That's Maestro Linn Weeda Saturday evening, directing the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, at the Homer High School Mariners Auditorium. I took this shot at the point in Pyotr Tchaikovsky's tone poem, Romeo and Juliet, where the love theme has its final reprise in the full orchestra. It is one of the most moving moments in the Romantic Era musical literature, and must be a great joy to conduct.
Especially when the conductor can get such a lush and vibrant response as Linn got from this community orchestra. I'm very familiar with Romeo and Juliet, although I've never gotten to direct it. But, like all of Tchaikovsky's masterpieces, it is a work that relies upon the conductor to make its intricacies as open, honest and clear as they can possibly be. It takes knowledge, study, preparation and energy to do that.
When Linn gets up on the podium, whether it is with his usual, and always outstanding ensemble, the Anchorage Youth Symphony, with the Anchorage Symphony, where he is Associate Conductor, as guest conductor around Alaska, or when leading a chamber group, he is very prepared. It showed in all aspects of the Friday and Saturday performances of the KPO. Linn chose a full fare: A suite of dances by Tielman Susato, my Gordon's Last Ride Rag, Richard Strauss' 1st Horn Concerto, Romeo and Juliet, and Edward Elgar's seldom heard gem, Wand of Youth. Weeda - and the KPO - pulled it off. Twice.
Anchorage Daily News Arts Editor, Mike Dunham, commented last year in a review of a Youth Symphony concert, about the level of preparation Maestro Weeda always puts into his craft:
I have to attribute some of this alternative reading — maybe most of it — to the intelligence of Linn Weeda as a conductor. The former AYS member who is now director of the group has a talent not just for drawing the top effort from his players, but for thinking through the construction of a piece of music and figuring out how to maximize its effect. In other words, he shows young instrumentalists how to analyze compositions like an adult.
I agree. To illustrate, not only how he gets to know an orchestral score (the blueprint a conductor uses), but how it can translate into graphic vibrancy, here's a picture I took yesterday, after the Homer concert, of what Linn did to a couple of the pages of his copy of the score to my rag:Every page is like that. I told Linn, "You've put about as much work into this piece as I have!"
I'm a member of the Anchorage Civic Orchestra. They premiered Gordon's Last Ride Rag last November. The Juneau Symphony Orchestra played it seven weeks ago. But I have to say, after listening to the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra twice now, that they are every bit as good as the Anchorage Civic Orchestra, and I can't wait to hear them again.