Free symphony concert is set for Saturday

Mike Dunham
Cindy Hickox, cellist and co-principal cellist, with the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California, touring Alaska this month.
Photo by Dave Weiland
Art by Tim Troll is part of the "Sailing for Salmon" exhibit on display at Homer's Pratt Museum through Aug. 1. The show includes on-site restoration of a Bristol Bay double-ender sail-powered fishing boat.
Julia Herbst, bassist, with the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California, touring Alaska this month.
Photo by Dave Weiland
Joshua Herman, cello, with the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California, touring Alaska this month.
Photo by Dave Weiland
Diane Converse is the director of the Pratt Museum in Homer.
Pratt Museum photo
Max Walker, trombone, with the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California, touring Alaska this month.
Hilda Li, violist and concert master, with the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California, touring Alaska this month.
Photo by Dave Weiland

Live orchestra music is in short supply in Anchorage right now. But on Saturday there will be a free concert featuring the Anchorage Youth Symphony and the Young People's Symphony Orchestra of California. The time is 8 p.m. The place is the Discovery Theatre.

The YPSO has been in business for 74 years. Their Alaska tour also includes a concert in Fairbanks at UAF's Davis Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Wednesday and at Kenai High School Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. In both of those concerts, as in Anchorage, they will be joined by local symphonic musicians.

It will be the YPSO's first trip to Alaska and its first trip out of their region since 2008, when AYS director Linn Weeda heard them and set the wheels in motion for a collaboration.

The announced program will include Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture and an excerpt from his Eighth Symphony, selections from Stravinsky's "Firebird," Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and music by de Falla, Sousa and Leroy Anderson. Well maybe not everything, but that's the potential play list.

Hey, audience, shut up!

Live classical music may be in short supply, but there was plenty of jazz in town last weekend. The Spenard Jazz Fest kicked off June 10 with the CD release party for Yngvil Vatn Guttu's "Akutaq" at the Tap Root Cafe, now at the location of the old Fly By Night Club and House of Rock.

On the blog,, I commented on the performance, but also complained about the fact that half of the crowd seemed to be talking while the music was going on. At times they drowned out the performers.

This dismayed me. I'm old enough to remember when Eddie Harris performed in a Muldoon bar. I'm old enough to remember the Black Orchid club on 15th, with audiences that were as remarkable as the musicians, older black men, mostly, tending toward suits, nursing cigars and glasses of gin for hours at a time and stone silent when the music was playing, at least until the solos wrapped up.

I'm not sure when club crowds decided they had leave to yak when good musicians are presenting their best efforts, but it's a bad idea, disrespectful to both the artists and those who have a genuine interest in what they do. Some of us paid our $15 cover charge expecting to listen to the band, not the noisy banter of drunks.

Mr. Kinkade, paint my RV

Speaking of bad ideas: In what is either marketing genius or the most revolting innovation in the history of art, a company in China is offering to turn your snapshot into a painting in the style of Thomas Kinkade.

"If you have taken any beautiful digital photos of landscape, scene... that you want to transform them into hand painted oil paintings, please contact with us," says the e-mail. "We can paint the paintings into Thomas Kinkade style, also realistic style, impressionism style and palette knife oil painting."

Kinkade's homey landscapes -- either cozy or kitschy depending on your point of view -- are adored by millions of people who get his paintings, prints, posters and cards. They're also reviled by others who find them saccharine and devoid of content.

My opinion generally falls into the latter category. All the same, I'd be curious to see what these probably talented and undoubtedly opportunistic artisans could do with a photo of a trailer in Muldoon, a condo in Fairbanks, a tent in Tanana or a cabin in Kwethluk.

For the time being, I think I'll stick with the more substantive landscapes of Scott McDaniel.

Thinking classical

Even when there's slim live classical music, Anchorage is fortunate to have a full-time classical radio station. Now KLEF's Rick Goodfellow has started a website dedicated to thoughts on classical music. His first postings have to do with the YouTube Symphony phenomenon. Check it out at

Pratt Museum plans expansion

Diane Converse, the new director and CEO of Homer's Pratt Museum was in Anchorage on Tuesday to talk about the museum's expansion project. Plans call to create a new facility on the site, only about 1,000 square feet larger than the present building, but using design features to "gain a lot of operational efficiency."

The new Pratt will have more room for collections, which are "bursting at the seams" right now, expanded parking, room for bigger historical items and more of them, room for educational and community gatherings, an extended trail system and space for "back-of-house" support -- that's the part the public doesn't see and the biggest area of many museums; there's none at the present Pratt.

It's hard to believe, but the current structure had its start as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial in 1968. It seems like just yesterday I was gawking at the fossils and artifacts between the notions and bolts of fabrics in Verna Pratt's store.

"What happens to the old building is a matter of major concern for a lot of people," Converse said. "There's an emotional connection to it." It will most likely remain and be "repurposed" for use by other community nonprofits.

Converse, who took the Homer post after working in Seattle for several years, will be making more trips to Anchorage. Currently 40 or 50 museum members -- or just under 10 percent of the total Pratt membership -- has an Anchorage address.

But this is where the people are, and it seems clear that Converse is counting on support from big city folks who visit the lower Kenai Peninsula or have second homes in that neighborhood as well as Anchorage arts patrons in general. "We're trying to build a base," she said.

With luck, construction will start in 2014 and be completed in 2016. Right now the Pratt has raised $1.7 million out of the estimated full cost of $8.5 million.

That's right; they plan to rebuilt and update one of the five or six biggest museums in Alaska, an institution of national standing and statewide importance, for between 3 and 5 percent of the cost of the new crime lab, or the Anchorage School Board's proposed West/Romig pleasure dome, depending on whose numbers you use.

Maybe that attention to the price tag is because the Pratt is a private nonprofit organization.

Find Mike Dunham online at or call 257-4332.