Orchestras, chorale promise diverse, enjoyable evening
The most popular community music concert of the year returns with an in-person format, after two years of virtual concerts. Cascadia Music’s Holiday Concerts will feature the Pipestone Youth Orchestra, Cascadia Chorale, and the Pipestone Orchestra in the Methow Valley Community Center on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 13-14.
The concert is more than just a celebration of winter and the holidays, it’s a celebration of the return of the beloved musical event itself.
“We’re all really excited to be back in person again,” said Rebecca Gallivan, Cascadia Music’s executive director and conductor of the Cascadia Chorale. “We’re lucky that musicians were willing to show up again for rehearsals to get ready to perform for the community.”
Although Gallivan calls this year a “rebuild year” for the Holiday Concert program, participation in the chorale, orchestra, and youth orchestra is reasonably robust. “We are of course missing some people who still can’t be a part of large groups for health reasons,” Gallivan said of the chorale, “but there are enough people who have been participating for years that it feels like we have enough continuity.”
Terry Hunt, who conducts the 22-member Pipestone Orchestra, said the same thing of his ensemble — that there are enough longtime musicians to provide a foundation, while creating space for new participation.
“We have a full brass section, a new bass player, three cellos, and a flute trio,” he said. “We have some new younger members, including Eva Aneshansley, the new music teacher at Liberty Bell, and then we have Wayne Mendro and several other octogenarians. I think our ages span 60 years!”
People are grateful to be getting back together again to rehearse, Hunt said. “Both the orchestra and choir have nice, positive vibes. It feels almost like a club.” Gallivan added, “There is a strong sense of camaraderie and good spirit.”
Both Gallivan and Hunt say they selected pieces for their ensembles that provide a balance of challenge and confidence. “You don’t want to choose pieces that are so simple that people wonder why they have to come to rehearsal every week,” said Gallivan.
Hunt countered, “But you also don’t want pieces that are so difficult that the audience is on the edge of their seats the whole time.”
Gallivan and Hunt think they’ve danced the line between these two extremes and have programmed a concert of “enjoyable and accessible music, both for the audience and for the musicians: familiar and not-so-familiar seasonal tunes interwoven with Bach and Vivaldi.”
Hunt himself will be playing the Vivaldi Concerto in D for Guitar and Strings, as well as joining 2022 Cherrington Scholarship winner Ilo Curtis on mandolin in a duet of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Another familiar favorite presented in an unfamiliar way will be the orchestra’s arrangement of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Under Gallivan’s direction, 19 members of the Cascadia Chorale have been rehearsing their parts, including a particularly challenging piece called “Choose Something Like a Star,” which is a 1916 Robert Frost poem set to music. It’s part of “Frostiana: Seven Country Songs,” a seven-movement chorale piece composed in 1959 and based on the lines in seven Frost poems.
“It’s about finding unity of purpose,” Gallivan said. “It’s a great social and cultural message.”
Among other pieces, the Cascadia Chorale will also perform “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” a traditional French carol set to four-hand piano accompaniment by Lynette Westendorf and Marcus Duke.
The 19-member Pipestone Youth Orchestra, directed by Pam Hunt, will open the concert with three pieces.
Gallivan and Hunt both noted that the acoustics and aesthetics of the concert will be a welcome surprise for most audience members. The new lighting system and the acoustics are excellent now, the directors agree. “It changes the feel of the community center,” Hunt said. “We transform that space for performances and now the sound and lighting really contribute to that transformation.”
Renowned French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan recently performed at the Methow Valley Community Center and both the musician and the sound engineer who travels with him told Hunt, “the lighting and sound in this space is as good as anywhere we’ve played.”
Hunt also pointed out that the new lighting system saves the community center a considerable amount of energy, since the new system replaces the old portable incandescent lights that were previously used for performances.
Of the overall tone of the concert, Gallivan said that she and Hunt selected pieces that have a joyful tone, to create a celebratory environment appropriate for the holiday season, the community center improvements, the return to in-person performances, and the satisfaction that comes from community members creating and enjoying music together.
The Cascadia holiday concerts will be held at the Methow Valley Community at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday’s concert will feature a bake sale fundraiser by the students of the Independent Learning Center. There is no reserved seating except for accommodation. Admission is by donation, either online beforehand or cash/check at the door. Volunteers are needed; register at Volunteer Methow. For more information visit www.cascadiamusic.org.
Prior to the concert, on Friday (Dec. 9), the Cascadia Chorale invites community members to join them for caroling at Mistletoe Madness, Twisp’s holiday shopping event. Interested and enthusiastic singers should meet in the Methow Valley Community Center Room to practice at 2:30 p.m. and dress warmly to be outside from 3-5 p.m. Caroling books will be provided.