Symphony will make audience howl

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'Peter and the Wolf' will feature big sound, big puppets on Dec. 5
by: Contributed photo, In addition to ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra will perform holiday selections, along with the Girlchoir, at Mt. Hood Community College on Sunday, Dec. 5. The annual show has become a local favorite and usually sells out.

Erin Winemiller, a Gresham resident and cellist with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, notes she's a professional until the puppets come out.

'It is hard not to be curious about what the audience is seeing,' she says.

Well, she'll just have to keep her eyes focused on the score in front of her because the symphony is preparing to present its annual production of Sergei Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf,' featuring the Tears of Joy Theatre puppets at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at Mt. Hood Community College, 26000 S.E. Stark St.

'I think that the combination of a live orchestra and live puppeteers is what makes this production truly unique,' Winemiller adds. 'Audience members young and old are drawn into the story more fully because everything is brought to life in a very vivid way.'

Russian to finish

In the late 1930s, the Soviet Union's Central Children's Theater commissioned Prokofiev, a famed composer, to write a musical symphony just for children. The authorities wanted to cultivate 'musical tastes in children from the first years of school,' according to prokofiev.org.

In just four days, Prokofiev responded with 'Peter and the Wolf,' which has since become a children's classic. The narrated symphony relates the tale of Peter's efforts to capture a wolf.

'For the audience it is very entertaining to hear the characters being depicted by different instruments,' notes Sara Pyne, a Boring resident and violinist with the symphony. 'In our performance, they will have the added visual aid of puppets, but it is amazing how you can follow the story line just with the music.'

Pyne adds she received her first violin for Christmas when she was 9, so sharing her musical gift with an audience of children 'is one of the highlights of the season for me.'

She particular enjoys hearing how the little ones take to the musical tale.

'To hear them laugh and react to the story is very rewarding,' she says.

'We've been performing the score for many years, and it is not particularly challenging for the string section, so most of us can just sit back and enjoy the performance,' Winemiller adds.

Pet 'n' play

Prior to the concert, children are encouraged to take part in an instrument 'petting zoo' presented by the Community Music Center in downtown Portland, where children can try out musical instruments. There will also be an art display from area school children.

The second half of the concert features holiday favorites including a carol sing-a-along and soloists from the Portland Symphonic Girlchoir under the direction of Roberta Jackson. The choir consists of a score of girls ages 11 through 16, who hail from the Portland metropolitan area.

The show's organizers ask patrons to bring nonperishable food items for donation to Snow-CAP Community Charities, which serves low-income folks in East County.

If you go

WHAT: Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra presents Prokofiev's 'Peter and The Wolf'

WITH: Narrator Olga Sanchez of Milagro Teatro - Miracle Theater - along with puppets from Tears of Joy Theatre

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5

WHERE: Mt. Hood Community College Theater, entrance at Kane Road and 29th Street.

COST: $10 for adults and seniors; $5 for students and children

INFO: 503-234-4077, columbiasymphony.org

Key players

Huw Edwards is in his 11th season as music director and conductor of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra. Born in Wales, Edwards holds degrees from England and United States and is also in his sixth season as music director of the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.

Tears of Joy is recognized as one of the nation's outstanding puppet theaters. Each year the programs of the theater serve more than 225,000 children and adults. Info: tojt.com.

Olga Sanchez is an actor, director, playwright and educator. In 2005, she received a Portland Drama Critics' DRAMMY award for Excellence in Direction for Milagro Teatro's production of 'Lorca in a Green Dress' by Nilo Cruz.

Roberta Jackson is recognized as a leading choral educator, both for her work spanning 30 years teaching in public schools in Minnesota and Oregon and her work with Portland Symphonic Girlchoir since its founding in 1989.