Category Archives: music

‘The Orchestra Rocks’ on a roll — Kenai Peninsula concerts get national distinction

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Artistic Director Tammy Vollom-Matturro rehearses for the annual Link Up concert with fourth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai on Thursday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Artistic Director Tammy Vollom-Matturro rehearses for the annual Link Up concert with fourth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai on Thursday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Step aside, Carnegie Hall. The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Link Up program took center stage.

“It is a very education, fun concert. Every year we seem to do a little bit more and more. This year we’ve got 10 schools participating, which us the most ever,” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, artistic director for the orchestra and coordinator for the Link Up concerts in Homer on Friday and Kenai on Saturday.

The program is a collaboration with Kenai Peninsula Borough schools, with students in third, fourth and fifth grades performing live onstage with the orchestra.

Link Up is put together by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, which provides the music, teacher guides, student materials and a slideshow to be played during the concert. Partner orchestras and schools across the country and around the world participate, including a giant concert at Carnegie Hall itself, which usually kicks off the program.

Except for this year, where the honor went to the Kenai Peninsula.

“I got a phone call from a lady from Carnegie Hall and she said, ‘You guys are the world premiere of The Orchestra Rocks.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, we usually premier the concerts in Carnegie Hall first.’ But they love what the Kenai Peninsula does with the Link Up program and they’re letting us premiere it first,” Vollom-Matturro said.

The orchestra also recently received the Alaska Music Advocate of the Year Award from the Alaska Music Educators Association, in part for the Link Up program.

“We support music education. It’s in our mission statement, to do education, so we do a lot of stuff that includes kids,” Vollom-Matturro said.

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Eclectic, electric — Musician brings diverse style to Kenai concert

Photo courtesy of Radoslav Lorković. Radoslav Lorković will perform in Kenai on Saturday night.

Photo courtesy of Radoslav Lorković. Radoslav Lorković will perform in Kenai on Saturday night.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If there’s anything a Croatian-born, classically trained pianist-turned-U.S. folk, rock, country, blues, jazz singer/songwriter and Zydeco accordion aficionado demonstrates, it’s that categories don’t mean a hill of New Orleans red beans. Good music is good music, no matter what classification it may or may not fit into.

“I cover quite a bit of ground. A lot of it is rooted in kind of New Orleans-piano styles. Some of my big heroes are Professor Longhair and a great pianist named James Booker, but I’m also a singer/songwriter and there my influences range from, of course, Bob Dylan, Jackson Brown, people like that. So I will be doing a few original ballads, some up-tempo New Orleans piano style with a Second Line sort of approach to it, and some straight-up boogie woogie and blues, as well,” said Radoslav Lorković, who will perform at the Flats Bistro on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Saturday night. “And then, just when you think you’re safe, an accordion will come out and I’ll be playing some Zydeco.”

Lorković was born in Croatia into a deeply musical, though stylistically divided environment. His maternal grandmother sang him Croatian, Slovenian and Czech folk songs since birth. As family lore goes, he could sing back in pitch by age 1, and by age 3 was performing floor shows for the family. The soundtrack at home was classical music, since his paternal grandmother was an internationally renown classical pianist. Lorković started studying piano, as well. The family moved to the United States when he was 6. By the time he was 14, living in Iowa, he was progressing toward a likely career as a classical musician.

Until, that is, he was led astray by the siren songs of a green transistor radio playing Top 40 music, and a lesson in how to play to blues music.

“I was just plodding along, playing my Bach and Mozart, being a good boy,” he said. “And then it was my sophomore year in high school, 1973. This gentleman showed me a blues scale and a base configuration to go with it. First he played it for me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, where do I buy the music for this?’ He said, ‘You don’t.’ And he showed me the scale and that blew my world wide open. You couldn’t keep me off the piano. I was just glued to the piano ever since — and still am, happily.”

From there Lorković became omnivorous of Americana music, tasting wide samplings of styles, starting with rock ‘n’ roll and tracing back from the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie. He emulated the styles of boogie-woogie greats Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Freddie Slack, and the blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins. His palate came to include the spice of New Orleans, with Professor Longhair and James Booker, and branched into Tex-Mex and Zydeco-style accordion, as well.

His sets still include representations of his favorites, but along the way he developed a style and music all his own, as well. But it’s not just a blues song, followed by a jazz piece, then a folk ballad. It’s a little bit of all of them, all the time.

“They all show up. The jazz shows up in my blues. The blues shows up in my jazz, which is critical to jazz,” Lorković said.

