The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra at its 2018 Gala Concert. (Photo provided)

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra at its 2018 Gala Concert. (Photo provided)

Summer Orchestra Concert series kicks off

This year, a British composer theme adds a new touch to the concert series.

The Summer Concert series returns for a weeklong event that features a bevy of talent with a particularly British sound.

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra will host the Summer Concert Series for a 23rd straight year Aug. 4-10 at various locales around the peninsula.

The series began in 1997 as the Summer Strings Festival, and has since blossomed into a weeklong series that attracts some of Alaska’s brightest and most talented orchestral players.

This year, a British composer theme adds a new touch to a concert series that explores different sounds each year.

The week will feature a rotation of three orchestra ensembles from Southcentral Alaska, headed up by the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra performing a two-day, 70-piece orchestra gala concert.

“It’s a pretty massive undertaking,” said KPO director Tammy Vollom-Matturro.

The week begins today at Faith Lutheran Church in Homer with the AKamerata Quartet performing under the direction of Dr. Oleg Proskurnya from Anchorage. AKamerata will also perform Monday at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, with both shows starting at 7:30 p.m. Proskurnya played as a guest soloist at last year’s concert series, performing a classical violin concerto, according to Vollom-Matturro.

The midweek show gets started Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Kenai Senior Center when the Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra takes the stage under the direction of Kyle Lindsey. That show will be free and open to the public.

Vollom-Matturro said the show that the Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra put on at the Kenai Senior Center in May provided an early look at what is to be expected this week.

“It was awesome, it was such cool music,” she said. “They do the classical classics … they play all sorts of modern themes too.”

From there, it’s up to the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra to put a bow on the weeklong celebration of classical favorites, as the peninsula-based group will be joined by myriad other musicians from around the state to form a 70-piece orchestra. The gala concerts will be Friday, Aug. 9, at the Mariner Theater in Homer, and Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

The two nights will also get the audience involved in a preconcert conversation at 6:45 p.m., which Vollom-Matturro said will engage folks in an intriguing discussion about the history and format of what they’ll be hearing.

Vollom-Matturro also advised concertgoers to keep an eye on the KPO’s Facebook page for additional showings that may spring up over the week.

Friday and Saturday nights’ gala concerts open with the overture to The Wasps by Ralph Vaughan Williams, then will transition to movements from The Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar.

After a brief intermission, the orchestra will treat the audience to the full version of The Planets, by Gustav Holst. Vollom-Matturro said The Planets piece will be the first time KPO has performed it in its entirety, something that the group has been anticipating for some time.

“We did three movements of Holst about three years ago, when I was playing,” she said. “It’s a huge undertaking because it has an extended orchestra, there are some obscure instruments.”

Vollom-Matturro said with the addition of a piccolo flute, a bass flute, a bass oboe and a harp, as well as a percussion section that includes two timpani sets, and a treble choir just offstage, The Planets is expected to impress.

“Doing this is a big undertaking because we’ve got to find these players,” Vollom-Matturro said, adding that the harpist is visiting from the Seattle Symphony.

With each movement composed to inspire sounds of each planet in the solar system — there are seven movements because there were only seven known planets in existence in Holst’s time — the musical styles vary wildly from movement to movement.

Vollom-Matturro said with the addition of the choir off stage, the finishing flair will be one to remember.

“It’s just very heavenly sounding,” she said. “Not a melody you’ll be coming home singing.”

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for Crescendo Club members. Youth 18 and under are free.

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