Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion Sue Biggs (right) plays the fiddle with flautist Mi'shell French (right) during a noon concert on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 at the Flats Bistro in Kenai, Alaska. Biggs and French join a host of other musicians playing daily concerts on the central and southern Kenai Peninsula for the annual Summer Music Festival, which features a variety of musicians from the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra as well as guest artists from Alaska and elsewhere.

Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion Sue Biggs (right) plays the fiddle with flautist Mi'shell French (right) during a noon concert on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 at the Flats Bistro in Kenai, Alaska. Biggs and French join a host of other musicians playing daily concerts on the central and southern Kenai Peninsula for the annual Summer Music Festival, which features a variety of musicians from the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra as well as guest artists from Alaska and elsewhere.

Sweet sounds of summer

During recent rehearsals, Tammy Vollom-Marrurro told her violinists to play as horribly as possible.

The harsh, raking sound is an important part of the drama required for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s piece of choice for the upcoming Summer Music Festival’s gala concert, Sergei Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky.”

The piece, a cantata written for orchestra from the film soundtrack to the 1938 film by the same name, has strong imagery of battle scenes between the Russians and the Germans in the 13th century, including a scene during which German soldiers are lured out onto an icy lake in their heavy armor and fall through.

”You can hear the battle. You can hear the wind blowing. You can hear the ice cracking,” Vollom-Marrurro, the orchestra’s conductor, said. “It’s a pretty cool piece of music because it was written for a movie and adapted for an orchestra and choir.

“And I’m really excited about it. It’s a really strange piece of music in a way. It’s very powerful and then it’s very sad and then it’s very happy. It’s everywhere because it was part of a movie.”

“Alexander Nevsky,” a half-hour piece featuring both the orchestra and the community choir the Kenai Peninsula Singers, will follow two pieces by Russian composers Mily Balakirev and Alexander Borodin. A guest conductor, David Jacobs of the University of Oregon, will conduct Borodin’s piece, “Polovtsian Dances.”

Vollom-Marrurro said she met Jacobs during a conducting workshop she attended in Oregon. That workshop was also where she met several small groups from the Navy Band, the official musical group for the U.S. Navy.

“Part of the workshop was … we got to do a session with the winds and conduct them,” Vollom-Marrurro said. “I got to know the guy that’s in charge of the Navy winds and said they should come up to Alaska. And so they did.”

The Navy winds groups will join the annual event for the first time this year, playing free concerts on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Christian Community Church in Homer and on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Kenai Community Library in Kenai.

The evening concerts complement a raft of daily concerts all over the Kenai, Soldotna and Homer areas. A variety of groups will play daily concerts at noon in locations such as the Kenai Community Library, Odie’s Deli in Soldotna and Land’s End in Homer. The concerts began Monday and will run through Aug. 12, with the gala concerts scheduled for the evening of Aug. 12 at the Homer Mariner Theatre and Aug. 13 at Kenai Central High School’s Renee C. Henderson Auditorium, both at 7:30 pm.

One standby will return for the ninth year — the Madison String Quartet and friends, featuring Tony Cecere on the horn, Tomoka Raften on the flute and Mark Wolbers on the clarinet. The quartet will play a noon concert specifically targeted for kids at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday and another at the Homer Public Library on Wednesday.

The gala concerts will feature a collaboration between the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and the Kenai Peninsula Singers with the addition of a guest singer — Rehanna Thelwell of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Thelwell is a contralto, a woman with a lower-range singing voice, and will feature as the lead singer for a section of “Alexander Nevsky.” She will sing a section of the piece called “Fields of the Dead,” Vollom-Marrurro said.

“In the movie, they’re kind of walking around looking for survivors,” she said. “It’s this very mournful, sad sound.”

For a full schedule of events, visit the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s website at kpoalaska.com. Tickets for the gala concerts can be purchased at the Homer Bookstore in Homer, at River City Books in Soldotna and at the door.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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