Adam Stern will lead the Port Angeles Symphony in a Christmas concert on Saturday.

Adam Stern will lead the Port Angeles Symphony in a Christmas concert on Saturday.

WEEKEND — Composer’s heritage inspires work to debut at PA Symphony concert on Saturday

PORT ANGELES — Adam Stern, conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony, is one who relishes opening presents.

Musical presents, of course: revealed through the keys, strings and woodwinds of the orchestra this Saturday, in a pair of concerts that will take listeners to Norway, Ukraine and the place apart called

Christmas.

The biggest surprise in these symphony concerts, set for 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles High School auditorium, is the world premiere of Seattle composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens’ orchestral work.

Titled “A Ukrainian Christmas,” the piece grew from traditional Ukrainian carols — “wonderful melodies, and quite simple,” Stevens said.

In an interview earlier this week, Stevens added that he sought to develop those melodies into his first orchestral work, one inspired by his feelings about Eastern Europe.

Stevens’ family is Serbian; his father was an immigrant who came to live in Phoenix.

His grandmother, the late Olga Vukmirovic, sang with the Belgrade Opera and taught at Belgrade’s conservatory of music.

Eastern melodies

“Using melodies from that part of the world is dear to my heart,” he said.

Stevens, who teaches French at Seattle Central Community College and runs the Seattle Piano Collective, began composing around the same time he took his first piano lessons. He was a boy of 7, growing up in Phoenix.

As soon as he graduated high school, Stevens took off for Europe. His wanderlust intensified from there, taking him to Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and the Czech Republic, where he lived for a year.

He came to Seattle to earn a bachelor’s in music at the Cornish College of the Arts and to study with Seattle Symphony composer in residence Sam Jones.

That, Stevens said, was “a tremendous experience.” Jones was also the one who put him in touch with Stern, whom Stevens calls a stellar conductor.

Stevens has written chamber music for the Seattle Piano Collective, but “A Ukrainian Christmas” is his first three-movement orchestral piece.

With it, “I hope to give people a fresh view, and a somewhat exotic view of Christmas from other cultures.”

Stern harbors the same hopes, along with a love for music that is quite familiar to American audiences.

Among the highlights of Saturday’s concerts are Stern’s arrangements of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” originally published 232 years ago, and “Carol of the Bells” from 1904. Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Dance No. 2 is also on the program, alongside Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hänsel and Gretel: Evening Prayer.”

The maestro will announce still more selections from the stage. He’ll also give a short talk on the music at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, just before the evening performance.

Tickets to the Port Angeles Symphony’s 10 a.m. concert, a dress rehearsal in which Stern and the orchestra polish their performance, are $5 per person or $10 per family.

For the 7:30 p.m. event, reserved seats are $20 to $30 while general admission is $15, or $12 for students and seniors.

Outlets for general admission tickets include Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., Port Angeles; Sequim Village Glass at 761 Carlsborg Road, Sequim and The Good Book/Joyful Noise Music Center at 108 W. Washington St. in Sequim. General and reserved seating tickets are on sale at the symphony office at 360-457-5579. And as always, tickets will be available at the door of the Port Angeles High School auditorium at 304 E. Park Ave.

More information about the orchestra and its events awaits at www.PortAngelesSymphony.org.

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