Arts and Entertainment

Federal Way symphony's holiday concert this weekend



The Federal Way Symphony that will perform its holiday concert this weekend is far-removed from the one Nancy Ise started with almost 30 years ago.

Back then, it wasnŽ’t even Federal WayŽ’s orchestra. It was the Highline Symphony, 12 years shy of moving here. It was an amateur group, with no promotion of its performances and no ticket sales ŽÐŽÐ just donations at the door. And the members chipped in about $30 apiece to rent music. Ž“We paid to play,Ž” Ise said.

Now itŽ’s the other way around for the 65-member orchestra. TheyŽ’re paid professionals and gaining recognition as one of the Puget Sound regionŽ’s vibrant symphonies. Their notoriety grew after a performance of BeethovenŽ’s Ž“Ninth SymphonyŽ” in the Seattle Opera House to open the Goodwill Games in 1990.

Ž“WeŽ’re reaching more people now and playing much better,Ž” said Ise, a violinist.

Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. LukeŽ’s Church, the orchestraŽ’s regular concert venue, audiences will hear seasonal music. The orchestra will feature a Brahms Concerto for violin and cello by two guest artists ŽÐŽÐ cellist Page Smith and Yuriy Mikhlin, concertmaster and violinist.

Also on the bill is George Fiore, a Seattle pianist well-known to Federal Way audiences, playing the church organ, and Anna Kosakova singing Ž“O Holy Night.Ž”

The conductor is Brian Davenport, who has spent 18 years building the orchestra. His resume includes conducting the world premiere of HandelŽ’s Ž“MessiahŽ” with the Tartarstan Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Russia and the United States. He also has conducted in Finland, Germany and Monte Carlo, studied at Harvard University and in Paris, and is the music director of Evergreen City Ballet.

Founded in Burien in 1960, the orchestra moved to Federal Way in 1985 and began steadily upgrading its performances and musicians. Evidence of the membersŽ’ proficiency is that rehearsal time for concerts has been reduced from five weeks to three days. Ž“You donŽ’t do that without a high caliber of musicians,Ž” Ise said.

Members live as far away as Edmonds and Bainbridge Island. Hiring and paying professionals ensures higher-quality musicianship, since Ž“there arenŽ’t that many musicians to go aroundŽ” for symphonies, Ise noted.

In addition to Davenport, Ise, who has played since 1973, and three other members have been constants during the orchestraŽ’s progression.

Ž“IŽ’m the old lady,Ž” Ise said, laughingly declining to give her age.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and by e-mail at

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