PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Community Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Tigran Arakelyan, will present a pair of chamber music concerts at 6:30 tonight at Finnriver Cidery and 2 p.m. Sunday at Port Townsend High School.
The concerts at Finnriver, 124 Center Road, and Port Townsend High School, 1500 Van Ness St., are free but organizers said donations will be welcomed.
This concert will feature Otto Smith in the West Coast premiere of James Cohn’s “Concertina Concerto.” Also on the program are Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” and the playful “Tico Tico” by Zequinha de Abreu.
Port Townsend’s Smith studied piano and voice as a child, according to a press release.
He started his migration from folk guitar to English system concertina in 1977 and has been involved with folk and classical concertina since then. He helped create the Puget Sound Concertina Band and has performed Irish, Scandinavian, Klezmer and American folk music in addition to classical repertoire.
Smith has been with the Port Townsend Community Orchestra for more than 25 years, playing percussion and tympani in between his solo performances on concertina in 1997 (Concerto in G by Molique), 2013 (“Shepherd’s Hey” by Percy Grainger) and other dates with smaller pieces and medleys.
At 90 years old, Cohn is still active, writing new music and getting new commissions. His music, described as accessible, tuneful and authentic, spans a wide range of instrumentation from his recent “Suite for Solo Double Bass” to his eight symphonies.
Smith discovered Cohn’s 1966 “Concertina Concerto” a few years ago and has been getting to know it since. One advantage in studying work by a living composer is that the composer can be questioned. Smith contacted Cohn and discussed how to address certain passages to get the most out of his instrument and interpretation.
The concerto consists of three movements: an allegretto capriccio, an andante romanza and a rondo labeled presto con fuoco.
One of Grieg’s most notable works is the “Holberg Suite.” Grieg adapted his piano work “From Holberg’s Time” for string orchestra.
The work was originally composed for a concert honoring fellow Bergen artist Ludvig Holberg’s 200th anniversary. The work consists of an introduction followed by four movements based on dance tunes from Holberg’s classical era. They are a sarabande, a gavotte, an air and a boisterous rigaudon.
Rounding out the concert is an arrangement of de Abreu’s fast and happy “Tico Tico no fuco” or “Sparrow in the cornmeal.”
This is a Brazilian Choro song originally written in 1917 with Portuguese lyrics added in the 1930s. It was a hit by the Andrew Sisters with English lyrics in 1944 and Carmen Miranda in 1945. Still a hit, recordings have been made as recently as 2017.
For more information, go to www.porttownsend orchestra.org or call Jay Bakst at 253-709-2850.