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Labor Day Concert Ends Outdoor Playing Season For Symphony

Spokane Symphony Orchestra, Monday, Sept. 2, Comstock Park

Monday night was the starting gun for a new season for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. The 11th Labor Day Concert in Comstock Park signaled the end of the season of playing outdoors in tents and the time to get in shape.

Maintaining that concert-ready edge through Sandpoint and the summer season was challenging enough with the canoe and bicycle beckoning, but everyone in the orchestra seemed to manage. The last weeks of August, though, proved too much for most of us. I will admit to not having practiced much in the car on my driving vacation, and I heard several others singing laments over summer chops and comparing which instruments would be easiest to play after some time off.

Reality set in with the thousands gathered at Comstock Park. The brass always gets a good workout on pops concerts, and with boisterous marches, screaming show tunes and the warhorse “1812 Overture,” Comstock brought sweat to the brow. As with anything, thinking about it and doing it are two different things, but I will share with you my off-season cross-training secret for keeping my lips in shape: I do a lot of reading.

Yes, a brand new season. Jung-Ho Pak, the Spokane Symphony’s new assistant conductor, made his local conducting debut with Glinka’s sparkling “Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla.” During rehearsal, Pak mentioned that the last time he was in front of us - his audition - “it was short and there was a lot of pressure. This time I want to have some fun making music.”

From the business side of the podium, Pak appears intense, eager and capable. Even laid-back orchestras like Spokane’s eat conductors alive if they can’t handle the baton, but Pak seems to be safe from the piranhas for now.

David Broom, president of the symphony board, won the privilege/ curse of conducting the symphony at the annual the Wampum auction. The players present their best behavior for guests, so there was no feeding frenzy. Broom chose Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March,” familiar to skillions of graduates, to commemorate the symphony’s achievement of 50 seasons and commencement of its 51st.

Music Director Fabio Mechetti took charge of the remainder of the performance. A tip of the hat to the presidential race included Victor Herbert’s “President’s March” and Sousa’s “Presidential Polonaise.” The “Polonaise” is one of those politically correct dances where you step to the left, then to the right.

There was more patriotic fare presented in “Americana,” a lush medley of folk tunes by Arthur Harris, which included “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Shenandoah,” “Deep River,” “Yankee Doodle” and others. And what park concert would be complete without “The Stars and Stripes Forever” belted out to the raising of a garrison-size flag?

Music from the recent movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was not only Mechetti’s tribute to pop culture but a symbol for the central role of the arts and music in the education and inspiration of future generations.

In spite of the gray cloudy evening, all of the wonderful elements of a park concert brought the community together: the tantalizing smells of food, lawn chairs, people chatting, children squealing and dancing, and the music acting as a catalyst for it all.

xxxx

The Spokane Symphony will repeat this free performance at Terrace View Park in the Spokane Valley on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 4 p.m.



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