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A little night music 

by Kris Dinnison

Imagine yourself lying in a meadow on a warm summer's night, surrounded by beautiful music. This fantasy comes to life this week when Connoisseur Concerts plays host to Mozart on a Summer's Eve in the Duncan Gardens' meadow.

Spokane loves to bring its music outdoors in the summer, and with so many beautiful park settings to choose from, it's no wonder. Mozart on a Summer's Eve is in its 10th year, and still growing.

"We originally did it at the fountain in Duncan Gardens," explains Verne Windham, artistic director for the concerts. "Now we're in the meadow just east of Duncan Gardens."

The additional space, as well as the addition of a second night, have made the concert accessible to even more people. "We're watching the event grow," Windham says. "We've been deciding whether to add a third night, but it's such a sweet event; we don't want to mess with it."

Concertgoers have a choice of bringing their own blankets and edibles, or reserving a spot at a table with coffee and dessert.

But the real treat will be for the ears. For this anniversary year, Windham and his cohorts are going all out. "This has kind of been my baby," explains Windham. "I have a group of friends who love to play together, and we put together this concert."

World-renowned baritone Frank Hernandez and his wife, soprano Jan Grissom, bring their well-known talents to the mix. Hernandez, a former Whitworth student, is a favorite among Spokane audiences and never fails to please. This award-winning vocalist was schooled at Oberlin, and has performed with opera companies all over the world. Grissom has also performed for many companies, and made a name for herself in roles in La Boheme, Baby Doe and Romeo and Juliet, among others. For Hernandez and Grissom, the concert is a chance to perform, and to see family and friends in the area.

Hernandez and Grissom join an expanded ensemble for this year's concert. "This is our 10th year, and we wanted to bring Frank back," Windham explains. "We are really pulling out all the stops by bringing Frank and using a larger ensemble. We usually use eight people, and this year we're using 13."

Hernandez and Grissom will be performing a variety of arias from Mozart's operas. "It'll be all Mozart," says Windham. "Frank will do two arias from Don Giovanni. Jan will do, from Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night vengeance aria." The husband and wife team joins forces as well. "They do a lovely duet from Magic Flute and one from Don Giovanni," Windham says.

The singers' performance will be an interlude dividing sections of Mozart's Serenade for 13 Winds, which has seven movements. "The usual name given it is Grand Partitia," Windham explains. "We're doing it in two different sections."

Windham and his group have been wanting to do this piece for a long time, but limitations have kept the group small. However, this year, the Grand Partitia became a possibility. "We wanted to play this piece, and this year we got a little extra funding," explains Windham. "The original ensemble is pairs of oboes, clarinets, French horns and bassoons." The larger ensemble expands those parts, and adds a bass. "You can never have enough bass line," says Windham. "And by having a separate bass line, it allows the bassoons to be more melodic. It makes it sound so much more exciting."

Mozart on a Summer's Eve takes place at Manito Park's Duncan Gardens on Tuesday, July 17, and Wednesday, July 18, at 7 pm. Tickets: $10; $24 for table seating, including coffee and dessert. Call: 325-SEAT.

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