(Dick Jordan spent two weeks traveling throughout Southeast Alaska in June of 2008. Here’s an edited excerpt from the blog he wrote during the trip; look for more installments in the near future.)
(Saturday, June 14, Sitka). Harrigan Centennial Hall was full-up for last night’s Summer Music Festival concert. Since nearly everyone “dresses down” in Levi’s, plaid shirts and Gore-Tex here, it’s hard to pick out the “locals” from the tourists. But since many folks were chatting before the concert and during intermission, you can see that the festival is popular among Sitkans as well as outsiders like us from the “Lower 48.”
Five of the eight musicians were familiar to us from Thursday’s Brown Bag concert, including Armen Ksajikian whom I had described in a previous post as a Russian-bear of a man and, as it turns out, came to the U.S. from the U.S.S.R. back in 1976. The others hail from all over the U.S. and are obviously among the elite performers for their chosen instruments.
The rear wall of the concert hall is glass that extends from the floor of the raised stage to the ceiling giving the audience a grand view of Crescent Bay. During the pre-concert lecture, eagles swooped from stage left to stage right across the water. One came in for a landing in a large hemlock just behind the hall before soaring off into the overcast skies.
The concert featured two long pieces: Brahms’ String Quartet in F Major, Opus 88 “Spring”, and Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A Minor, Opus 84. The musicians soared like the eagles during the performance, particularly for the Elgar which brought a “standing O” from the crowd.
Unlike most high-end musical and theatrical events, the Sitka Summer Music Festival offers no champagne or other intoxicating libations to attendees during intermission. But at the end of the evening, the local Soroptimist (a women’s civic organization) chapter served punch and homemade cookies and guests “chatted up” the musicians. Tonight we’ll attend yet another concert, this one aboard a local vessel that will take us to a “secluded cove” for music and a salmon dinner.