“Sometimes it is a little hot out there, but the crowds are terrific!” remarked Steve Bass, clarinetist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. “Thousands and thousands of people show up, and they have been wonderfully responsive.”
Bass is describing the scene at the concert that the orchestra gives every summer at Esther Short Park as part of the Six to Sunset series sponsored by the city of Vancouver and Riverview Community Bank.
“I love to watch the kids conducting behind the conductor!” added Bass with a laugh. “Sometimes I see extra arms coming out behind the conductor. Then I have to close my eyes!”
The informality of outdoor summer concerts is especially appealing to Bass, who, as president and CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting, has to attend a lot of industry-related meetings. For him, the kids, blankets, lawn chairs, and picnic baskets are a welcome sight.
“The thing about an outdoor concert is that you have to be prepared for just about anything,” he said. “But that is part of the fun of it.”
If You Go
• What: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra plays a concert of light classical music.
• When: 6 p.m. Thursday, July 26.
• Where: Esther Short Park, 605 Esther St., Vancouver.
• Cost: Free.
This year’s program will be led by Ken Selden, the award-winning music director of the Symphony Orchestra and New Music Ensemble at Portland State University. He will direct popular classical pieces that will get folks’ toes tapping, starting with Dimitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture.”
“The Shostakovich number is a tremendous virtuoso piece for every member of the orchestra,” said Selden. “The entire program actually showcases the virtuosity and stylistic range of the Vancouver Symphony musicians. We are featuring music of American composers Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Duke Ellington. We’ll also play the spirited ‘Waltz’ from Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and singers from Opera Quest Northwest will be joining us for well-known music from Italian opera. We are also presenting music from the original ‘Star Wars’ soundtrack by John Williams.”
Although Selden maintains a busy schedule teaching and conducting, he has also written some orchestrations of music by the great Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. Two of these orchestrations, “Oblivion” and “Libertango,” will receive their world premieres at the concert.
“Many years ago, when I was a college student,” recalled Selden, “I heard the iconic Piazzolla album ‘Zero Hour,’ which was like nothing I had ever heard before. Last year, when the Argentinian violinist Tomas Cotik joined the PSU faculty, we started performing Piazzolla together, and I started making our own versions of some of them, as well. My renewed interest in the music of Piazzolla is what led to these new versions, which use the full orchestra, and soloists within the orchestra.”
The concert will conclude with a stirring rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” John Philip Sousa wrote the march in 1897, and it proved to be his most popular piece. At some concerts, the audience would ask his band to play it two or three times. In 1987, Congress declared “The Stars and Stripes Forever” as the official National March of the United States.
The master of ceremonies for the concert is Molly Solomon, reporter and producer covering Southwest Washington for OPB. Although she will probably be at or near the stage during the concert, Solomon might find time to wander by the “petting zoo,” where kids can explore a wide variety of musical instruments that have been provided by Beacock Music.
“It’s a great way for parents to introduce their children to a lot of different instruments,” said Gayle Beacock. “You never know what sounds interest kids.”
To top it all off, the concert at Esther Short Park is open to the public and doesn’t cost a cent. As Tom Peterson, the iconic TV salesman, used to say, “Free is a very good price!”