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Community Orchestra performs June 5

Free concert features Strauss, Tchaikovsky

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PHIL LAPIN - ECCO director Roger G. Nickerson leads the audience in a singalong at a recent East County Community Orchestra concert.Without even knowing it, you’ve likely heard Johan Strauss’ “An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314,” one of several pieces the East County Community Orchestra will perform at a free 3 p.m. concert on Sunday, June 5, in David Douglas High School, 1400 S.E. 130th Ave.

The waltz’s full English title is “By the Beautiful Blue Danube,” but the orchestral piece is popularly known by the shorter title “Blue Danube” and has been used in such movies as “2001: A Space Odyssey” as well as numerous commercials and cartoons.

The orchestra’s director, Roger G. Nickerson, notes Strauss originally composed the piece in 1866, and premiered its orchestral version for the 1867 Paris World’s Fair. Nickerson says “Blue Danube” is one of “several pieces emphasizing our ‘Waltz into Spring’ theme,” and adds the orchestra also will perform Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz.”

In addition to the Waltz King’s pieces, the orchestra will tackle the “On to Victory March” from J.P. Sousa’s operetta “The Free-Lance,” and “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky, the latter performed by numerous ballet companies each Christmas season, Nickerson says. He adds that the orchestra will also perform tunes for Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” as well as music to commemorate Memorial Day, a medley called “Armed Forces: The Pride of America.”

Minds on music

Founded in 1978, the nonprofit East County Community Orchestra boasts 75 professional and amateur musicians, and membership is open to musicians in the Portland-Vancouver area. Members range in age from 40 to 90, and Nickerson has directed the group since 2014.

A resident of Oregon City, Nickerson has worked in both public education and music ministry, particularly for the United Methodist Church, and also served as interim director of the Willamette Falls Symphony in 2000. He enjoys directing ECCO for a variety of reasons.

“I find the group musically exciting and willing to improve their musical skills,” he says. “The group is like having a very large family that really enjoys being together. Our general focus is to share our love and joy of performance with the audience.”

L. Jean Graham plays second violin in the orchestra, and also serves as president of the orchestra’s board of directors. She says she’s particularly excited to play a medley from the musical “Showboat” at the upcoming concert.

“It’s just a nice arrangement, and it’s familiar to everyone,” she says, noting the medley includes such classic tunes as “Ol’ Man River.” “As a violinist, being a part of that performance is fun and lighthearted, and the rhythms and melodies make it special.”

As for the orchestra itself, Graham has played with it since 2007, and agrees with Nickerson’s take on the musicians’ camaraderie.

“There are orchestras where people just play with each other, but then pack up and go once they’re finished,” she says. “But the people in East County Community Orchestra are genuinely interested in each other, and we visit with one another and some of us are close friends.” 

If you go

WHO: East County Community Orchestra

WHAT: Spring Concert

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, June 5

WHERE: Horner Performing Arts Center, David Douglas High School, 1400 S.E. 130th Ave.

COST: Free, donations welcome

INFO: eccoorchestra.org