PORT ANGELES — From the call of “Mambo!” to snapping fingers and hot brass, the music of “West Side Story” is a tour de force for the entire Port Angeles Symphony, said Jonathan Pasternack, the orchestra’s artistic director.
“It’s a very challenging work; also very gratifying. It gives back as much as you put into it,” he said, adding that Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” Symphonic Dances are one highlight of Family Pops, the symphony’s first concert of the season this Saturday.
The mythical Tony and Maria, inspired long ago by Romeo and Juliet, will meet at the dance. The Sharks and Jets will start out cool, then turn to mambo and rumble.
“There’s also a dream sequence, a ballet. I love that part. It’s a beautiful and very exciting piece of music that I know our audience will love,” promised Pasternack.
Family Pops, with the 65-member orchestra and, during the finale, the Port Angeles High School Choir, has two performances Saturday: the 10 a.m. public dress rehearsal and the 7 p.m. concert.
Both are at the symphony’s home, the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.
Tickets are free for those 18 and younger at both events. Reserved seats are $25 for 19 and older at the evening concert and $10 for general admission at the morning rehearsal.
Outlets include portangelessymphony.org, Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles and the symphony office at 360-457-5579. Tickets also will be sold at the door.
Family Pops this year also features “Tubby the Tuba,” a kind of musical hero’s journey involving the whole orchestra plus a bullfrog. Principal tuba player Tyler Benedict stars, while Pat Owens, an actor well-known for his work on local stages, is the narrator.
“I look forward to Pops all summer, because of how it brings families together to enjoy the magic of live orchestra performances,” Pasternack said.
The concert always celebrates music from the movies and stage while stirring in marches, light classics and comedy, he added.
Saturday’s music also gathers an especially large ensemble, including saxophone player Jayne Morrison of Sequim, four clarinetists, a big percussion section, a harp and pianist Linda Dowdell of Sequim.
“It’s just thrilling,” Dowdell said of the “West Side Story” piece.
“That music was a part of me, growing up. It takes me back to being a teenager,” she added.
Dowdell also plays in “Tubby the Tuba,” a piece she’s fond of for its touching story. And, yes, she remembers seeing it on “Captain Kangaroo” as a kid.
Other Family Pops highlights: “Semper Paratus,” the U.S. Coast Guard song; Elmer Bernstein’s “The Great Escape” March; the Sabre Dance from Khatchaturian’s “Gayane,” and Rossini’s William Tell Overture.
Hearing a full orchestra play the entire William Tell live is a glorious thing, Pasternack said.
To close the concert, Port Angeles High School’s Symphonic Choir and Vocal Unlimited ensemble — 53 singers led by director John Lorentzen — will join the symphony to perform “America the Beautiful.”