The new fall season of the arts brings changes to the area's classical music organizations. As our reports in recent weeks detailed, arts groups across the region face serious financial challenges, whether due to a faltering economy or a changing audience. The area's largest classical music entity, the Spokane Symphony, finished last year in the black, but other groups find themselves in more precarious circumstances.
And then there's the turnover in artistic leadership. Spokane bids au revoir to several familiar faces while welcoming new personalities on the scene. Most visible, of course, is Fabio Mechetti's farewell season as music director of the Spokane Symphony. Maestro Mechetti conducts the season opener and then passes the baton to the five finalists for his position -- Lawrence Loh, Timothy Muffitt, Robert Franz, George Hanson and Eckart Preu -- until February, although he'll return to town for the Met concerts in November and January. We'll also get to know new Associate Conductor Morihiko Nakahara throughout the season.
Elsewhere, Zephyr is no more, alas, although Kendall Feeney will be back in front of audiences as a guest performer. Dr. Stan McDaniel has left his position as music director of the Westminster Chamber Orchestra for a new opportunity in North Carolina; he'll return for a benefit concert in November, but future performances by the orchestra have yet to be scheduled. And several other organizations are dealing with changes in behind-the-scenes personnel even as the public faces remain the same.
As a community, we do not face the imminent demise of any major purveyors of culture, but neither must we take what we have for granted. Despite all the changes, the season promises plenty of delightful performances by tremendously talented local musicians. It's up to all of us who value their contributions to the life and spirit of our community to get out there and support them.
Okay, the moralizing is over -- on to the events!
Spokane Symphony -- The 58th season of the Spokane Symphony begins at the Opera House on Sept. 19 with the first Classics concert, featuring violinist Kyoko Takezawa. Acclaimed for her artistry, Takezawa returns to the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev, a piece she recorded more than a decade ago with the Moscow Radio-TV Symphony Orchestra. Music Director Fabio Mechetti begins his final season leading the orchestra with Verdi's Overture to Sicilian Vespers and Richard Strauss' musical postcard, From Italy, to round out the evening.
On Oct. 3, guest pianist Lee Luvisi presents Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with music director finalist Robert Franz. Luvisi performed a 12-concert series of Beethoven's music for solo piano three years ago as he capped his distinguished teaching career at the University of Louisville; this concert marks a return engagement with the Spokane Symphony. The concert also features Aaron Copland's film score to Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, and the Symphony No. 1 in e minor by Sibelius.
Cello phenom Alisa Weilerstein visits our fair city on Oct. 24 to bring Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 2 to life. The 20-year-old Weilerstein, a graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has received accolades for her turns as soloist as well as her work in the Weilerstein Trio with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornick Weilerstein. The orchestra will also perform Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and a piece called Javelin by composer Michael Torke, which was commissioned for the 1996 Olympics.
The Spokane Symphony Chorale and soloists join the orchestra on Nov. 21 to present the Te Deum of Antonin Dvorak. Music director finalist George Hanson leads the orchestra through this evening of song and drama, beginning with the Prelude to Act III of Leonard Bernstein's opera, A Quiet Place. Scheherezade, Rimsky-Korsakov's musical telling of the Arabian fairy tale, The Thousand and One Nights, closes the evening and the Symphony's fall Classics schedule.
The 2003-04 Symphony at the Met series gets us in touch with our feelings, following themes of Happiness, Romance and Poetry. On Nov. 2 and 4, Fabio Mechetti and the orchestra explore the facets of happiness with guest pianists Linda Siverts and Kendall Feeney. Selections by Johann Strauss, Rossini, Saint-Saens and others express humor, wit and imagination.
In a pre-season Pops Special, the Symphony welcomes the return of the Classical Mystery Tour on Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Opera House. The faux Fab Four, all cast members of the Broadway tribute show, Beatlemania, perform favorite hits from the Beatles with the Spokane Symphony.
The Superpops series kicks off in earnest on Saturday, Oct. 11, with guest Daniel Rodriguez, "the Singing Policeman," joining the orchestra for a concert of American favorites and classic love songs. Rodriguez rocketed to prominence with his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at an emotional memorial service held in Yankee Stadium for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, but he's been singing since childhood. The son of Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, he quipped to a writer with Hispanic Online, "I wasn't a cop who started singing; I was a singer who became a cop." That performance led to connections with opera great Placido Domingo and jazz artist Tom Scott, which in turn led to a full-time career recording and performing.
