Symphony in the Park brings a day of grace notes

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Symphony In The Park

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra plays a free concert in Esther Short Park.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s 35th season

Where: Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St.

When: 3 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets: $35, $50 reserved; $30 seniors and $10 students; packages are available. Information at Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Sept. 21-22: All-Tchaikovsky program featuring “Eugene Onegin,” “Marche Slave” and the “1812 Overture,” with Lucas Meacham, baritone, Anna Kazakova, soprano, and Beth Madsen Bradford, mezzo soprano.

Nov. 2-3: “Rienzi Overture” by Wagner; “Five Pieces for Harmonica and Orchestra,” Gordon Jacob; and Symphony No. 6, Op. 60 in D major by Dvorák; guest Joe Powers on harmonica.

Jan. 18-19: “España,” Emmanuel Chabrier; “Symphonie Espagnole,” Edouard Lalo; and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4; with Ryu Goto, violin, and conductor Jesus Medina.

Feb. 22-23: “Euryanthe Overture,” Carl Maria von Weber; Tuba Concerto in F Minor, Ralph Vaughan Williams; “Taras Bulba,” Leos Janácek; and “Les Préludes,” Franz Liszt; guest Ja’Ttik Clark, tuba.

April 12-13: “Karelia Overture” and Symphony No. 7 in C major, Jean Sibelius; Young Artists winners, to be announced.

May 31 and June 1: Piano Concerto for Two Pianos by Mozart; and Symphony No. 7 (“Leningrad”) by Shostakovich; guests Orli Shaham and Igal Kesselman, piano.

It was not cheap to bring the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to the park Sunday, but all signs pointed to an appreciative crowd.

More than 3,000 people took in the symphony's first free outdoor concert in five years at Esther Short Park.

The cost: $20,000, said symphony Chair Kathy McDonald. She said the Friends of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the symphony board paid for the performance.

Asked if the effort was worth it, McDonald said. "It was our way to say thank you to the community because they have stepped up and supported us when we were faltering three years ago. I thought it was phenomenal."

A professional sound system with speakers around the park was provided, and guests competed for shade on a day where the mercury oozed to 84.

Jim Riddelle, 82, of Salmon Creek was in his green lawn chair 40 minutes ahead of the downbeat.

"I've heard them before. They're great" he said. "This is a nice thing for a Sunday afternoon."

Riddelle and his neighbor, Dreen Krueger, brought a picnic lunch to the park.

Marleen Johnson, 73, of Ridgefield was there, too. "Look at this beautiful park," she said. She enjoys classical music and said she vowed to not miss the performance.

And at 3 p.m., the 70-member symphony, looking sharp in black and white, performed a booming version of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" before beginning their two-hour performance with Verdi's "La forza del destino."

Guest conductor Awadagin Pratt was the maestro and baritone Stephen Salters served as the soloist. Pratt has performed at the White House for both President Obama and President Clinton.

Good vibes

The good vibrations seemed everywhere.

"We're excited," Igor Shakhman said before the performance. He is the orchestra's executive director and principal clarinetist. "After five years of absence (from the park) … we've worked incredibly hard to get everything together."

"I think this is a great idea," said second clarinetist Steve Bass, who also is president of Oregon Public Broadcasting. "It's a great opportunity to bring kids, and those who are not familiar with classical music."

Musical petting zoo

And children had an opportunity to see if music is in their future.

Beacock Music brought a variety of instruments and invited children to have a go.

"It was fun," said 6-year-old Luz Culbert-Nusser after sampling the trombone, trumpet and violin.

"I heard F, B-flat and maybe D," said her proud father, John Nusser, 42, of Portland. "She's in the first grade, and so we're talking about lessons."

Wayne Thompson, director of band and orchestra sales for Beacock, said more than 50 youngsters tried instruments.

"Just trying to give kids that first experience," he said. "This is a blast."

Amy Page, 39, photographed her daughter, Erin, 11, giving the violin a try.

"It was actually really easy," Erin said of her time with the instrument.

There were all ages at the concert, which featured selections from Copland, Dvorak and Beethoven.

Brentin Peters, 15, a sophomore at Camas High School, was there with his family.

He plays bass guitar, guitar and piano.

Asked for his opinion of the performance, Peters said, "I thought it was great, and I think it's cool how music can bring people together."