Willamette Falls Symphony to perform in Clackamas County
"It isn't always recognized in our culture, but there is something about music that is undeniably vital to humans; we can't imagine going a day without it," said Carol Dumond, chair of Willamette Falls Symphony Orchestra's board of directors.
"And in the world of music, there is nothing like the experience of hearing a live symphony playing. They are capable of a great range of expression that can move people in ways no other groups can," she added.
Dumond is still surprised to learn that people in the Oregon City area aren't aware that the symphony orchestra has been around and performing since 1981, when it began as the Clackamas Community Orchestra with eight members. Since 2004, Willamette Falls Symphony plays in the Oregon City United Methodist Church and has expanded to over 50 players.
Returning to concerts
During the COVID lockdown, the orchestra did have a couple of virtual concerts, but is looking forward its first live concert at the Oregon City United Methodist Church at 3 p.m. on Oct. 16.
"It's an all-Ukrainian composer concert, in honor of Ukraine's continuing struggle," Dumond noted.
The symphony will begin the concert with the Ukrainian national anthem, and continue with Lysenko's "Taras Bulba Overture," Mosolov's "Iron Foundry," Skoryk's "The High Pass: Melody" and Gliere's "Symphony No. 2."
The orchestra, under Conductor Mark Perlman since 2001, has grown from a smallish group to a full orchestra, Dumond said.
It began taking on harder and harder music, introducing new music to Oregon City audiences as well as honoring favorite older pieces from the symphonic repertoire, she said.
"Movie music, like that of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and more and more music by women composers, have enriched the orchestra's offerings," Dumond noted.
"Different pieces call for different orchestration, so we have a core of string players, who always play, and small basic cores of winds, brass and percussion," Dumond said.
"We currently need additional string players in all sections, including first and second violin, viola, cello and double bass and can use some more percussionists. At the moment we seem to be fully staffed with winds and brass," she noted.
Conductor Mark Perlman
Perlman grew up in a musical family, the son of the principal bass player in the Cleveland Orchestra and has had a love of orchestral music all his life, Dumond said, adding that he plays bass, sometimes with symphony orchestras he isn't conducting.
He has a doctorate in philosophy, and taught at Western Oregon University, retiring at the end of last year.
Perlman "has been instrumental in arranging other performing opportunities for the group. He expanded the repertoire, taught the players to trust themselves to do more than they had been doing, and attracted more players than the orchestra had known, many of them accomplished amateurs and semi-professionals," Dumond said.
Dumond plays the viola, has been a member of the Willamette Falls Symphony Orchestra since 2007 and has also arranged and composed some works for the group.
Because orchestra members, other than section leaders, are unpaid, "it's important to have a conductor who inspires people to play. Mark does that," Dumond said.
"He never gives the impression that he's under stress. He is always encouraging, and when there's a problem, he approaches it as a team player trying to help find a solution, rather than merely barking at people," she said.
Perlman also connects well with audiences as well as players and is ready to allow everyone to enjoy the music, Dumond said.
What she likes best about him is that he is "genuinely committed to playing the music written by women and eager to introduce our audiences to new music, as well as revisiting the delicious older pieces everyone loves."
Also, she noted, Perlman's "interpretations are highly satisfying to me; he conducts music the way I would conduct it."
Orchestras are expensive to run, and professional orchestras have to charge a lot for every seat, because their overhead is much higher, Dumond noted.
But community orchestras, depending on the skills of their players, can offer the same repertoire at a fraction of the cost of a ticket to the professional orchestras, she said.
"This makes quality orchestral music available to people on tight budgets, especially as we make our concerts free to kids under 12 when accompanied by adults," she said.
"We can also, through outreach like our pops concerts and school tours, make orchestral music part of Oregon City's civic life," Dumond said.
The symphony is lucky to have a partner like the Oregon City United Methodist Church, she said, but at the same time the group would love to have a larger performance space.
"Even though most residents of Oregon City are unaware that they've had a symphony in town for over 40 years, we sometimes fill the church, and could expand the number of people who have access to our performances if we had more space to put them in," Dumond said.
"The power of a symphony orchestra, whether playing softly or loudly, is unmatched," she said.
Dumond added, "It's a community in itself, coming together to express the human experience in all its range for an audience that then becomes a part of the orchestra's community. Everybody should have access to this part of the human experience."
Revel in the music!
What: The Willamette Falls Symphony Orchestra presents an all-Ukrainian composer concert
When: 3 p.m. on Oct. 16
Where: Oregon City United Methodist Church, 18955 South End Road. Note that part of South End Road between Second Street and Warner Parrot is closed between now and November; an alternate route is necessary.
More: To learn more about the orchestra, visit willamettefallssymphony.org.
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