Russian melodies launch Sammamish Symphony Orchestra season

October 18, 2011

By Christopher Huber

 R. Joseph Scott conducts the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra during rehearsal Oct. 13 at the Eastlake High School band room. By Christopher Huber

To some classical music connoisseurs, Rimsky-Korskoff’s “Capriccio Espagnole” will provide 15 minutes of harmonic bliss when the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra performs it this month.

“It’s 15 minutes of pure joy,” said Joseph Scott, the symphony’s longtime conductor and music director.

The orchestral piece features constant interplay between Concertmaster Dennis Helppie, of Sammamish, on violin, and the harpist and brass section. But it won’t be the only piece to look forward to at the symphony’s 2011 opening concert in Sammamish.

On Oct. 23, the symphony is rolling out the red carpet to celebrate its 20th year on the plateau. The group, which draws performers from 25 cities in King County, will perform “Russian Fireworks” at 2 p.m. at the Eastlake Performing Arts Center. The program will include a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, “Capriccio Espagnole, Op. 34” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture, Op. 49.”

“An organization needs to celebrate milestones,” Scott said. “It’s good to show off the orchestra and what we’re good at. It’s still not as much a household name as we would like it to be.”

As the 85 members warmed up for rehearsal in the Eastlake High School band room Oct. 13, Scott thought about why he chose the pieces he did. The orchestra grows and improves, and explores works that bring out the broadening sound of the strings section. The group has added 10 new strings players this year, he said.

20th season concerts

Concerts are performed at Eastlake Performing Arts Center unless otherwise noted.

  • Oct. 23 — “Russian Fireworks”
  • Dec. 10 and 11 — “Holiday Pops”
  • Feb. 26 — “Mardi Gras”
  • April 22 — “Verdi Requiem” at Benaroya Hall, Seattle
  • June 10 — “American Classics”

Learn more about the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra or buy tickets to the opening concert at

Sammamish Symphony is challenging itself by taking on the Rachmaninoff concerto. Scott said the genius composer wrote the piece on a toneless model piano, imagining the notes in his head. Many consider “Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30” to be one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire.

“It’s a tour de force,” Scott said.

As for the famous “1812 Overture,” Scott seemed excited about it rounding out an all-around challenging but grand opening concert. The overture’s cannon (percussion) booms, trumpet calls and smooth-stringed scale will finish the performance dynamically.

“You can’t do anything any grander for a celebration concert,” Scott said.

The opening concert is one of five in the lineup for the 2011-2012 season and includes the “Verdi Requiem” concert April 22 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

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