On Saturday, Nov. 8, vocalists Christiane Noll and Ron Raines toast American dance icons Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire with selections from An American In Paris, Girl Crazy and Shall We Dance. Noll and Raines, who appeared with the Symphony in 2001 in a tribute to Richard Rogers, will share the stage with another couple who will bring the dances of Astaire and Rogers to life. Noll has performed on Broadway and with orchestras around the world; Raines is best known for his role as Alan Spaulding on the TV soap Guiding Light, but he, too, is a Broadway veteran.
The traditional Holiday Pops concerts close out the year on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13-14. The Singing Nuns of Mount St. Michael's once again share their delicate harmonies, and they'll be joined by the Spokane Symphony Chorale and the Spokane Area Children's Chorus for an extravaganza of holiday cheer.
Also new in 2004, the Symphony is offering a new outreach program to parents and kids, "Symphony Yes!" Prior to the Oct. 24 and Nov. 21 concerts, kids will be welcome to explore instruments and talk to musicians. Both concerts will be offered at reduced rates to parents and kids.
Other Ensembles -- The Cathedral and the Arts has scaled back events this year, but the organization will still offer the annual Holiday Concert at St. John's Cathedral, featuring the Spokane Area Children's Chorus and the Spokane Youth Orchestra. This traditional holiday gift to the community is planned for Sunday, Dec. 7, with performances at 4 and 7 pm. The concert is free to the public, so be sure to get there early for a choice seat.
Both featured groups have a full slate of concerts throughout the fall. The Spokane Area Children's Chorus presents Musickin' on Sunday, Oct. 12, a concert at Westminster Congregational Church featuring all choirs of the organization. The Intermediate and Ensemble Choirs join the Spokane Symphony for Holiday Pops on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13-14, and the group's own holiday concert, "It's the Most Wonderful Song of the Year," has two performances at Westminster Congregational church on Dec. 19-20.
The Spokane Youth Symphony concert season begins on Nov. 2 at Central Valley High School, with the Spokane Youth Orchestra and the Junior Symphonic Orchestra. The Junior Orchestra, the Intermediate String Orchestra and the Spokane Strings take the stage on Monday evening, Nov. 17, at the Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene. Minimal admission fees apply for both concerts.
Over in the Lake City, the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra kicks off its fall season at Schuler Auditorium on the North Idaho College campus on Saturday, Oct. 11. Featured artists Tuxedo Junction, with Ernie and Judy Carlson, join the orchestra for a rousing concert of American favorites by Gershwin, Sousa, Copland and others. Then the first weekend of December brings the annual Christmas Spectacular with the Northwest Sacred Music Chorale and featuring Horace Alexander Young. The program, including the Symphony No. 1 of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi's Gloria, will be performed Dec. 6-7.
The Spokane String Quartet celebrates its 25th year of making music in Eastern Washington, and all of last year's members are back for another season (see story). The season opener on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Met will spotlight classic works by Mozart and Beethoven, along with a string quartet from the Moldenhauer Archives by 20th-century Czech composer Jaromir Weinberger. And for chamber music fans in Coeur d'Alene, rumor has it that the quartet plans a concert in the Lake City soon after the first of the year, so stay tuned.
Early 19th-century Paris is the period and place du jour for the first Met concert of the season by Allegro: Baroque and Beyond. The area's period music specialists present an instrumental scoring of Rossini's opera Cinderella with guest William Davis, bassoon, and dancers from Theatre Ballet on Friday, Oct. 17. Davis is a composer and woodwind faculty member at the University of Georgia School of Music.
December brings Allegro's annual holiday Music in Historic Homes concert, which is set this year for the historic Jay P. Graves house, Waikiki, now used as the Bozarth Retreat Center by Gonzaga University. Guitarist Paul Grove joins Beverly Biggs, harpsichord, and David Dutton, oboe, for a selection of seasonal baroque music in the elegant 1911 mansion designed by noted architects Cutter and Malmgren. Eight sittings on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 10-11, will fill up quickly, as Allegro's holiday concerts always do.
