Saratoga Orchestra sets pop-up performance dates

— Created June 16, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

As COVID restrictions begin to ease, all kinds of live entertainment opportunities are popping up – like Saratoga Orchestra of Whidbey Island’s Pop-Up Pops concerts. There are six free performances on three different dates, the first two set for June 26.

And, while not a musical term, “pie” does figure prominently into the group’s first Pie ‘n Pops performance.

“For our June 26 concert there is no theme per se, other than we just wanted to present something fun,” explained Saratoga Orchestra’s Executive Director, Larry Heidel. “The program will be a potpourri of familiar light classics, Disney favorites and more. The concept for ‘Pie ‘n Pops’  seemed natural, since Wild Crow Pie Co. is headquartered at the South Whidbey Community Center – and who wouldn’t want to enjoy a nice slice of pie while listening to live music?”

While pie may not be on the menu at the concerts set for July and August, there will be treats for the ears that should prove to be just as sweet, according to Heidel.

“For our July 24 concert we are looking forward to partnering with Whidbey’s loveable Shifty Sailors singing group to present a program of Sea Shanties, Celtic and pirate music,” he said. “The idea came about after watching TikTok rediscover shanties during the pandemic. It should be a lot of fun to perform together. Personally, I’m quite excited for our Aug. 14 concerts featuring members of Saratoga Orchestra’s brass and percussion sections performing large ensemble works.”

This series of summer concerts represents a couple of firsts for Saratoga Orchestra – it will be the first time members of Whidbey Island’s only professional orchestra will be performing live since the pandemic shutdowns and the first time orchestra members will perform outside.

“I believe the musicians are more than ready to get in front of an audience,” Heidel said. “This will be the first ever outdoor concerts for Saratoga Orchestra. We are encouraging audience members to bring folding lawn chairs and sun hats for shade. We’ll be crossing our fingers the weather cooperates.

“Outdoor concerts are always tricky,” he continued. “We do have a couple of contingency plans for alternate venues, but I’m optimistic our beautiful Whidbey summer weather won’t let us down. One thing we learned during the height of COVID-19 is to be flexible. I encourage people to double check on our website to make sure we are still performing.”

The concerts are free, but those interested in attending MUST get a free ticket online at It’s all part of public health requirements for social distancing and safety.

“We will be following the current recommendation of the CDC and Washington Dept. of Health,” said Heidel. “We’ll also be respectful of the venue’s own requirements. In general, for these smaller outdoor events, we ask folks to please mask if not vaccinated and we’ll have our pool noodle patrol out in force to encourage social distancing by seating pods.”

The pandemic obviously stopped live performance of any kind in its tracks last year. Heidel said the forced time off has led to some impressive plans for the summer, in addition to the pop-up concerts, which are all part of the “Splash 2021 Summer Music Festival.”

“When we planned for the summer, we planned big,” he said. “We have such an enormous wealth of talent here on the island and it’s great to be able to highlight our members. An example of that is the creation of PNW Percussion on the Rock, a four-day workshop exploring percussion ensemble music in the 20th century. We couldn’t have done this without two exceptional percussionists that live here on Whidbey, Brandon Nelson, Oak Harbor High School band director, and Erica Montgomery, who is the former principal timpanist in the D.C. Air Force Band. We look forward to growing this program into a highly regarded event that our PNW Conducting Institute has become.”

International travel restrictions mean the fifth season of the PNW Conducting Institute will take place on a smaller scale, once again with the help of local talent.

 “With the help of conductor Sebastian Serrano, music director of Oak Harbor Methodist Church, we hope to attract a number of orchestral conductors virtually auditing the workshop from South and Latin America,” Heidel explained. “This format proved to be successful when we previously held this as a virtual workshop last summer. The only person I’m not quite sure it worked well for was an Australian conductor that awoke at 3 participate.”

Heidel said those interested should also pay attention to the Festival of American Song in July, featuring cabaret legend Steve Ross. Ross is coming from New York City to perform and hold a public masterclass.

After months of staying apart Heidel said it is strange but exciting to be planning for live, in-person performances once again. He said the shutdown was brutal for musicians financially, but it forced them all to seek creative alternatives.

“[The most difficult part of the shutdown in the beginning was] the total loss of income,” he said. “What it did do was have to reinvent how we perform and teach music. There is some great technology developed to be able to rehearse together online, teach students virtually and even put together individual tracks for release as a YouTube performance.”

As things begin to normalize, Saratoga Orchestra is already looking ahead to its next full season in front of Whidbey Island audiences starting this fall. There may even be more summer concerts in the future, too.

“We have a great season scheduled to start in October with subsequent performances in January, March and May of 2022,” said Heidel. “We are excited to present some of the material that was slated for our canceled 2020 performances. Depending on the response we get from this summer’s music festival, this could be a year-round venture for us.”

Find more information at and get tickets and details on this summer’s pop-up concerts and more at