 6 p.m., on Aug. 7 where great food, beautiful scenery, and delightful music by the Madison String Quartet will be provided.
The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Gala Concert will be hosted at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 12, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai. A second show will be hosted at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Homer Mariner Theatre. Cost is $18 general admission, $15 senior/parent, and $12 youth/member.