PORT ANGELES — “When it’s good,” he said, “it’s like flying.”
Guitarist Colin Davin spoke of that sensation of flow when he’s playing a Rodrigo concerto with a full symphony orchestra surrounding him.
Davin, a Juilliard-educated classical guitarist, will arrive on the North Olympic Peninsula this week to rejoin the Port Angeles Symphony. He and the orchestra will give two performances Saturday: the public dress rehearsal at 10 a.m. and the evening concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.
This is the symphony’s Holiday Concert, featuring Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre, set like a jewel amidst festive music from around the world. Tickets are available at portangelessymphony.org, at Port Book and News in Port Angeles or by contacting the symphony office at 360-457-5579. They will also be sold at the door until the performances sell out.
On this occasion, the 65-member ensemble, with musicians from Sequim, Port Angeles, the West End, Jefferson County and beyond, will offer Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances, Chabrier’s “España” and Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” waltz, along with three distinct settings of holiday songs.
One is the traditional carol sing-along pairing the orchestra and the audience — the first one since December 2019, noted Jonathan Pasternack, the symphony’s conductor and artistic director.
The sing-along, he added, will range from “It Came upon a Midnight Clear,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Away in a Manger” to “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World.”
Saturday’s concert also has a relatively serious piece in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Christmas Overture.
“This brief work by Coleridge-Taylor, a composer of British and African parentage, is an ingenious integration of a few Christmas carols into a kind of Tchaikovskian symphonic fantasy,” Pasternack said.
Next up is local jazz musician Al Harris’ premiere of yet another holiday arrangement: “A Whimsical Christmas.”
Harris is well-known on the Peninsula as the longtime director of the symphony’s Adventures in Music program, among many other musical endeavors. His piece for the symphony “is replete with jazz harmonies, different dance rhythms and novelty orchestral combinations,” Pasternack said.
There’s even a little bit of klezmer, he added.
“There are funny moments and some very sweet moments,” in a piece that’s mere minutes in length.
Davin, for his part, said he’s looking forward to diving into it all. This trip to Port Angeles will be less rushed than his first one exactly two years ago.
At the last minute, Pasternack had to find a replacement for the symphony’s scheduled guitar soloist at its Dec. 11, 2021, dress rehearsal and evening concert. A mutual friend of Davin and Pasternack asked whether Davin, then based in Cleveland, could fly west to step in.
Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez was the centerpiece, one Davin knows well. He boarded a plane, performed with the Port Angeles Symphony, received standing ovations and flew back home.
“Quite a whirlwind,” Davin recalled.
Yet he and the orchestra clicked. The guitarist remembers that vividly, along with a clear sense of the audience’s love for the live music.
Davin hopes for that connection again.
“Sometimes, being a soloist, there’s a bit of mythos, of being on a pedestal. I like to be a real person,” he said.
Davin added that he can feel, in the first momentary pause in a concerto, if the audience is with him.
Davin took his first guitar lesson when he was 7. At 10, he saw Grammy-winning classical guitarist Jason Vieaux perform, and decided this art form was his calling.
Vieaux and Davin later became teacher and student, and still later, colleagues at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Now Davin is director of the guitar studio at Shenandoah University’s conservatory in Virginia.
Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre has particular significance. It was the first guitar concerto Davin performed as a professional — when he was 16. This is the first time, in the 20 years since, that he’ll get to play it again.
On Saturday, “I want to share what the music has to bring,” he said.
“I want to take people along on that ride. I’ll be on the ride too.”