Russian melodies launch Sammamish Symphony Orchestra season

October 18, 2011

 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.”

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Youthful maestros to perform in Seattle International Piano Competition

October 18, 2011

Henry Gao, 10, practices at the keyboards in Issaquah’s Chopin Academy of Music. By Tom Corrigan

One is talkative, the other a little more quiet, but both are well spoken. They are roughly the same age and have the same ethnic background. They are friends, one getting a big smile on his face at the mention of the other’s name.

More importantly here, they attend the same piano school, the Chopin Academy of Music in Issaquah. They have the same teacher in Ivona Kaminska. They are also two of only eight finalists for their age group in the Seattle International Piano Competition to take place Oct. 22-23 at Benaroya Hall.

“I think I’m very lucky … It feels really exciting,” said Henry Gao, who just turned 10.

At 8, his friend Arthur Yan is following in the footsteps of older brother Robert, 11, who won a gold medal at the same competition in 2009.

Arthur and Henry will be competing in the 9 and under age category, as Henry was 9 when his audition tape won him a spot in the event.

Henry started playing at age 5. Mom Di Ding said her son didn’t take to the piano immediately.

“After several months, he progressed very fast,” she said.

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Singers invited to audition for Master Chorus Eastside

August 16, 2011

Master Chorus Eastside is holding auditions in all sections in preparation for the 2011-12 season, including a collaborative performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall.

The season includes holiday concerts in Sammamish and Kirkland in December, a concert celebration of all things Celtic in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day in March, and the Verdi “Requiem” in April, in conjunction with several other local choruses and orchestra. The chorus will conclude its season in June with two performances of its popular All-American Independence Celebration in Issaquah’s historic Pickering Barn.

All interested singers must have choral experience and basic music reading ability. Get an audition appointment by calling 392-8446. Learn more about the chorus at

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Master Chorus Eastside summer concert celebrates America

June 21, 2011

Master Chorus Eastside kicks off the Fourth of July with its 13th annual All-American Independence Celebration in Issaquah’s historic Pickering Barn on June 26.

The chorus will perform American music of all styles, including early Americana pieces, frontier music, gospel and sing-a-longs. Master Chorus Artistic Director and Conductor Dr. Linda Gingrich and several chorus members will complement the musical arrangements with “tall tales,” Gingrich said.

She uses her signature commentary as a vehicle to help the audience connect with the concert.

“Commentary usually includes some historical information or information about how the composer may have come to write the piece,” she said. “I try to build the commentary into the form of a story to help the audience understand what they’re listening to.”

The theme of this year’s Independence Celebration, American Legends, provides a repertoire of songs and stories representing John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Chief Joseph and Davy Crockett.

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Patriot Players earn nominations for musical murder mystery

May 24, 2011

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” — a stage production based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished murder mystery — garnered Liberty High School performers a bevy of nominations in The 5th Avenue Theatre’s annual awards to honor high school musical theater.

The ladies of the opium den circle gather ’round the Princess Puffer, played by Senior Kelsey Canaga, during the Patriot Players’ musical ‘Drood’ at Liberty High School. By Mary Eck

The lush depiction of Victorian London garnered nods for Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Costume Design, Outstanding Program Design and Outstanding Performance by a Chorus. Performers Tucker Goodman, a junior, and Paige Fabre, a senior, also received acting nominations in the statewide competition.

The high school’s company, the Patriot Players, earned nominations in most major categories.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” also earned the Patriot Players honorable mentions in the Outstanding Overall Musical Production and Outstanding Direction categories.

Liberty drama program director Katherine Klekas said the challenging musical required strong performers.

“We knew we had people to play some of these really pivotal roles,” she said. “There were plenty of people for several of the roles, but you also don’t pick a show like that if you don’t know that you’ve got people who can handle it.”

The performers rose to the challenge and, before each performance, slipped into period costumes and English accents to charm audience members.

