“Evening of Classics” dedicated to late music mentor

The annual ‘Evening of Classics’ concert that graces the halls of Soldotna’s Christ Lutheran Church every year in October will be without one of the central peninsula’s finest musical leaders this year.

The Redoubt Chamber Orchestra will perform the ‘Evening of Classics,’ an annual favorite in the musical community, Friday at 7 p.m., and the evening is dedicated to the memory of local artist Jean Brockel, who died July 26 at the age of 85.

Brockel was an inspiration and mentor to many of the Kenai Peninsula’s musical artists going back over 60 years. Soldotna Performing Arts Society member Maria Allison said Brockel arrived in the late 1950’s and was active until the 1990’s.

“Anybody new that came in to the community got to know her. She came to all the concerts and would often stand and visit with everyone afterward,” Allison said. “Sometimes she directed them, sometimes she’d be an audience member … but it was always great to have her give her take (on performances), because you knew she had so much experience.”

Brockel helped build institutions such as the Kenai Performers and the Performing Arts Society, and was a voice and piano expert who taught vocal techniques classes at the Kenai Peninsula College, where she began teaching before Alaska was even a state.

Allison said she and concert director Tammy Vollom-Matturro had the easy decision to dedicate the ‘Evening of Classics’ to Brockel, who she said enjoyed the annual event.

The event is a benefit for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, and will be hosted by Simon Nissen, the Kenai Central High School choir teacher.

The Redoubt Chamber Orchestra will be directed by Vollom-Matturro, who said the amount of musical talent gracing the stage tonight is one of the draws of the annual concert.

“The quality of music is superb,” Vollom-Matturro said. “It’s a lot of variety, from vocalists, string players and woodwind players. It won’t be mundane, it changes up on every piece we do … it’s a really great way to hear everybody.”

Vollom-Matturro said the musical acts range from groups like the Central Peninsula Community Orchestra to solo artists looking to flaunt their talent and styles.

The musical styles and moods change throughout the evening, helping to keep a nice flow and a more relaxed performance by the artists, said Allison.

“It can be daunting to put together a full recital themselves, it’s a big deal,” Allison said. “So this is a fun thing to do, because they’re working on single pieces. It’s not quite as daunting for musicians. A lot of people are encouraged to perform.”

While the common classical names like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach can be expected on the menu, Allison said the evening is also made for other styles such as theater music, jazz, choir and swing pieces.

“That makes it fun,” Allison said. “I like the variety and humor involved, plus all these people that get to perform.”

Vollom-Matturro is choir teacher at Kenai Middle School, and said she and Nissen often work together, bouncing ideas off the other. Vollom-Matturro said Nissen’s role as host is perfectly suited for the event.

“He’s hysterical,” she said. “It should be phenomenal.”

The ‘Evening of Classics’ dates back at least 15 years and has seen several changes to the musical styles on tap, but one thing that will be returning is the baton auction, which auctions off the chance for one lucky bidder to step up and conduct the Redoubt Chamber Orchestra as they perform the final piece in the program.

Vollom-Matturro said that the song chosen for the bidder this year is “Finale from Orpheus,” better known as the Can-Can song.

“It’s fun because the orchestra learns a piece and someone can just go up there and wave their arms around,” Allison said.

Vollom-Matturro said the lucky baton auction has a history of interesting and different winners having their go at the front of the stage.

“We’ve had everyone from a fifth-grader one year, to a 99-year-old lady another,” she said. “Every year it’s somebody different that gets to do it and it’s super fun to watch people bid on it.”

The evening will also feature an art auction for a piece by local artist Olya Silver, and, Vollom-Matturro, added that orchestra-styled drink glasses are also on the block.

The event comes with $15 admission but is free for anyone 18 and under.

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