Orchestra enlists experienced musicians to provide pleasing performances

If you haven’t been to a concert given by the East County Community Orchestra, here’s what you’ve been missing …

Filling the auditorium stage are musicians of all ages, who play for the East County Community Orchestra.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The auditorium at the Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas high School was nearly filled to capacity, as the lights went down and the curtain opened – revealing the members of the East County Community Orchestra, on January 16.

The Winter Concert began as director Jack Mahoney raised his baton and the orchestra played a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The some-60 players then entertained their audience with the snappy “Emblem of Unity March”, composed in 1941 by Joseph Jon Richards.

Next they presented a classical work: The overture to the “Prince Igor” opera. Music lovers were also treated to the music of George Gershwin, the lively “Clear Track Polka”, the well-known bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema”, and other orchestral tunes.

Yes, that’s Dr. Howard Horner, the retired David Douglas Schools Superintendent for whom the auditorium is named, tooting out his bass-line part on a Sousaphone, as the orchestra plays a march.

Alto saxophonist Juan Gregrio is the featured soloist for the great jazz standard “Time after Time”.

Stepping up to the front as the concert continued was alto saxophonist Juan Gregrio, playing the jazz standard written by Sammy Chan and Jule Styne “Time after Time”. Additionally, trumpet soloist Ray B. Johnson was featured in a song that he wrote and arranged, “I Remember Howard”.

During the intermission, we asked the orchestra’s conductor, Jack Mahoney, how he picked music the program.

Picks both challenging and popular tunes
“We try to play music that’s interesting for the musicians, and also has audience appeal,” Mahoney replied. “The ‘Prince Igor’ piece was perhaps a ‘little heavy’ on the classical side for some of our audience, but they were polite. I must tell you, we had a ball playing it; the performance was very enjoyable for us. The rest of the music we play is light. We want the audience to enjoy the concerts.”

Jack Mahoney conducts the East County Community Orchestra.

The orchestra is an all-volunteer organization, Mahoney noted, made up mostly of retired professional musicians. “Our oldest player, our first-chair clarinet, is 93 years of age. The youngest one is 17 years of age – a violinist, Kenneth Hangartner; he’s home schooled – this is a good musical experience for him with a large group.”

The orchestra is good for the community in two ways, Mahoney concluded.

“It gives our mature musicians a way to remain active; music is a wonderful outlet. They all enjoy the congeniality. They all come every week to practice, and never miss a session,” the conductor said, with a coda, “and we bring the community together to enjoy good music.”

Take a bow! Look for the Spring Concert of the East County Community Orchestra, coming up in June, in our Community Calendar listings. The concerts are free; the organization is supported by donations.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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