Spokane’s Connoisseur Concerts has created a tradition with music by two composers: in the winter with J.S. Bach, and in the summer with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In January, Connoisseur Concerts celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Northwest Bach Festival. Next week, the annual Mozart on a Summer’s Eve makes its 19th appearance.
“Vive la France!” will be staged on the east lawn of Manito Park’s formal Duncan Gardens on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
“We actually had decided on a French theme for this year’s concerts even before we set our opening night, which happens to fall on Bastille Day,” says conductor Verne Windham.
“We like to have a theme that will allow us to play some music outside the Mozart-Salzburg-Vienna orbit. So this year’s theme is French.”
Windham, who also conducts the Spokane Youth Orchestra and is well known as classical music director at KPBX-FM public radio, has been leading the summer Mozart concerts in 1993.
He will conduct the nine musicians of the Connoisseur Concerts Wind Ensemble, soprano soloist Susan Windham and flute soloist Frieda Chan in music by Gluck, Triebensee, Bizet, Cantaloube, Gounod, Rorem – and, of course, Mozart.
“Mozart was in Paris on one of his concert tours,” Verne Windham says, “but most of the music he wrote there is not really suited to an outdoor concert with wind instruments – and that’s our tradition.”
Susan Windham, his wife, will sing two songs by Mozart and an aria from the composer’s Solemn Vespers along with opera arias by Gluck and Bizet and songs by Cantaloube and Rorem.
The soprano grew up in Spokane and attended Eastern Washington University, where she serves on the voice faculty.
“A part of what I’ve tried to do over the years is provide a showcase for Spokane’s best singers, and now its Susan’s turn,” Verne Windham says.
“She’s an audience favorite – I can say that even aside from any nepotistic connection – and her voice sounds great in this repertoire and in this concert venue.”
The wind ensemble is made up of flutist Chan, oboists Keri McCarthy and Bethany Schoeff, clarinetists James Schoepflin and Daniel Cotter, hornists Roger Logan and Verne Windham, and bassoonists Luke Baaken and John Reid.
In addition to accompanying the solos, the ensemble will open the performances with the Divertimento in B-flat (K. Anh. 227) attributed to Mozart and close the program with Gounod’s Petite Symphonie pour neuf instruments á went (Little Symphony for Nine Woodwinds).
“Since we needed to have a flutist for the Gounod Petite Symphonie,” Windham says, “we wanted to show off one of Spokane’s real firecracker-type flutists, Frieda Chan, in Francois Borne’s Carmen ‘Fantasy.’ ”
Chan, a doctoral candidate at New York’s Juilliard School of Music, lives and teaches flute privately in Spokane.
Those attending the concerts can either buy seats at tables for eight, which includes coffee and a dessert from Luna restaurant, or bring their own blankets and chairs and sit on the lawn.
“Some patrons may wish to reserve a table for eight ($200) and arrange for friends and family to join them,” says Gertrude Harvey, Connoisseur Concert’s executive director.
“Early purchase of tickets is advised; limited table seating is available,” Harvey says.
Ticketholders are invited to arrive as early as 5:30 p.m. to picnic or have a potluck at their reserved table.
Rain venue for the concerts is St. John’s Cathedral, Grand Boulelvard at 12th Avenue. Food service would be in the Great Hall of Jewett House and the concert in the Cathedral.
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