The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival is already underway. Classical music lovers across the peninsula will have many chances to catch the group perform. There also will be special events with visiting artists the Madison String Quartet.
KPO conductor Tammy Vollum-Matturo said this season the orchestra is playing some fairly recognizable pieces like Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and Greig’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1” alongside the more obscure Shostakovich “Symphony No. 5.” The orchestra also will have guest soloist Rodney French sing an aria from Puccini’s opera “Tosca.”
“He’s an amazing tenor and it’s a very short aria, but it’s a very famous aria. And it’s very sad and very emotional and it’s going to blow people away,” she said.
Vollum-Matturo has been with the orchestra since the mid-90s. She first played clarinet and percussion, but now she’s on the other side of the baton. Vollum-Matturo said she has been slowly checking off pieces from her “must play” list.
“I’ve always wanted to do ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ and we did it a few years ago. And I’ve always wanted to do Brahms’ ‘Symphony No. 2’ and we did it a few years ago. And this year is Shostakovich ‘Symphony No. 5.’ I’ve wanted to do that forever and here we go,” she said.
This Summer Music Festival also is a celebration of the group’s 30th year. The orchestra draws players from all across the peninsula and every performer is there on a purely volunteer basis. The summer season not only includes two full concerts with performances in both Homer and Soldotna, but each day players gather at a restaurant, library or store to play what they have dubbed “Noon Time Tunes.”
“We never have a full orchestra… we have duos, or trios or quartets, or other people who are not part of the orchestra. It’s a wonderful mix of musicians. Each day is something different,” she said.
Vollum-Matturo said having players in front of people every day has been a great way to reach out to the community.
“A lot of people come up to us during those Noon Time Tunes concerts and say ‘I never knew there was an orchestra here.’ And that’s why we do these,” she said.
Another feature of this year’s music festival is the return of the Madison String Quartet. The group has been coming to the peninsula for the last few years. Evelyn Estava is 1st violinist for the quartet. She said the group definitely has a Latin feel.
“The mission of the quartet has always been to champion the works of Latin American and Hispanic composers. The way we do that is we combine these pieces that are not being heard here really with pieces from the standard repertoire,” she said.
Estava said she feels like she comes home whenever the group returns to the Kenai Peninsula. And she said one of her favorite things about playing here is the interaction with the audience.
“It’s funny because people… just ask. We’re talking about something before starting to play and somebody says ‘Hey, but, answer this question.’ And it’s just great,” she said.
The quartet will play at the Soldotna Methodist Church Friday Aug. 2 at 7:30 and at Homer’s Faith Lutheran Church on Monday Aug. 5 at 7:30. A special event called Strings at Sunset is scheduled for Sunday Aug. 4 in Seldovia. More information about the quartet and KPO performances is available at the orchestra’s Facebook page.