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Liberty High School drama program earns award nominations

May 18, 2011

Liberty High School performers prepare for a scene from 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood.' By Mary Eck

NEW — 8 a.m. May 18, 2011

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” — a stage production based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished murder mystery — garnered Liberty High School performers a half dozen nominations in the annual 5th Avenue Awards Honoring High School Musical Theater.

The high school’s company, called the Patriot Players, earned nods for Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Costume Design, Outstanding Program Design and Outstanding Performance by a Chorus. Tucker Goodman and Paige Fabre also received acting nominations in the statewide competition.

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KING-FM wants musical students

January 18, 2011

Classical KING-FM 98.1 has extended the deadline for its 2011 KING FM Ten Grands Young Artist Award to Feb. 1. To enter, students ages 6-18 I should send a YouTube video of themselves performing vocally, acoustically or instrumentally to the KING FM website,

Performances must be five minutes or shorter. Judges will select 20 semifinalists and the public will vote online, choosing 10 finalists and one grand prize winner, who will receive a $1,000 scholarship from KING-FM. Read more

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Gold Stars

May 11, 2010

Girl Scout Troop 50614

Girls from Girl Scout Troop 50614 from Sunny Hills Elementary School served dinner to residents of Tent City 4 prior to their departure.

The girls served up barbecued pulled pork, baked potatoes and other homemade goodies. The girls also donated several staple items, like butter, cheese sticks and yogurt, and a special box of Girl Scout cookies.

Matt DeLuca and Carly Worden

Congratulations to Skyline High School’s Matt DeLuca and Carly Worden, both seniors, for making the Top Ten list in King FM and the Ten Grands’ Young Artist Awards.

Matt made the cut for his marimba performance and Carly made the cut for her accomplished piano playing and composition skills. The two will perform at the Ten Grands Benefit Concert at Benaroya Hall on May 21.

Maple Hills Elementary School student council

The school’s student council celebrated Earth Day by making puppets of endangered animals and performing a song called “Ghost Bat in a Gum Tree,” which was recorded to help students better understand environmental issues around the world and celebrate Earth Day.

Grand Ridge Elementary School

The school’s students raised $2,460 for Haitian disaster relief efforts by reading.

The fundraiser, Helping Haiti One Page at a Time, asked students to gather pledges they could collect after completing pages of reading, writing, math and science assignments. The school’s PTSA sponsored the fundraiser, created by fifth-grade teacher Jenise Clausen.

Students donated the check to the American Red Cross on March 2.

Gold Stars highlights accomplishments — big or small — by Issaquah students. Send a few sentences and the student’s name, age, grade, school, good deed and a photograph, if possible, to

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Sammamish Symphony to headline Benaroya Hall

March 9, 2010

The Sammamish Symphony Orchestra is packing it up and leaving the plateau behind for the mainstage of Benaroya Hall for a special one-night performance March 14. Read more

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Issaquah boy extends his range with Northwest Boychoir

May 26, 2009

Benjamin Richardson, wearing the shirt with a stripe across the front, rehearses “Big Rock Candy Mountain” with the Northwest Boychoir, directed by Joseph Crnko, right. By Warren Kagarise

Benjamin Richardson, wearing the shirt with a stripe across the front, rehearses “Big Rock Candy Mountain” with the Northwest Boychoir, directed by Joseph Crnko, right. By Warren Kagarise

Aspiring musicians yearn for a chance to play Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony or perform alongside Grammy-nominated vocalists.

Benjamin Richardson, 10, has accomplished all of the above.

A member of the prestigious Northwest Boychoir, Benjamin and his fellow pint-sized performers frequent concert halls and other venues across the Puget Sound region and throughout the state.

He also plays gigs closer to his Issaquah home: Benjamin and his mother perform at the Issaquah Farmers Market.

“You can put your emotion into music,” Benjamin said. “I enjoy knowing that I’m giving people joy.”

His mother, Rochelle Pearson, plays viola in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. Pearson also teaches viola and violin. Her pianist husband, Harry Richardson, is the music director at Seattle First Presbyterian Church, where the family also worships. Benjamin took to music at an early age. Read more

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