“I was very skeptical of working with nonprofessionals,” said Christophe Chagnard, music director of the all-volunteer Lake Union Civic Orchestra (LUCO), in a 2009 interview.
“But I was instantly struck by their intelligence and motivation. They are dedicated and passionate, with good musical skills. Together we explore the expressive potential of music.”
Chagnard, still in charge of LUCO, knows what he’s talking about when it comes to assessing the skill level of musicians, amateur or otherwise. The French-born conductor, a former instructor at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is also co-founder of professional chamber music orchestra Northwest Sinfonietta.
Volunteer ensembles — or community orchestras — are often a mix of professional, nonprofessional and student musicians who simply want to make music for the love of it, while rising to a standard set by a talented music director.
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Seattle has several of these orchestras, and a few of them are winding down their seasons in the coming days.
LUCO, founded in 1995, presents its annual Chamber Music Cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at Town Hall Seattle. The event features small combos of LUCO musicians who select compositions to share. The program promises to be eclectic and a bit of a surprise. (luco.org).
The renowned Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers (OSSCS) closes the inaugural season of new music director Clinton Smith with a typically thoughtful program at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, called “Reflection and Wonder,” exploring themes of memory and questions of existence. Music is by Ives, Bach, Barber, Elgar and Fauré, and the location is the First Free Methodist Church on Queen Anne. (osscs.org)
The distinguished, 52-year-old Cascade Symphony Orchestra — Michael Miropolsky, music director — brings its season to an end with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 12, at the lovely Edmonds Center for the Arts. Natalya Ageyeva, artistic director of the Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle, will be piano soloist on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Also on the bill is Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony and Wagner’s Overture to “Rienzi.” (cascadesymphony.org)
Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra, still directed by founder Alan Shen, closes out its 15th season with a spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at Town Hall Seattle. The program includes Rossini’s “Overture to the Thieving Magpie,” Debussy’s “La Mer,” Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. Multi-award-winning pianist Sara Davis Buechner is guest soloist. (psso.org)
Seattle Festival Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Wesley Schulz, is also welcoming spring at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at First Evangelical Presbyterian in Renton. The large orchestra will perform Keith Van Kirk’s “Heroic Overture,” Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major (Benjamin Salman, soloist), Verdi’s Overture to “Nabucco” and two pieces by Wagner. (seattlefestivalorchestra.org)
Looking ahead a bit, Rain City Symphony (founded as the Nathan Hale Night School Community Orchestra), conducted by Teresa Metzger Howe since 2003, presents a concert of Wagner, Rimsky-Korsakov and Sibelius at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at University Christian Church in Seattle. (raincitysymphony.org).
Tom Keogh: email@example.com