Another historic building, the Power House at 1421 E. Celesta Ave., is the scene for a pair of concerts presented by Connoisseur Concerts, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 27-28. James Tevenan, organist at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, will play a program of light baroque and Romantic favorites on the organization's Holtkamp positif organ, on loan from Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
Dr. Stan McDaniel, who guided the Westminster Chamber Orchestra through its first three years, left Spokane this year for new opportunities in North Carolina, but he'll return for a swan song next month. The orchestra plays a fund-raising concert on Oct. 9 at the Westminster Congregational Church.
The Spokane Symphony's popular Chamber Soiree series returns to the elegant Marie Antoinette Ballroom in the Davenport Hotel with two performances of each program. The season begins on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 12-13. Listeners sit around cocktail tables with fine wines and a sampling of hors d'oeuvres as the Symphony's principal players present both classical and contemporary chamber pieces, introduced by the musicians themselves.
In Pullman, the 2003-04 Concert Artists Series at Beasley Coliseum presents rising young artists this fall, starting with the Claremont Trio on Friday, Oct. 17. Twin sisters Emily Bruskin, violin, and Julia Bruskin, cello, met up with Donna Kwong, piano, at the Taos School of Music in 1999, and the three have been performing the classic piano trio repertoire together ever since. After winning First Prize in the 2001 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the threesome made their New York debut at the 92nd Street Y, traveled to Slovenia and Croatia last summer, and performed at the Moab Music Festival in Utah.
On Wednesday, Dec. 10, organist Paul Jacobs visits Beasley. Still in his mid-20s, Jacobs gathers accolades wherever he performs. He has memorized the complete organ works of Brahms, Franck and Durufl & eacute;, along with many pieces by Bach. Known for his presentations of a composer's full catalog, he has performed the complete organ works of J.S. Bach multiple times -- first in 14 consecutive evenings and then in an 18-hour non-stop marathon. He was just appointed to the faculty of the esteemed Juilliard School in New York City, becoming one of the youngest members of that elite group.
Opera -- The big production of Opera Plus! is always the highlight of the local fall opera season, but fans of the vocal arts can catch a sneak preview -- and a free concert -- at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Plaza Shops on Friday, Oct. 3, at 5 pm at the kick-off event of Art from the Heart (Coeur d'Alene's new fall arts festival). Vocalists Tamara Schupman, Kresha Frankhouser, Thomas Stratton and William Rhodes will sing a selection of opera arias, duets and ensemble works accompanied by Lee Ann Clarke.
Two weeks later, Opera Plus! hits the Schuler Auditorium stage at North Idaho College with its first locally-produced opera, as part of a program called "Gianni & amp; Friends." The first half consists of Puccini's comic one-act opera Gianni Schicci, fully staged and sung in Italian with English supertitles. After intermission, the opera's cast returns to sing a concert of opera favorites, accompanied by the Coeur d'Alene Chamber Orchestra and the North Idaho Concert Choir. William Rhodes stars as Gianni, with Portland-area soprano Christina Kowalski and a company of local talent including Jadd Davis, Wendy Lee Tedmon, David Maier, Constantin Kvach, Max Mendez and Julie Powell. Fred Glienna gives a free pre-concert lecture one hour before curtain time at the two performances on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18-19.
On Nov. 15, Opera Plus! brings six singers from the Seattle Opera Young Artists program to Idaho for a performance at the First Presbyterian Church in Coeur d'Alene. Seattle Opera Education Director Perry Lorenzo, a frequent lecturer in the area, will be on hand to introduce the program of arias, duets, and ensembles.
Opera Buffs of Spokane continues its series of monthly lectures and performances on the third Monday of each month at the Rockwood Retirement Community Center on 25th Avenue (three blocks east of Southeast Boulevard). All events begin at 6:30 pm. Everyone is welcome, and donations are gratefully accepted.
Spokane Opera's major production of the season won't happen until next spring, but the organization plans another Men's Night Out at Far West Billiards on Wednesday, Oct. 8. Soprano Ann Fennessy sings jazz with the Brent Edstrom Trio while models show off the latest in men's fashions from Anderson & amp; Emami.
Later in the month -- on Halloween, to be precise -- the Spokane Opera teams with Northwest Ballet Theatre in a one-hour production of Hansel & amp; Gretel. This year's Halloween Spook-tacular haunts the Met stage on Friday, Oct. 31, at 10:30 am. Be there or get a scare.
