Oregon Coast Chamber Orchestra has had numerous reviews in the local press. This one by Burney Garelick appeared in the Siuslaw News.
It rained encores well before midnight!
A soggy day in Florence town is no excuse to burrow under the blankets and dream of sunshine in Tuscany—unless you're a cat in which case sunshine anywhere will do. Otherwise, the place to be Feb. 25 was the Florence Events Center where the music was warm and the humor was dry.
On that afternoon, the Oregon Coast Chamber Orchestra performed its winter concert. There was plenty of room in the theater for raincoats as nearly every other seat was unoccupied. Of course this aggregation of fine musicians, about half of them from Florence, deserved a full house, especially since this concert was a benefit to raise funds to assist the Siuslaw High School bands in a trip to compete at the Heritage Festival in San Diego in April.
The OCCO is now in its sixth season, performing three concerts a year in Yachats, Coos Bay, and other coastal cities as well as Florence. Founder, music director, arranger, and conductor is Robin DeVour, and associate conductor is Shannon Dickey, SHS band director. It's a volunteer orchestra, but the abilities of the volunteers are carefully scrutinized, and the musicians work diligently to present each concert. Their pleasure is performing.
Prior to the music, Robin, known for his comedic as well as orchestral talents, told a shaggy frog story. To paraphrase Kermit's green song, he said it's not easy being blind. He then told a tale of visiting a mall in Portland and inadvertently meeting a strange woman with a gift—all to tell concertgoers to turn off their cell phones and pagers.
This concert was framed with the entire orchestra, but the strings were emphasized throughout accompanying four soloists. Robin and Shannon shared conducting duties, and Pedro, Robin's navigator, was the perfect host, never once upstaging the performance with canine antics.
The full orchestra performed three pieces from Bizet's Jeux D'Enfants (Children's Games), a delightful opener that had the crowd splashing and singing in the rain. Bizet turned the meteorological tide.
Then, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got those strings. The brass, reeds, and percussion left the stage, and the violins, violas, cellos, and bass supported Concertmaster Barbara Wilcox of Florence in Rodrigo's sweet Canconeta or Little Song.
The strings then accompanied Principal Trumpet Mike Rossi of Coos Bay in Neruda's Concerto in E Flat for Trumpet and Strings in three movements, each respected by the audience. After an extraordinary performance, Mike returned with a flugethorn for an encore of a different kind—Thelonious Monk's jazz classic, Round Midnight, accompanied by the string section and a small combo including Robin on keyboard, DeVern Pinnock playing guitar, and a fine young drummer. Nothing felonious here; the audience loved it and half-hoped for musical breaks from Robin and DeVern. Mixing genres enriches the entire musical experience.
The second half continued with those strings accompanying Principal Flute Sarah Gage-Hunt of Florence looking svelt in a blue gown playing Rutter's Suite Antique in six short respected movements, each diverse in mood and timing:
Sarah s talented and gifted playing is always clear and pure as a mountain stream, flowing with elegance She returned with an encore, a short bittersweet piece by Debussy about Pan and his unrequited love for a water nymph.
The strings next accompanied Principal Oboe Richard Jones of Florence in Wilder's Air for Oboe and Strings. Because there is no oboe player in the orchestra, the piece was arranged for Richard's soprano saxophone which he handles with aplomb.
Then the full orchestra returned for Rossini's Overture to The Barber of Seville, a big bright exciting romp in booming crescendos and false endings and NASCAR speed.
Could an encore follow that? The orchestra was prepared with another novel selection, a piece by Gottschalk featuring the wonderful banjo playing of DeVern Pinnock. Gottschalk wrote two pieces for that instrument. Le Banjo, performed in his native New Orleans in 1855, was said to be dedicated to the firemen of that city. Deuxieme Banjo (Second Banjo) was written for both banjo and solo voices, a heroic piece to be sure.
Florence's favorite retired dentist flossed the banjo strings to a brilliant smile, and the FEC audience couldn't stop applauding, hoping in vain for another encore.