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Ketchikan Orchestra Project to perform 2nd concert
Trumpet players are pictured Thursday during band class at Ketchikan High School. Photo by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

Those attending the Ketchikan Orchestra Project’s winter concert will be able to hear vocalist Deidra Nuss sing a German song — even though she doesn’t speak the language.

“I just fake it well,” Nuss laughed.

The second concert of the Ketchikan Orchestra Project will take place at 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 at First Lutheran Church located at 1200 Tongass Ave.

Nuss, the band director at Ketchikan High School, is the librarian and manager for the Ketchikan Orchestra Project. She and Jeff Karlson, now the conductor of the orchestra, were “passed the baton” to take the reins of the group after Mike and Mary Kurth moved away.

Mary Kurth was the Schoenbar Middle School band director, and she and her husband established the Ketchikan Orchestra Project last year after retiring. Since then, the group has had one concert so far, which was in the spring of 2017.

Nuss and Karlson have partnered with First City Players with the intention of creating their own nonprofit organization for their orchestra in the future, because they believe it’s a significant part of the community.

Karlson said the orchestra plays an important role in Ketchikan because when an orchestral transcription is played in another medium, say, the Community Concert Band — which he plays trumpet in — they’re missing string instruments.

“A concert band could play Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro,’ but instead of violins, you’re going to have flutes and clarinets playing the main melody — which is fine, but it’s not how the composer originally intended it to sound,” he explained. “When you hear the fullness and richness of a string section, it brings the work alive, in my opinion.”

He said Ketchikan is “wonderful in that it has such a diverse arts culture, however, there isn’t a symphonic orchestra.” In the past, there have been a few orchestras in the First City — Shoestring Symphony, Ketchikan Chamber Orchestra and the Southeast Symphony, and now the Ketchikan Orchestra Project.

There are 19 musicians in the group, which includes the instruments: Violin I, violin II, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, horn and timpani horn. Nuss, who plays the bassoon in the symphony, said orchestra music is “just different” and “beautiful.”

“This music that we’re playing dates all the way back into the classical period. This is hundreds-of-years-old music that’s still alive and relevant today, which is really cool,” Nuss said. “The really fun part about being a wind player, especially a woodwind player in an orchestra, is that a lot of times in band, our instruments are hard to hear against all of the brass. They get sort of drowned out. But as a bassoon player in the orchestra, you can hear the bassoon really, really well.”

She added that Ketchikan has a strong musical history, with the band, choir, drama and arts covered — it’s just missing one thing.

“Jeff and I both just love this music and find it absolutely stunningly beautiful, and we have the musicians in town to do it, and it’s that one little niche that Ketchikan doesn’t quite have covered as far as the music scene,” she said.

Those musicians include Rebekka Esbjornson and Hannah Hendrickson on violin I; Lydia Antonsen, Barbara Stanley, Adelaide Strait and Amanda Welsh on violin II; Kelly Burke, Hamilton Cleverdon and Dorica Jackson on viola; Tanya Antonsen and Rachel Schoenfeld on cello; Chazz Gist on bass; Jamie Karlson on flute; Kathleen Light on oboe; Hannah Crowder and Nuss on bassoon; Shelly Epler on trumpet; Melina Bossert on horn; and Felix Wong on timpani.

They will be playing several pieces from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, including I “Allegro Molto,” “II Andante” and “III Menuetto.”

Nuss will then perform her solo vocal piece, “Ach Ich Fühls.” It was originally sung by the character Pamina in the Mozart opera “The Magic Flute.” The character thinks she’s lost her love, Pamino, and she feels like her heart is breaking, and only when she dies will her sadness cease.

“Which is very characteristic of most young women,” Nuss said. “It always seems like, ‘My heart is broken and it’s not going to stop breaking until I’m dead.’

“It’s a really difficult song to sing, especially for me,” she added. “As far as range, it’s a very high range for the singer, so it’s a challenge for me, which is exciting — I like challenges. I sang a lot of opera in college, but since I’ve become the band director here in Ketchikan, I’ve not used a lot of those skills. It’s been really fun to kind of dust of some of my opera skills.”

The woodwind trio — Jamie Karlson, Light and Nuss — will then perform “Souvenir de Caen” by Yokoyama Shin-Itchiro, and “Goldberg Variationen” by Johan Sebastian Bach. The trio and the Ketchikan Orchestra Project will perform other pieces at the concert, as well.

They hope to have two concerts a year from now on, and Nuss believes everyone in the community should come to the show. Admission is by donation, and Nuss said it’s likely to be like nothing like they’ve ever heard — it can’t be compared to a band, jazz or singing group.

“It’s just such beautiful, stunning music. I can’t explain it,” Nuss said. “I’ll never forget the first time I ever heard an orchestra. Every time I hear it, it’s that same feeling. How does that tiny little bow on that little string create the most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard in your entire life?

“It’s just almost overwhelming,” she continued. “I think if you’ve never experienced that, you have to come and experience it.”