WEEKEND: Port Townsend Community Orchestra to give free concert

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

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CHIMACUM — Watch Hollie Kaufman leading the orchestra, and her joy is as clear as a virtuoso's solo.

So promises Dewey Ehling, director of the Port Townsend Community Orchestra, which under his and Kaufman's batons will give its winter concert this Saturday night. Admission, as ever with this orchestra, is free.

“Mostly Russian with a Sprinkling of English” is the title of the 7:30 p.m. performance at Chimacum High School, 91 West Valley Road. That's thanks to Ehling's selection of Rimsky-Korsakov's “Tale of the Tsar Sultan” suite, Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile, the second movement of Borodin's Symphony No. 2 and Ralph Vaughan Williams' English Folk Song Suite.

The maestro will give a short talk on the music at 6:45 p.m., and while the concert comes at no charge, music lovers are asked to bring nonperishable foods for the Port Townsend Food Bank. Donations to the orchestra itself are always welcome, too.

Kaufman, also a bassoonist with the orchestra of some 60 players, will step up to conduct the Vaughan Williams piece.

It will be her first time leading this work, though she is a highly trained conductor who has performed with orchestras from Chicago to Graz, Austria.

Kaufman is a nurse practitioner at the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe's Health Clinic, and director of emergency management there. But she also had a whole other life in music. She grew up in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky, then earned a master's in music at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; she traveled the world as a bassoonist and conductor but then had to stop due to a medical condition that affected her hearing.

Three years ago, she joined the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus, and its director, Gary McRoberts, told Ehling about her. Ehling invited her to join the Nutcracker Orchestra, for the Ballet Workshop's performances of the classic at the Port Angeles High School auditorium.

“That,” Kaufman recalls, “was so fun.”

Taking up the bassoon again was like opening a door to find everything behind it was still in great condition.

“All my skills were still there,” she said.

Kaufman joined the Port Townsend Community Orchestra, though she lives in Port Angeles. She and Ehling relish talking music together, and he enjoys seeing her lead the orchestra.

“I'm not one to feel threatened,” said Ehling.

“When she is in front of the orchestra, she is all smiles.”

The Rimsky-Korsakov on Saturday's program is “exciting stuff,” Ehling added. “Every movement starts out with trumpet fanfare ... [the composer] includes all the musicians of the orchestra.”

“The Tale of the Tsar Sultan” is inspired by a legend, he said, in which the Tsarina and her son go on a strange journey. Two women with a vendetta against them put them in a barrel, which is cast under the sea — so the orchestra brings that to life with a cello that sounds like waves rising and falling.

Then, through magic, the Tsarina's son is turned into a bee who stings one of the other women. Hence the “Flight of the Bumblebee,” the famous part of Rimsky-Korsakov's suite.

Kaufman, for her part, said the musicians give this their all.

“The quality of the orchestra has just jumped tremendously. The amount of talent among the musicians is just incredible,” she said.

“It's a community group,” that doesn't pay soloists to come from Seattle. “We're who we are,” Kaufman added, “and we have a great time.”

Last modified: February 21. 2013 5:02PM
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