PORT ANGELES — This is like driving a sleek sports car up a rising road — in other words, “simply thrilling.”
So says Monique Mead, the guest artist about to join the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra on Saturday. She speaks of playing a famous Brahms concerto on a 1717 Stradivarius violin — a work she’ll perform, along with the 66-member Port Angeles Symphony, in the orchestra’s first concert of its 84th season.
Mead’s concerto is one part of the concert; another is the “Lincoln Portrait,” in which composer Aaron Copland blends music and inspirational words from the 16th president.
“This work has deeply touched the American soul,” said guest narrator Lisa Bergman.
First performed in 1942, “Lincoln Portrait” uses live narration as one of the instruments of the orchestra.
“[It] brings the forces together,” Bergman says, “in a way that is unforgettable.”
Bergman, a host on Classical KING-FM in Seattle, and Mead, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., will appear with the Port Angeles Symphony at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.
And as always, conductor and music director Jonathan Pasternack will give a short pre-concert talk at 6:40 p.m.
Tickets range from $20 to $30 for reserved seats, for general admission it’s $15, or $12 for students and seniors. At the same time, youngsters ages 16 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Bergman has admired the “Lincoln Portrait” for years, dreaming she might someday be the voice delivering Lincoln’s words.
She noted that Copland chose them to show the man’s “gentleness and simplicity of spirit,” and to celebrate his courage.
The time has come, says Bergman, “to harness all that I am as an American into the energy of the moment. Using my voice as an instrument of the orchestra to express these precious words is an honor indeed.”
Saturday will be a night of synergy among musicians, music and audience, Bergman promised.
“To hear a full symphony in live performance,” she said, “is one of the most exciting aural experiences possible.”
In addition to the “Portrait” and the Brahms concerto, Pasternack has chosen an opening work from American composer Charles Ives to complete the evening.
Saturday’s concert marks the return of Mead, who performed in spring 2013 with the Port Angeles Symphony, prior to this conductor’s arrival.
“Word has reached me from several places that [the orchestra] is sounding better than ever under Jonathan Pasternack, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing them,” she wrote in an email.
“The Brahms concerto is, after all, an orchestral work … not a violin solo. I’m really looking forward to the warmth of the strings, the wind solos including the famously beautiful oboe solo in the second movement, the timpani rolls, and the massive full orchestra sound that is Brahms’ signature.”
Preparing to play this music, Mead added, is a humbling experience.
“To me, the concerto is about adversity and personal transformation,” making peace with circumstances you cannot change, or finding beauty in life’s struggles.
It takes a bit of living, she believes, to be able to interpret this kind of work.
“I can tell you,” said Mead, “that when I first studied the concerto in my 20s I did not relate to it as I do now.”
The Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra’s season opener also marks the nearness of the holiday season.
As it did last year, the orchestra will cohost a “fill the basket” food drive.
Stevens Middle School’s Parent Teacher Organization will place collection bins in the lobby for donations of food for students and families in need. They hope especially for the following items: canned tuna or chicken, canned chili or chicken noodle soup, peanut butter in plastic jars or a monetary donation (so the PTO can purchase what’s needed).
Music lovers also are invited to the Symphony’s final rehearsal, open to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday at the high school Performing Arts Center.
Admission is $5 per person or $10 per family, and the food-donation bins will be present in the morning as well.
For more information about the orchestra’s new season and to buy concert tickets, phone the Symphony office at 360-457-5579, email PASymphony@olypen.com, visit brownpapertickets.com or see the brand-new website at PortAngelesSymphony.org.