Musically inclined part II: Kenai-inspired work premieres for festival

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2006


  Los Angeles-based composer Adrienne Albert poses by her piano in this undated photo. "In the Beginning," the first movement of her three-part symphonic work "Facing the Elements," will premiere during the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra's summer festival. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Alber

Los Angeles-based composer Adrienne Albert poses by her piano in this undated photo. "In the Beginning," the first movement of her three-part symphonic work "Facing the Elements," will premiere during the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra's summer festival.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Alber

For 25 years, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra has held at least one major concert event in the summer. This year, the events that start Monday have music playing every day through Aug. 13 in what amounts to a symphonic celebration of summer.

Some of those concerts will celebrate the Kenai in a more specific way.

“In the Beginning,” the first movement of a three-part symphonic work called “Facing the Elements” — one inspired by and written for the Kenai Peninsula by Los Angeles-based composer Adrienne Albert — will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at Kenai Central High School. The work, along with music from Mozart, also will get a public airing at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at Homer High School.

Albert’s involvement in and inspiration by the Kenai Peninsula began with her first trip to the area in 2004, when KPO was performing another piece of hers called “Western Suite.”

“I had never been to Alaska, always wanted to go. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to go and actually have something to do,” Albert said last week from her home near Santa Monica, Calif.

What stood out at first, she said, were the people she met at the first few rehearsals. When she met Steve Hileman, for example, the tank-top clad tuba player had a vase full of flowers next to his music stand and an easel in front of him.

“I thought it was so unique that here was this guy who plays the tuba, this big, bulky instrument and he is sitting there painting the most delicate of flowers,” Albert said. “I remarked about that and he said, ‘Things are not always as they appear to be.’”

Such personalities, she said, are indicative of just how diverse a range of personalities are present on the peninsula.

“What I find is that the personalities of people up there are very unique — no one seems to fit into a mold,” she said.

After her first visit, the KPO signed Albert on as their Composer in Residence and secured a grant from the American Composers Forum to commission “Facing the Elements.” Albert has made several trips to the peninsula since then, including a trip in January as the eruption events of Augustine volcano sent just enough ash across Cook Inlet to drift through Homer, where she was staying.

“It was fortunate for me in the sense that I was sick as a dog on that trip and had completely lost my voice. I was supposed to teach a class that day, but they canceled school,” she remembers.

The first movement of her Kenai-inspired work to get a peninsula performance was “Animalogy,” the second movement is yet-uncompleted work.

The premiere took place June 16 at Homer’s Pratt Museum after two weeks of rehearsals with Albert conducting. Those rehearsals helped bring about the avian-inspired opening sounds attendees heard, she said.

“At the first rehearsal, it was a riot, because the oboist was just warming up her reed and my ears perked up. I heard this unusual sound and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and she said, ‘Warming up my reed.’ I said, ‘That’s the way the piece is gonna start.’ It sounded like a bird.”

Albert calls herself a collaborative composer and says such input helps make her pieces evolve from “black dots on paper” to works of art.

“I only write the music,” she said. “The music doesn’t come to life until the musicians bring it to life. What I put on the page is not necessarily what is going to be performed.”

Albert said KPO members reacted well to the challenge of collaboration and praised their commitment and talent in bringing “Animalogy” to life.

“It was beyond my wildest dreams. It was brought to life in such an amazing way.”

That commitment brought life to her piece, colors the personalities of the musicians themselves and it ought to be a source of pride for all Kenai Peninsula residents, she said. Albert will arrive Tuesday and immediately begin rehearsals for “In the Beginning.”

“It’s quite extraordinary. (The musicians) think nothing of driving 50 or 100 miles to come to a rehearsal because they love what they do.”

Tickets to the performance, which will feature solos from University of Alaska Anchorage flute professor Laura Koenig, are $15. For reservations or information on where to purchase tickets, call (907) 235-7579.

Noteworthy menu

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s summer music festival has a variety of events coming up over the next few weeks and most of them cost a buck or two. Starting today, however, there is free music on the menu for its luncheon concerts, scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. every weekday. Below is a list of free luncheon concerts in Kenai and Soldotna:

· Monday: Mike Morgan at River City Books in Soldotna

· Tuesday: Midnight Sun Trio at Charlotte’s in Kenai

· Wednesday: Kalgin Island Quartet at The Crossing in Soldotna

· Aug 3: Amanita Trio at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna

· Aug. 4: Kalgin Island Quartet at Kenai Landing

· Aug. 7: Sue Biggs and Jack Will at Veronica’s in Kenai

· Aug. 8: Sue Biggs and Jack Will at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna

· Aug 9: Central Peninsula Youth Orchestra at Kenai Community Library

· Aug. 10: Kent Peterson at Already Read Books in Kenai

· Aug 11: Midnight Sun Trio at 11 a.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and Woodwind Trio at noon at Kaladi Brothers Coffee

For more information on the festival or a list of the luncheon concerts taking place in Homer, visit

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