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Sound tradition — Summer Music Festival continues on high note

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Madison String Quartet performs a Noontime Concert on July 30 at the Soldotna Public Library as part of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival. The series of lunchtime concerts continues through Friday, with the gala concert Saturday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Madison String Quartet performs a Noontime Concert on July 30 at the Soldotna Public Library as part of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival. The series of lunchtime concerts continues through Friday, with the gala concert Saturday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For classical musicophiles, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival has lots of musical minutia in which to indulge. And for those who might not know somma from staccato but just want a good show, the festival offers a whole other set of terminology in which to tune:

“Oh my goodness,” for example. Or, “Wow.”

“Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 — oh my goodness. That was a couple years ago,” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, artistic director and conductor of the orchestra. “Last year was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 — oh my goodness. Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 — wow. We’ve done some major pieces of music, and this year we’re performing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Modest Mussorgsky’s innovative, folk-inspired piano composition is rich with emotion and power, intensified by Maurice Ravel’s orchestration which elevates the piece to the symphony level. Russian composer Mussorgsky wrote it in 1874 in tribute to his friend, Viktor Hartmann, as though Mussorgsky and his listeners were walking through an exhibit of Hartmann’s art and architecture, which itself was heavily inspired by Russian folklore.

“Pictures” is the cornerstone of the orchestra’s gala concert Saturday at Kenai Central High School, which itself is the cornerstone of the orchestra’s two-week music festival. Every year the 30-year-old-and-counting orchestra stretches itself a little bit more, always striving to set a little higher note.

“Gosh, the programs have just gotten more and more difficult and challenging, our players are getting better and we have players coming from the Lower 48 as well as all over the state that come and play with us,” said pianist Maria Allison. “The concerts have just built, the program has built, it’s really grown.”

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Salmonfest still a feast of sound — Music festival changes name, not its approach to diverse music, entertainment

Photos courtesy of Salmonfest. Salmonfest bills itself as three days of love, music and fish —in this case a carved wooden salmon equipped with a torch to add some light to the night revelries.

Photos courtesy of Salmonfest. Salmonfest bills itself as three days of love, music and fish —in this case a carved wooden salmon equipped with a torch to add some light to the night revelries.

The three days of fish, love and music at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds each summer has a new name but all the old favorites the throngs of concertgoes have come to know and love.

When the Renewable Resources Foundation handed the festival off to the Homer-based Kachemak Bay Conservation Society this year, RRF kept its rights to the original Salmonstock name, so this year’s fifth annual festival became Salmonfest.

Jim Stearns, producer/manager, and much of the managing staff continued on with the festival this year. Really, not much has changed with Salmonfest other than the name and the weather — which was a spectacularly sunny improvement over the rain in past years.

Salmonfest maintained its successful recipe of blending a small-town country atmosphere with a highly charged music festival.

Last year’s festival drew more than 6,000 attendees. This year’s Salmonfest drew large crowds Saturday and Sunday following a slower- than-usual Friday, due to the traffic delay from an accident on the Seward Highway south of Girdwood. Many of those stuck in the delay Friday afternoon were treated to an impromptu concert from one of Salmonfest’s top-billing bands, The California Honeydrops from the Bay area, walking and playing their instruments along Turnagain Arm.

Salmonfest still prides itself on being a family friendly festival and the Small Fry was a big hit again, complete with animal petting, face painting and a giant outdoor slide.

salmonfest 2015The festival continued its educational component, with booths staffed by Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, The Wild Salmon Center, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cook Inletkeeper, Kenai Watershed Forum Stream Watch, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Salmon Beyond Borders, Save the Chuitna and the Save the Susitna organizations.

The tastes of Salmonfest gets better and better each year. From food vendors hawking grilled cheese and nan bread stuffed with delectable goodies to Alaska-fresh seafood, the hungry could find it all — Thai, Mexican, Cajun and other cultural cuisines to the simple fair offerings of burgers, dogs, fries, pizza, cotton candy and pulled pork.

As in years past, Salmonfest featured the work of artist Ray Troll adorning the stages, buildings and in merchandise booth.

One of the more popular activities of the weekend was the aerial group photo in the rodeo grounds Saturday with more than 400 participants. Homer artist Mavis Muller is the director/facilitator of this human mosaic. Muller also brought along Fireball, a huge woven alder branch sculpture, where it was on display near the Ocean Stage.

The music, though, continues to be the biggest draw. Stearns uses his years of expertise managing tours for the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia to blend in a mix of established bands, headliners and up-and-coming acts from across Alaska and the country.

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Sounds like summer — Live music fans park themselves in Soldotna on Wednesday nights

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A crowd gathers in and out of the local beer garden to listen to live music for the June 10 Live after Five event at Soldotna Creek Park.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A crowd gathers in and out of the local beer garden to listen to live music for the June 10 Live after Five event at Soldotna Creek Park.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Piña coladas weren’t among the many food, drink, arts and crafts options for sale, but there was the song, and people getting caught in the rain, who liked being out anyway.

