Port Townsend High School Orchestra teacher Daniel Ferland will engineer Saturday’s Port Townsend High School Backpack Giving Fund virtual concert. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend High School)

Port Townsend High School Orchestra teacher Daniel Ferland will engineer Saturday’s Port Townsend High School Backpack Giving Fund virtual concert. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend High School)

Port Townsend High School music benefit set

Donations to fund backpack program for students

PORT TOWNSEND — Stella Jorgensen, a 17-year-old violist, invites music lovers to an orchestral and jazz concert unlike all the others at Port Townsend High School.

“You’ll have the comfort of your couch instead of the gym bleachers,” she said of the show, to be streamed at 5 p.m. Saturday via PTHSMusic.com.

There’s no charge for admission, while donations will help the school’s orchestra raise funds for the Kiwanis Backpack Program, which serves hungry youngsters.

Thanks to engineering and encouragement from PTHS orchestra teacher Daniel Ferland, Jorgensen and her fellow performers will play alone and together.

“Small groups are going to show up at Blue Heron [Middle School], in separate classrooms, and we’ll be broadcasting them playing together,” Ferland said.

He’ll use a video switcher to mix the string ensemble’s performance — for the live half of the show.

A practice session for Saturday’s Port Townsend High School Backpack Giving Fund concert includes, clockwise from top left, strings coach Kristin Smith, freshman Willy Walden, senior Sam Lott and sophomore Aiden Murney. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend High School)

A practice session for Saturday’s Port Townsend High School Backpack Giving Fund concert includes, clockwise from top left, strings coach Kristin Smith, freshman Willy Walden, senior Sam Lott and sophomore Aiden Murney. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend High School)

The other half stars students who have prerecorded their tracks.

Ferland will mix those to complete the 35-minute concert, which ranges from the jazz number “Halfway to the Hudson” to “Sequoia” by Brian Holmes, Bob Matthews’ “Small Overture” and Benjamin Snoek’s “Lionheart.”

The comedic “Galop!” by Brian Balmages is also on the program.

Had this year been typical, the Redhawk orchestra and jazz band would have raised money for their trip to California, highlights of which might have included hearing the Los Angeles Philharmonic play at Walt Disney Concert Hall and visiting Capitol Records.

Instead, Ferland and his musicians are channeling a new fund. Local supporters, including businesses Ferland will acknowledge on the air Saturday, have contributed to this pot of money earmarked for the Backpack Program.

They’ve pledged to donate $1 per online viewer up to 1,212, aligned with Saturday’s Dec. 12 concert date. There will also be a link on PTHSMusic.com for additional donations.

In past years, PTHS’ Winter Stringfest was a night of music played by scores of performers on stage together.

Violist Stella Jorgensen, 17, is among the performers.

Violist Stella Jorgensen, 17, is among the performers.

Jorgensen misses that. But all is not lost.

“A lot of us students are excited to share that we have been able to do something,” she said.

This semester has had its highlights, such as playing music in small ensembles and being able to manage the remote-learning days to fit her own needs.

About 70 students are participating in the music program now, Ferland said, noting they presented their spring concert online — and pulled it off well.

“All the challenges that come with distanced learning are amplified in orchestra,” senior Sorina Johnston said.

Rehearsals are shrunk from 50 players to five. Yet meeting with her small ensemble, she said, reaffirms how good it feels to make music with others.

“It’s been tough. I’m not gonna lie,” Ferland added.

“The kids are keeping me going, trying to put this project together,” all while boosting their chosen cause.

The Backpack Program provided nearly 18,000 weekend meals last year to local families whose kids qualify for free and reduced lunches, noted Port Townsend Kiwanis president Liz Quayle.

“Food insecurity is a real concern for many in East Jefferson County,” she said, adding the Backpack Program is especially needed in this pandemic year of hardship.

Ferland added that music-making, be it live, recorded, jazz or orchestral, comes with an underlying intention.

“We hope,” he said, “we can make people happy.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected].

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