PORT ANGELES — As the new concertmaster of the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra, Marjory “Jory” Noble faces a strange time in the organization’s 88-year history. It’s a time when the symphony musicians — and audiences — must wait until late fall, or even longer, for their next concerts.
Yet Noble, a woman who has made music all around the continent — from Winnipeg, Canada, to Chicago, New York and Seattle — finds a sense of community here.
“I feel like music is my first language,” she said in a phone interview from her new home in Port Angeles.
Noble first took up the violin, a three-quarter-size instrument her mother excitedly brought home, at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Her father was a cell biology professor at Johns Hopkins University there, and he later moved his family to South Bend, Ind., where he taught at the University of Notre Dame.
Noble continued her music studies in South Bend and in Chicago about 90 minutes away.
Her bow and strings “just made sense to me,” she recalled.
“The violin is me.”
As concertmaster, a role she has held in six other orchestras, Noble becomes a kind of intermediary between the orchestra and conductor, Jonathan Pasternack.
Noble leads the string section with her own style.
“I want my section to play as one, attuned to each other,” she said.
The players, who range from 16-year-old Adam Weller to the well-known Kate Southard-Dean, have already made her feel welcome, Noble said, just in the few concerts in which performed last fall and winter.
Playing Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in November was a thrill, she said, as were Debussy’s “Two Dances” and Coleridge- Taylor’s “Novelette” in October with the chamber orchestra.
Since the halt of all live events in March, the members of the Port Angeles Symphony have been coping at home. No Monday or Thursday rehearsals, no chamber or full-orchestra concerts.
But each Monday night, Pasternack invites them all to a Zoom social hour with a special guest. Noble has joined in, and she’s taken the opportunity to get acquainted with orchestra musicians, symphony board members and those guests from around the world.
They’ve included pianist Josu de Solaun, who was the guest soloist at the symphony’s final concert of last season on Feb. 22, as well as violinist James Garlick, pianists Anna Petrova and Alexander Tutunov, cellist Julian Schwarz, double-bassist Steve Schermer, KING-FM radio host and pianist Lisa Bergman and conductor Meena Hwang of Seoul, South Korea.
All have appeared with the symphony in Port Angeles in recent years, and several are slated to return later this year or in 2021.
Heather Ray, Noble’s predecessor as concertmaster, also has signed into the Zoom get-togethers from her home in Bellingham.
The meetings, unnatural as they may feel, have helped morale, Noble said.
“The orchestra is a community unto itself,” and it’s important to connect, especially with those who live alone, she said.
“I feel great affection for these people,” she said, adding she was happy to see Garlick, an internationally known performer originally from Port Angeles, had a mandolin and ukulele on the wall behind him.
Noble also plays mandolin.
Also like Garlick, she’s practicing works of classical music on her own, “just for the heck of it,” and not for any big upcoming show.
The Parisian composer Ernest Chausson’s “Poème” called to her, and she’s explored its story of love and longing — even if it was too sad for a while. She’d started playing the piece, then had to stop. Now she’s back at it, fascinated by “Poème’s” complexity.
This music has become “really fulfilling to me,” Noble said.
She and her husband Chris moved to Port Angeles after they visited Clallam County several times: They’d tandem-bicycle to lavender farms in the Dungeness Valley and attend symphony concerts, while Noble marveled at both.
“Finding an orchestra of this quality is truly wonderful,” added the violinist, who has performed with symphonies and ballet and opera ensembles in Canada, the Midwest and on both coasts.
“Jory is such a kind-hearted, warm and sincere person, she immediately felt like part of the family,” Pasternack said.
“Her tremendous artistry and depth of experience speak for themselves,” he added, “and as a concertmaster, she has such natural authority, leading with conviction and love for people and music.”
In March, Noble joined a rehearsal for the Ballet Gala, a joint performance by the Port Angeles Symphony and the Ballet Workshop, and “I remember clearly the smiles all around the ensemble,” Pasternack said, “after she so beautifully performed a difficult solo passage from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake.’”
The Ballet Gala, originally set for March 20, has been postponed to a possible fall date; Pasternack and the symphony board plan to update concertgoers later this month on the coming season.
For her part, Noble remarked on the community’s enthusiasm for the symphony, filling the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center for the full-orchestra concerts and attending the chamber ensemble’s performances at smaller venues.
Pasternack and the orchestra are “top notch,” she said, “and Port Angeles should be very proud.”