The Diamonds & amp; Divas Gala, Spokane Opera's annual extravaganza of elegance, takes a virtual tour to the southern hemisphere with "An Evening in Buenos Aires," Saturday, Dec. 27, at the Davenport Hotel. Hors d'oeuvres and entertainment fill the Hall of the Doges; a wine auction is set for the Elizabethan Room; and a sumptuous dinner will be served in the Grand Pennington Ballroom. Late-night dancing with Moko Jumbie rounds out the evening.
Schools -- The Inland Northwest is blessed with a fine collection of music schools, and these artists' training grounds offer many wonderful classical music performances at prices geared to a student's budget. In addition, the schools play host to a myriad of guests offering lectures, master classes and recitals.
The students and faculty of Whitworth College's Music Department plan several events this fall, beginning with a trombone recital by music professor and Spokane Symphony member Richard Strauch on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the Music Building Recital Hall. The Whitworth Wind Symphony presents its fall concert on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 23, in Cowles Auditorium. And the annual Whitworth Christmas Festival Concerts at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane are set for Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12-13.
The Gonzaga University Music Department continues its concert series at the Met series this fall, featuring faculty and student performers. The first event, however, takes place at the Administration Building, Room 101, as the Music Faculty Recital gets the season underway on Sunday, Sept. 28. The Gonzaga Orchestra performs on Sunday, Oct. 12, and again on Monday, Dec. 8; the Gonzaga Wind Ensemble takes the stage on Tuesday, Nov. 18, and the Jazz Ensemble closes the semester on Thursday, Dec. 11. For choral music fans, the outstanding GU Choir and Gregorian Schola perform on Friday, Oct. 24, at the University Chapel in the Administration Building; the Gonzaga Chorale concert happens at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral on Tuesday, Nov. 11; and the festive Gonzaga Choir Christmas Concerts are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 5-6, inside the beautiful St. Aloysius Church on the GU campus. On Oct. 8, GU will host a panel discussion on the future of symphonies called "The Evolving Symphony" at the Jundt.
The University of Idaho hosts another season of the Auditorium Chamber Music Series starting on Tuesday, Sept. 23, with the vocal blending of Anonymous 4. The four women who make up Anonymous 4 have announced that this will be their final touring season, so it's the last chance to hear this group's ethereal medieval harmonies live on stage. The Salzburg Hyperion Ensemble, an octet of winds and strings, draws members from top orchestras across Europe; the ensemble performs works by Beethoven, Dohnanyi, Schoenberg and Webern at their Moscow appearance on Friday, Nov. 7.
The musical schedule at Eastern Washington University is still in the planning stages for the fall and winter quarters.
Holy Names Music Center, a fully certified member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, hosts several recitals and other performance events throughout the year, in addition to classes for children and adults. Local pianist Greg Presley is the featured faculty performer on Saturday, Oct. 18. Presley attended high school in Spokane and studied with Margaret Ott; later, he graduated from Yale University and the Julliard School and spent many years working with modern dance companies. On Sunday, Dec. 7, fiddle instructor Caridwen Irvine-Spatz, a Celtic fiddler who also performs with the group, Jadis, presents a recital at 2 pm. Faculty, staff, and students come together for the Center's Christmas Concert on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Admission is free to all concerts.
Special Events -- Local 16-year-old pianist Christina Jill Pendleton graces the performance space at Borders Books & amp; Music on Sept. 13 in support of her CD, Aurora Borealis. The advance buzz says her original piano solos fall "somewhere between George Winston's stylings and Yanni," and this is the way to find out. Admission is free.
Silvia Lazo, local singer and Whitworth College student, also has a new CD coming out this fall, and she's doing a CD release concert on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Met to benefit One Spokane and Hospice of Spokane. Born and raised in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Lazo's repertoire spans Brazilian classical, Bossa Nova and Samba standards. She'll be accompanied by Mark Norton, piano; Paul Grove, guitar; Bruce Pennell, bass; Mark Tietjen, drums; Paul Plowman, woodwinds; and Eduardo Mendonca, Brazilian percussion; students from Ballet Classique will perform traditional Brazilian dances.
There's plenty of classical music being made in the Inland Northwest this fall. Let's make sure things stay that way.