Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra returns for first post-COVID concert

Posted 10/21/21

Excitement is coming to a crescendo for the Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra as it prepares for its first concert of the season at the American Legion Hall.

The concert kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday, …

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Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra returns for first post-COVID concert

The Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1987, and has evolved over time to give local musicians of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to play together under the leadership of Tigran Arakelyan.
The Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1987, and has evolved over time to give local musicians of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to play together under the leadership of Tigran Arakelyan.
Photo courtesy of Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra
Posted

Excitement is coming to a crescendo for the Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra as it prepares for its first concert of the season at the American Legion Hall.

The concert kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, as the group returns after a 20-month COVID hiatus from the stage.

“We really can’t wait to present this performance,” said Tigran Arakelyan, the symphony orchestra’s conductor. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a while.”

Led by Arakelyan, a highly-esteemed conductor across the Pacific Northwest, the all-volunteer group will perform three classical pieces composed by Alan Hovhaness, Brenno Blauth, and Leoš Janácek.

The first, “Psalm and Fugue,” by Hovhaness, is a melodic tune with a bright, hymn-like tone. The piece is dedicated to honoring and remembering those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Second up is “Concertino for Oboe and Strings” by Blauth, which carries a tranquil and atmospheric sound with an oboe solo leading the piece throughout. Oboist and Port Townsend resident Anne Krabill will perform the solo.

To finish the concert off, “Suite for Strings” by Janácek will deliver a taste of Victorian-era sounds, quite fitting for Port Townsend. The piece will deliver a refined and well-balanced tone to close the performance.

The musicians have a wide range of ages and skill levels, mostly comprised of volunteers from around the area.

“There is an amazing pool of musical talent in this town,” said Robert Nathan, president of the symphony orchestra. “There’s a lot of volunteers, some amateurs, some professionals.”

Under the instruction of Arakelyan, the group’s sound and tone is anything but amateur as they prepare to take the stage once more at the American Legion Hall.

Although the return of the orchestra marks a return to normalcy, the organization has had to make many changes to remain safe while preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The venue will have two doors open during the performance to increase airflow inside. Proof of vaccination is required to attend, and attendance is limited to 100 people.

Additionally, the concert will be relatively short, an hour long with no intermission, to reduce chances of COVID spread.

“This is a testing the waters kind of thing, we’re trying some new things,” Nathan said of the upcoming performance. “What we do for the next concert depends on how it goes.”

A return to the stage after a long absence is always tough, but Nathan is confident the group will thrive under the guidance of Arakelyan.

“We’re so fortunate to have him, since [Arakelyan] joined us our audiences have grown,” Nathan said. “People love to hear the quality of the group, people love him.”

Arakelyan has numerous awards from the American Prize, Global Music Awards, and more.

The Armenian-American virtuoso has held conductor positions with the California Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, before joining the Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra.

He is also currently the music director for the Northwest Mahler Festival, assistant conductor of the California Philharmonic Orchestra, and a director for both the Federal Way Youth Symphony and the Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra.

Arakelyan has a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Washington.

In the upcoming performance, Arakelyan hopes to display the deep talent of the musicians, and to share with the audience what the group has been up to in the past year-and-a-half.

“It’s been kind of crazy improvising the situation,” Arakelyan said of preparing for the concert while adapting to COVID measures. “I’m confident we’ll be focused on the music to present to the Port Townsend audience.”

The orchestra has been around since 1987 as a nonprofit bringing musicians from across the area together to play as one.

“We used to be a small group of local folks, and it’s grown,” Nathan said.

With a promise of free concerts, which still rings true today, the organization has evolved over time to bring top-notch conductors to lead local musicians. Arakelyan took over the conductor position in 2016, as the group’s fourth permanent conductor.

Arakelyan has brought a new level of competence to the nonprofit, bringing an annual chamber music program and a higher degree of passion and pride.

“This is a big moment, it’ll be a big concert since we had to stop in February 2020,” Nathan said.

“I think everybody involved is excited, also a little anxious. Not about the safety, but how many people will come.”

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  • rkhefley@olypen.com

    I see the musically gifted Steve Murphy in the first row, but not his equally talented sister, Jeanie.

    Can it be there is no place for banjos in this orchestra?!

    Sunday, October 24 Report this