Seattle Symphony Concertmaster Noah Geller will perform with Vashon Chamber Music (Courtesy Photo).

Seattle Symphony Concertmaster Noah Geller will perform with Vashon Chamber Music (Courtesy Photo).

A classical series continues with two concerts

Two beloved local groups will have notable guest soloists.

Vashon Center for the Arts will continue its ambitious season of classical music concerts with two concerts on March 2 and 4 by beloved island groups Vashon Chamber Music and Vashon-Maury Chamber Orchestra.

Vashon-Maury Chamber Orchestra will perform first, with a concert slated for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at VCA’s Katherine L White Hall. Vashon Chamber Music will take the stage of the same hall at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4.

The two ensembles sometimes find their names confused even though they pursue distinctly different musical programming. Vashon Chamber Music, led by artistic directors Rowena Hammill and Doug Davis, performs chamber music played by small groups of professional musicians. This year marks VCM’s 10th anniversary. Vashon-Maury Chamber Orchestra plays an orchestral repertoire and is comprised of 18 to 20 island musicians, a mixture of amateurs, music teachers and professionals. Co-directed by concertmaster Karin Choo and conductor Justin Cole, VMCO has performed for more than 25 years.

Vashon-Maury Chamber Orchestra

On 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2, VMCO will open its concert with Handel’s “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba,” featuring oboe soloists Noelle Burns of Symphony Tacoma and Wendy Cushner, followed by “Serenade for Strings,” a piece by Swedish composer Dag Wiren.

Concertmaster Karin Choo said she discovered the Wiren composition while browsing through music.

“I find things that catch my fancy,” she said, “and this one popped out as charming and refreshing.”

Choo described the piece as beginning with a gently driving first movement and then moving to a pastoral slow second movement with an overarching somber melody over pizzicato. A quick, lighthearted scherzo with a more ponderous and foreboding trio section is followed by a romp of a march finale, she said.

Conductor Justin Cole described the last movement of the piece as “John Philip Sousa meets Scandinavia.”

Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” will complete the program, featuring two Symphony Tacoma soloists: concertmaster Svend Rønning and principal viola Thane Lewis. According to Choo, Wiren’s credo, “I believe in God, Mozart, and Carl Nielsen,” makes his light and entertaining “Serenade for Strings” a good pairing for Mozart’s spectacular “Sinfonia Concertante.”

“Sinfonia Concertante” is scored for solo violin and viola, two oboes, two horns and strings. The group will be joined again by oboists Burns and Cushner, as well as French horn players and islanders Richard Reed, who performs in the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, and Sandon Lohr, Symphony Tacoma assistant principal horn.

Vashon Chamber Music

In celebration of its 10th anniversary season, Vashon Chamber Music (VCM) will present a three-concert series beginning with “Cello Virtuosity III,” a program of masterworks for cello/piano duo and piano trio, slated for 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4.

Seattle Symphony principal cellist, Efe Baltacigil, and his regular pianist collaborator, Jessica Choe, will return to the island to play the concert. The pair has delighted Vashon audiences with past performances and this year will play the Romantic masterpiece “The Cesar Franck Sonata in A major.” Noah Geller, Seattle Symphony’s new concertmaster, will join Baltacigil and Choe in the second half of the program for Brahm’s “Trio in C major for violin, cello, and piano.”

Looking back on a decade of work by VCM, Co-Artistic Director Hammill said that when she and Doug Davis, her husband and co-artistic director, started organizing and playing chamber music concerts at the Blue Heron, she would not have imagined that 10 years later she’d be reflecting on “times gone by.”

“I remember back in 2009, when Vashon Allied Arts agreed to take a chance on us … I said we’d at least get our new island friends to come — we’d just moved to Vashon in 2008. It ended up being sold out, a really successful concert at the Blue Heron,” Hammill said.

Since that time, VCM has played at Vashon Methodist Church many times, performed a Beethoven quartet series and a Holocaust Remembrance concert at the Havurah Building, a couple of summer festivals, a summer cello camp at the AYH Ranch campground as well as the regular series at VCA. The ensemble twice did an all-day marathon of Beethoven quartets at various island churches, and have had guest performers come from Seattle, Victoria B.C., Los Angeles and Portland.

“We must have performed over 200 pieces of chamber music over the years, with very few repeats,” Hammill said.

The classical concert series launched last month, with one performance by internationally renowned Russian pianist Vyacheslav “Slava” Gryanznov and another by Vashon composer/bassist Jason Everett and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra. Upcoming events in the series will include “Stars of the Oregon Symphony” on March 25 and a music history lecture by Michael Tracy on Claude Debussy on March 31.

Tickets to the VMCO and VCM concerts are $10 to $18 each. Tickets for these concerts and more information on the series can be found at vashoncenterforthearts.org.

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