“It was terribly rainy all day, but then it did clear up and got really nice. We did see a few people out here,” said Tami Murray, director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Attendance was, admittedly, a little low for the kickoff of the Wednesday Market and Live after Five music series at Soldotna Creek Park on June 3, but Murray attributed that to the weather and it being early in the season, rather than any lack of potential for the event to be hugely popular.

“It was a good night, and I know through the summer it’s just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said.

After all, what’s not to like? A variety of artisans and food vendors selling their wares from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., live music throughout the day and featured musicians from 6 to 9 p.m., a beer garden including offerings from local breweries, plus all the usual draws of the park.

“There’s something for everybody to do here, we’ve got the kids’ park right there and then the river, of course, is just beautiful. So once the fishermen get here I know it’s going to be a great venue and a great place for people to hang out. It’s free for everyone to come,” Murray said. “Just giving these vendors a little boost is kind of what it’s all about. And then, of course, the town, too — trying to get some more people to come to Soldotna, and the music might be that draw.”

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River full of fun — Kenai River Festival celebrates 25 years

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai River Festival returns to Soldotna Creek Park this weekend, for its 25th anniversary.

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai River Festival returns to Soldotna Creek Park this weekend, for its 25th anniversary.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The salmon will be here Friday. No doubt about it. Guaranteed.

Not necessarily salmon in the river — that timing is a little harder to predict. But salmon that represent the salmon in the river, in cutout wood form, waiting to be decorated with vibrancy that beats even the real silvers, pinks and reds.

The wooden fish are a staple of the Kenai River Festival, which kicks off its 25th year Friday in Soldotna Creek Park.

“The wood fish, which have been a tradition for a long time for folks. And I know many, many fathers receive a painted wooden fish from the River Fest for Father’s Day,” said Lisa Beranek, a festival organizer with the Kenai Watershed Forum.

The fish painting is just one of many elements that have become staples of the festival.

“We’ll have some of our old favorites, so we’ll continue to have the Kids Zone, Run for the River, free concerts all weekend, local beer garden, food booths, the whole nine yards. But we’re going to beef up some of the old favorites just a little bit,” Beranek said.

The Kids Zone, offering free educational games and activities, will add fish dissection on Sunday, and the Passport to Education program — a sort of scavenger hunt to track activities through the Kids Zone — will award an iPad Mini.

The city of Soldotna has built what will likely be a new tradition at the festival in building an apparatus for people to play human foosball. Stand in the oval, hold your place on a crossbar and attempt to either advance or defend against the ball.

“It’s an opportunity for adults and children to join a team and get out and play, so that will be fun,” she said.

The annual Run for the River 5-kilometer and 10-mile race through Swiftwater Park and out Keystone Drive will be Saturday, leaving from and returning to Stanley Chrysler. And there will be some marathon shopping opportunities with the variety of Alaska artisan booths on hand.

When all that activity works up an appetite, there will be plenty of food vendors to visit, including the barbecued salmon dinners served as a fundraiser for the festival, cooked with fish donated by Snug Harbor Seafoods and recipes that date back to the first Kenai River Festival.

A more recent trend continuing at this year’s festival is a green approach to trash. There will be recycling receptacles throughout the park, and food vendors have been asked to provide containers and utensils that are recyclable or compostable.

“We’re working in partnership with Matti’s Farm to compost our food waste and our disposable items locally and divert that waste from our landfill and also create some nutrient-dense soil, as well,” Beranek said.

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In a chord — New community choir ends season on a high note

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Central High School choir teacher Simon Nissen directs the Kenai Peninsula Singers Community Choir in a rehearsal before their concert last week. Participation has been a smashing success throughout the year.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Central High School choir teacher Simon Nissen directs the Kenai Peninsula Singers Community Choir in a rehearsal before their concert last week. Participation has been a smashing success throughout the year.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Understatement alert — Simon Nissen is excited, as evidenced by a few comments from a recent choir rehearsal:

“It has such a pure ring to it. Aaah! So exciting! … That is everything that we need! … Oh, man! I really, really, really liked that! … Oh my gosh, that is awesome! I’m so excited! I hope you guys are inviting people to this concert, because it is something I am so excited about … .”

Nissen is the new choir teacher at Kenai Central High School. He also plays viola, a fact that spread throughout the local music community before he even moved up from Arizona last summer. He was recruited for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and was playing in its summer music festival five days after he got to town. Finding a venue to make music and new friends in his new community was, well, exciting.

“I just get really excited about music and just about being around people. So, yeah, I get kind of bouncy and jump around a lot.” Nissen said. “… People have, I think, responded well, and enjoy the music. I found that even if maybe it wasn’t their cup of tea at the beginning, if I’m very excited about it and can convey that through the way that I teach, I can usually get them to at least appreciate it, or find some excitement in the song.”

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