PORT ANGELES — If Jory Noble had to choose one word, it would be “glorious.”
That’s how she says it feels to make music again — with fellow string players — after seven months of orchestral silence.
For two weeks now Noble, concertmaster of the Port Angeles Symphony, has put on a face mask and lifted her instrument in rehearsals for an early November concert. The performance of two works chosen for the occasion, Johannes Brahms’ Double Concerto and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet, will be offered free to the public online.
Noble has performed with orchestras across North America. She started to play the violin some 50 years ago, and she’s felt a deep joy in it ever since.
“I feel we communicate more deeply with music than when we speak,” Noble said.
“And this music is really exciting” performed with the ensemble: cellists Traci Winters Tyson and Karson Nicpon, violists Tyrone T. Beatty and Phil Morgan-Ellis, and violinists Marina Rosenquist, Kate Southard-Dean and James Garlick, who is appearing as a special guest.
Music director and conductor Jonathan Pasternack is leading rehearsals at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which he said is extremely careful with its safety protocols.
When they walked into the church sanctuary a couple of Monday nights ago, it was the first time the musicians had gotten together since Feb. 22.
That was the night when the full orchestra, with guest artist Josu De Solaun, gave their winter concert in the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center.
Pasternack hasn’t had a pause like this at any point since he started his conducting career some 40 years ago.
This is not easy, he said.
In their masks, sitting more than 6 feet from one another, the players must watch more intently than they ever have — for eye contact, body language, the subtlest musical nuance.
“All that said, everybody is very inspired by the music and by being together,” Pasternack said.
“It’s a very emotional time for all of us.”
Pasternack has tailored the Brahms concerto for this tighter group of string players. For the final rehearsal and concert video recording, two guest soloists — Charlotte and Olivia Marckx, known as the Sempre Sisters — will be featured.
Violinist Charlotte Marckx debuted with the Port Angeles Symphony in December 2018; her older sister Olivia, a cellist, will give her first performance here. The Seattle-area duo is known for their award-winning “Bach to Beatles” music from the Northwest Folklife Festival to National Public Radio.
Beatty relishes the chance to play Brahms alongside the Sempre Sisters. He’s also looking forward to revisiting Mendelssohn’s Octet, which he performed 14 years ago with The Young Eight, an ensemble of African American classical musicians known around the country.
For Beatty, rehearsing both works now is a new adventure.
“We’re on heightened alert,” he said. “Since we’re spread out, we really have to listen. It adds to the intensity.”
The ensemble has three more rehearsals before it records the concert on Nov. 7. The one-hour video production will be available to view on YouTube during the week of Nov. 9, with links provided on the orchestra’s website, portangelessymphony.org, the Port Angeles Symphony Facebook page and via email. Donations to the nonprofit orchestra will be welcome.
“When you’re engaged with others in music making, you get immediate inspiration,” violinist Rosenquist said. “You miss it. You ache for it.”
Like her compatriots, she believes in giving her all, regardless of audience size or location.
Meantime, cellist Nicpon, who will be seated across the room from Rosenquist, hopes people watching at home will receive the same solace he does when he’s immersed in Mendelssohn and Brahms.
A first-year student at the University of Washington, Nicpon is taking all his courses online while he’s at home in Port Angeles. He gave an interview right after his evening chemistry lab.
Set aside time to enjoy the performance without distractions, Nicpon advised.
“The Brahms is very grand,” he said, adding: “I love it.”
Rosenquist feels as strongly about the Mendelssohn Octet, which she first heard as a teenager at the Oberlin Conservatory music camp in Ohio.
“I was enthralled at how beautiful it is,” she recalled.
“It was so uplifting then. And that carries through to now.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.