PORT TOWNSEND — When Tigran Arakelyan brought the members of the Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra together to prepare for their first public concert since early 2020, he thought it might feel weird.
But “it’s not strange at all,” he said after Wednesday night’s rehearsal.
“It kind of feels like we picked up where we left off. It was very natural. Everyone’s so excited,” said Arakelyan, director of the 23-member ensemble, which will perform at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St. at Water Street, both tonight and Sunday.
As with all Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra concerts, admission is free while donations are welcome.
With featured soloist Anne Krabill of Port Townsend, the orchestra will present the concertino for oboe and strings by Brenno Blauth, an often-overlooked work, plus the Suite for Strings by Leoš Janácek and the Psalm & Fugue from Alan Hovhaness.
To allow for social distancing, only 100 patrons will be admitted to this evening’s 7 p.m. public dress rehearsal; seating will be first-come, first-served, and audience members are asked to arrive no later than 6:50 p.m.
The formal concert at 2 p.m. Sunday also has space for 100 audience members, and like the dress rehearsal, it has no intermission. The orchestra sent invitations out to supporters for this performance, and about 90 patrons already have RSVP’d, Arakelyan said. Those with reservations will be admitted starting at 1:20 p.m., with walk-ups seated, as space allows, starting at 1:45 p.m.
At either event, all audience members must show proof at the door of full vaccination, and all must wear face masks — not face shields — throughout the hour-long performance. Masks should have two to three layers and fully cover the mouth and nose.
Conductor Arakelyan and all of the orchestra players are fully vaccinated, and everyone except Krabill, the oboist, will wear masks as well.
“It’s going to be kind of an unusual setup,” Arakelyan said, in that the ensemble will be seated on the floor of the hall, with the audience arranged around it. Some patrons will be seated on stage and some will be facing the conductor, so “they will have an opportunity to see what I’m doing,” Arakelyan added.
“It’s going to be a special performance. We’ll start the program with the Hovhaness piece. We’re dedicating it to all those people who have suffered during this time, and to all those people who have passed away. It will be a tribute,” he said.
Arakelyan added that the concertino for oboe and strings presents an uncommon chance to hear music created by Blauth (1931-1993), a Brazilian composer. He believes this is the Pacific Northwest premiere of Blauth’s work, one that allows Krabill and the entire orchestra to shine bright after all this time.
“We do this because we love to share music,” said Arakelyan.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.