Saratoga Orchestra celebrates musical storytelling

— Created March 9, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

From the Beatles to Tchaikovsky, Saratoga Orchestra of Whidbey Island will celebrate the musical stories of some of the world’s best composers in its upcoming concert “A Novel idea, Listening to Music through Storytelling,” with special guest Marta Zekan. Performances will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 19 at First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor and again at 3 p.m. Sunday at Island Church in Langley.

Music director and conductor Anna Edwards told Whidbey Weekly she wanted to explore the stories behind the music to help audiences better understand the story within the music.

“An important concept for the Saratoga Orchestra is that we want to engage with our audiences. We want to bring a fabulous experience to our listeners in a way that is excellent, entertaining, and fun,” she said. “For me, what I find fascinating about music are the many interesting stories behind music. Discovering background and finding influences of composers make the piece more interesting for me to listen to and to learn. I love to find ‘character’ in music.”

To help with that endeavor, Edwards enlisted the aid of Zekan, a former host at KING-FM radio.  

“Marta [Zekan] is brilliant in finding interesting and fun stories to offer listeners, which brings a whole other way to experience music,” Edwards explained. “One of the things I love about Marta is that she doesn’t want to give you a specific story or a specific way for ‘you,’ the audience member, to listen, rather she offers information so the listener can find their own personal path through the music.”

Zekan said there are many different ways to listen to music, and she hopes the extra information she’ll be contributing to the concert will enhance the experience for audience members.

“Think of me as a sort of color commentator – giving the audience different ways into each piece,” she explained. “It might be something historical, or something we can relate to just as a fellow human being. The goal is to make listening even better.

 “Some folks have strong emotional responses to music, others enjoy following the more technical aspects of it. Either way, I hope the little stories I’m sharing about the music and its composers will enhance everyone’s enjoyment,” Zekan continued. “I love that we’re doing it this way – embedded within the concert – rather than doing a more traditional pre-concert talk. This way, the audience gets some context just as they are about to hear each piece.”

Edwards said she has enjoyed putting this concert together differently.

“It has been great to collaborate with Marta to bounce ideas around concerning where to pair compositions,” she said. “For this concert, we are playing all of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Four Novellettens’ though we are choosing to pair each of his movements with other compositions. It has been fun to think about how to create a story journey through music.”

As always, Saratoga Orchestra is pleased to highlight the work of women composers. Not only is that appropriate, since March is Women’s History Month, but also considering the state of the world.

“I am very excited to perform Vivian Fine’s ‘Piece for Muted Strings (Elegiac Song),'” Edwards said. “It has been a treat to talk with Vivian’s daughter, Peggy Karp, about Vivian’s life and her work. Vivian wrote this particular piece, which is subtitled “for the children of Spain,” in response to the Spanish Civil War. It was written in 1937 as fascist forces led by Gen. Francisco Franco were prevailing in the Spanish Civil War.  It is a gorgeous piece that defines reflection, sadness, strength, and hope. I feel that this piece is apropos for what is going on in Ukraine right now.”

Changing public health requirements for COVID have affected Saratoga Orchestra performances as well, according to the organization’s executive director, Larry Heidel.

“As of the beginning of March, we will no longer ask for proof of vaccinations,” he said. “Masking is certainly encouraged but not mandatory. Luckily, the two venues where our concerts are held have plenty of space to spread out.”

One thing that has not changed over the course of the pandemic is the cost to attend a performance by this professional orchestra.

“While many organizations are raising their ticket prices, we are committed to maintaining our pre-pandemic prices during this time,” Heidel said. “We feel strongly about keeping our concert experience affordable and accessible. We also are family friendly, in that students 17 and under may attend free of charge when accompanied by an adult. This is a great opportunity for students to be introduced to a professional music ensemble and it just might spark further exploration.” 

Cost to attend is $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and military and those 17 and under are free with an adult. Advance tickets can be purchased at Blue Sound Music in Langley, bayleaf in Coupeville and Click Music in Oak Harbor. Tickets are also available at the door. More information is available online at

“Music allows us to experience a broad range of feelings through sound,” Edwards said. “Live music brings us together to experience these feelings together. After many people in our community have felt isolated because of the pandemic, my hope is that through music, we will bring shared peace, beauty, excitement, and hope. We want to bring meaningful and terrific music to our community.”

Check out The Nightingale Project

Saratoga Orchestra of Whidbey Island is pleased to sponsor an upcoming event at the Nordic Lodge in Coupeville. “The Nightingale Project” will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 26 and includes a multi-media presentation on the life of Swedish singer, Jenny Lind.

“Our organization is excited to be sponsoring The Nightingale Project, featuring soprano Laura Loge singing songs that the Swedish operatic superstar, Jenny Lind, performed some 170 years ago,” said Saratoga Orchestra Executive Director Larry Heidel. “Laura will be accompanied by pianist Steven Luksan and the whole program will be brought to life by local resident and one of this country’s foremost experts on Jenny Lind, Kevin Hugh Lynch. Kevin stewards one of the most impressive collections of antique sheet music and will present a multimedia slideshow as part of the program.  We look forward to bringing this amazing program to the Nordic Hall in Coupeville.”

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased in advance at bayleaf in Coupeville, Click Music in Oak Harbor or at Blue Sound Music in Langley. Cash, checks or credit cards will be accepted at the door. Visit for further details.