Saratoga Orchestra offers the gift of music for the holidays
— Created December 14, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Saratoga Orchestra of Whidbey Island is offering a little something special for everyone at its upcoming holiday concert, A Very Merry Whidbey Christmas. The orchestra will perform Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Coupeville High School Commons. Musical director Anna Edwards will conduct, there will be several special guests and this holiday extravaganza of music will feature a sing-along “Messiah,” too.
Well, make that two sing-alongs, for double the fun!
“The Sing-Along ‘Messiah’ is featured on the first half of the program and is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Larry Heidel, Saratoga Orchestra’s executive director. “2012 was the last time we performed it and we’ve had many requests to bring it back. Separate sections will be roped off for those wishing to sit alongside their voice type and general seating is available for enthusiastic listeners and families that want to sit together. Of course, everyone will want to sing the ‘Hallelujah chorus and there are not too many words to remember.”
Heidel noted people will be able to rent vocal scores and there are links on the orchestra website (sowhidbey.com) to help people rehearse.
“I recommend singers register on our website if they want to sit with their fellow choristers,” he said. “The other sing-along will be led by our friends, The Shifty Sailors, and will be more of the traditional holiday songs that everyone knows and loves.”
The Shifty Sailors are but one of the local performers to be featured during this concert.
“We are blessed with a number of outstanding vocalists on the island and this is a chance to showcase their talents,” Heidel said. “Of our three classical soloists for the Messiah, Eva Nelson and Karl Olsen have worked with us before on previous projects. This will be the first time we’ve worked with the soprano, Liz Hendricks, who has a wonderful voice and was soloist for a ‘Messiah’ with the Okinawa Symphony while being stationed in Japan. We are quite excited to be collaborating with the singer Christina Atteberry, currently one of the busiest musicians on the island. She performs at various venues all over Whidbey and western Washington and her soulful voice and infectious smile will immediately put you in the holiday spirit.”
Heidel said Atteberry will perform the classic “Santa Baby” with a small jazz combo featuring pianist Gary Wittlich and Jonathan Small on bass. It’s all part of creating a memorable musical experience that sets the tone for the holidays, something that is harder than one might think.
“Holiday concerts are probably the most difficult type of concerts to program because of the amount of material available,” Heidel said. “Trying to appeal to a broad audience is always a challenge. For many years we offered up our hugely successful ‘Peter and the Wolf’ family concerts and this year we decided to mix it up a bit.”
Not to worry – Heidel said Peter and his animal friends will be back in the future. In the meantime, concert goers can expect an afternoon filled with familiar holiday classics.
“I would guess all the pieces are recognizable, with the exception of perhaps the first work on the program, a piece for brass ensemble written by Italian composer, Giovanni Gabrieli in 1597,” he explained. “Written for two separate ‘choirs’ of brass instruments, it’s a glorious work that will set the stage for our afternoon of music sharing. While we may not have a large Gothic cathedral on the island, this piece will transport our listeners to another time and place.”
The members of Saratoga Orchestra are pleased to offer an unforgettable learning experience to students through its Talent Development Program (TDP) as well. Over the course of the orchestra’s 15 years, nearly 100 students have had the opportunity to sit side-by-side with Saratoga’s professional musicians in a mentorship setting, according to Heidel.
“This concert is no different, as we have high school students from all over Whidbey participating as well as a few TDP alumni that are now in college studying music as a career,” he shared. “We are incredibly proud to be able to offer this program as part of our educational outreach and give local students these opportunities they otherwise would not have.”
Tickets to A Very Merry Whidbey Christmas are $30 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and/or military and those 17 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at the door by credit card, cash or checks, or may be purchased by cash or check anytime at Click Music in Oak Harbor, bayleaf in Coupeville or at Moonraker Books and Blue Sound Music in Langley. Online ticket purchases are also available at www.sowhidbey.com. This program is sponsored by Janet Burchfield of Coupeville’s Front Street Realty.
“This concert will offer something for everyone, sort of a sampler platter,” said Heidel. “We have music from the 16th century through the present. It’s an affordable experience for families to come as admission is free for students 17 and under and the audience participation aspect is always fun.”
When asked what members of Saratoga Orchestra might enjoy most about playing for the community for the holidays, Heidel said it’s probably different for everyone, but for him, it comes down to holiday traditions.
“Whether it’s the anticipation of Santa, family gatherings, caroling in the neighborhood, school programs and nativity plays, these familiar holiday classics are the soundtrack to our memories this time of year,” he said.