By Marcy Stamper

The Pipestone Orchestra’s annual Music Days concert highlights piano, violin and viola in music described as “flashy and pretty,” “impassioned,” and “dramatic and fun to play” this Friday (May 18) at 7 p.m. in the Methow Valley Community Center in Twisp.

Michael Brady. Photo by Steve Mitchell

The performance features Winthrop pianist Michael Brady in a concerto by Rachmaninoff and visiting violinist Rachel Nesvig and violist Jessica Jasper in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.

The concert also highlights talented young violinist Lena Nelson in “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli. Nelson, a ninth-grader at Liberty Bell High School, is the recipient of this year’s Cherrington Merit Award.

The rousing “Liberty Bell March” by John Philip Sousa for woodwinds and brass rounds out the program.

Brady has loved the Rachmaninoff concerto since he was 13 but never imagined he would perform it. “This really is a fantasy dream that is coming true — it’s never a dream I’ve ever held,” he said.

Brady heard a performance of the concerto by a gifted Russian pianist in Amsterdam about 20 years ago. When she started, it was so slow that Brady found himself gazing at the ornate ceiling, worried that the tempo would be excruciating. “Then a wave of goosebumps flooded over me,” he said. “It was the most impassioned music I’ve ever heard.” Audience members throughout the concert hall could be heard weeping, he said.

Rachmaninoff’s composition is in the Russian folk tradition, filled with beautiful melodies so catchy that they have been adapted by rock musicians including Elvis Presley, said Pipestone Orchestra conductor Matt Armbrust.

Armbrust is excited to be presenting the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with the string soloists and orchestra. “It’s like experiencing music through a champagne flute. It’s just as crystal-clear, and you can see the bubbles and experience the effervescence,” he said.

Lena Nelson

Nelson chose “La Folia,” a difficult piece that is “really dramatic and fun to play — it has a little bit of everything,” she said. It’s a busy week for Nelson, who has an audition with fellow high school musicians in the Papillon String Quartet in Spokane just two days before the concert.

Inviting professional musicians to play with the Pipestone Orchestra is a way of “growing the community with an ever-widening circle of musicians,” said Armbrust. “It empowers everyone to tackle harder music — by bringing in experts, everyone magically and very comfortably just rises to the bar.”

Nesvig performs with Northwest Sinfonietta in Seattle. Jasper plays with the Spokane Symphony and is the principal violist of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Violinist Michelle Vaughn, concertmaster of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra, and violist Tim Betts will also join the orchestra.

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students, and are available at the door and at