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Beautiful music

Sat., Sept. 27, 2008

Allegro series kicks off inside the visual gem that is St. Joseph’s Church

The first concert in Allegro’s Historic Homes Series won’t be in a historic home, but in a historic church.

The opener of Allegro, Baroque and Beyond’s 40th year will take place in St. Joseph’s Church, a gem of a building in Spokane’s West Central district for more than 100 years.

Why is the series making a foray into a church? For one thing, it would be hard to find a more beautiful setting for a baroque-style concert in the Inland Northwest.

“We’ve had our eye on that little church for years,” said David Dutton, co-founder of Allegro, Baroque and Beyond. “It’s just a beautiful little Catholic church and the acoustics inside are wonderful.”

This brick veneer church, designed by the well-known local architectural firm of Preusse and Zittel, was built in 1901 and contains a number of fine stained glass windows from Turin, Italy. It also contains a wonderfully crafted, handmade oak altar.

“The altar was built with wooden pegs, and no nails,” said Dutton.

The parish itself was founded in 1890, in a previous wooden church, making it one of the earliest Catholic parishes in Spokane. The 1901 building was described by The Spokesman-Review as “one of the prettiest small churches in the Northwest” when it was first dedicated on Oct. 27, 1901.

So the visual appeal should match the musical appeal during these concerts, scheduled for four performances each day on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because this year marks the 40th year of Allegro, Baroque and Beyond, Dutton and co-founder Beverly Biggs plan to “take a look back at things we have done,” said Dutton.

They have planned a program based largely on material from their first two CDs. The program will include a Mozart divertimento, a march from “Ben Hur” by E.T. Paull, a suite by Rameau and a set of Couperin pieces. Dutton will play oboe and Biggs will play harpsichord.

Joining them on several pieces will be Katie Frankhauser, an oboist who is returning to Spokane for a visit.

This concert will also serve as a celebration of Allegro’s remarkable longevity and resilience. The seeds of Allegro began even more than 40 years ago, when Dutton was with the Dallas Symphony and joined with other musicians in doing Baroque Era concerts around Dallas.

He and Biggs then moved to the Inland Northwest in 1969 for a Spokane Symphony job, and together they started a Baroque ensemble. That soon evolved into Allegro, Baroque and Beyond, which became a Spokane musical institution.

Today, you might say that the institution has an Eastern and Western branch. Biggs now lives in Durham, N.C., where she runs a similar concert series called Baroque and Beyond. She returns to Spokane for Allegro, Baroque and Beyond events, such as this one.

“I’m happy that we’re still doing this,” said Dutton. “When you actually get to the concerts, it’s fun. The stuff before that is kind of grunge work, but when you get there and people tell you it’s great, it’s all worthwhile.”

Sister Irene Knopes will lead a tour of the historic church following each performance.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at

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