Kenai Peninsula Orchestra presents summer concert

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra presents their summer performance, “Scandinavian Summer,” at two venues on the Kenai Peninsula this weekend. The Homer concert is scheduled for Friday at the Christian Community Church at 7 p.m. and the Soldotna event will be performed Saturday at the Christ Lutheran Church, also at 7 p.m.

The performances include four pieces: Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg, Three Swedish Songs arranged by Lars Karlin and Sigurd Jorsalfar’s Movement III. Huldigungsmarsch by Edvard Grieg.

According to music director Eric Simondsen, the theme for the performance started with the piece ‘Three Swedish Songs” and influenced the choice for the rest of the Scandinavian arrangements. Grieg’s piece is Norwegian and as the name implies, the Sibelius piece is from Finland. Rehearsals for the summer concert started in early May.

“We’ve really been trying to build up the string component of the orchestra and do at least one string piece in each concert, and after talking to our concert master, Daniel Perry, the Holberg Suite is for strings,” Simondsen said. “The Three Swedish Songs is for brass “my favorite for the program,” Simondsen said.

There are about 35 performers in the orchestra from across the Kenai Peninsula. There will be a couple of guests contributing to the concert coming from Anchorage as well, Simondsen said.

Simondsen started directing in February 2023 and last summer was the first concert post-COVID.

As the orchestra website states, it’s difficult to “pin down the true beginnings of orchestral music on the Peninsula because musicians will always get together to make music,” but by 1973 a small group in Homer led by Karen Hornaday and Redoubt Chamber Orchestra led by Charlie Baker, began playing collaborative concerts for the Peninsula. The group gained structure in 1983, led by Terry Kallenberg as the Kenai Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. Other renowned leaders and directors throughout the history of the organization include Bob Richardson, Mark Robinson, Mary Epperson, Laura Norton, Sue Biggs, and Michael Schallock. More detailed history on the orchestra is available on the organizations website

Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra Tour

Last weekend, Kenai Peninsula residents also had the privilege of four concerts from the touring Anchorage organization on their 10th annual tour south. Events were held and sponsored by Gwin’s Lodge in Cooper Landing, the Bear Creek Winery in Homer, the Norman Lowell Art Gallery north of Homer and in Kenai at the Senior Citizens Center. There were 27 performers in attendance at the performances that were provided to residents of the communities by donation. As their program states, “with classical audiences dwindling across the country ABCO’s work is more important than ever. By providing free community concerts in accessible venues ABCO has brought diverse and new patronage to classical music.”

Another feature of the ABCO performance, apparently typical of their style, was an eclectic inclusion of music diversity beyond simply orchestral features. The program included a component of varying and experimental works depending on performers interests. One group included in the orchestra as a whole was Anchorage’s Shake City String Band, described on their website as “a classically trained, talented group of musicians based in Anchorage, Alaska providing a unique blend of folk and symphonic, sprinkled with pop, Celtic and much more.” With a cast of five, the band has performed across the state in venues like Salmon Fest and the Girdwood Forest Fair.