Arts and Entertainment

Island Consort prepares for ‘juicy’ concert

Keegan Harshman, Sheila Weidendorf, Dyanne Harshman and Chris Harshman pose for a photo for their upcoming performance Sunday, Nov. 24.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Keegan Harshman, Sheila Weidendorf, Dyanne Harshman and Chris Harshman pose for a photo for their upcoming performance Sunday, Nov. 24.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

Island Consort is heading full force into its inaugural season with four shows and two smaller performances this year.

A portion of the group will be performing this weekend for the Island Consort Chamber Series at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts for a “juicy” performance, in the words of artistic director Sheila Weidendorf.

The group features a special guest, Teo Benson, on violin. Benson began studying the violin on Whidbey Island through the Island Strings program. Music has since taken him to teach violin for 15 years and become a first violinist with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra and director of the Halcyon Strings Music School in Ballard.

Featured musicians from the consort are Weidendorf on the harpsichord and piano, Dyanne Harshman on the flute, Chris Harshman on the bassoon, Keegan Harshman on the double bass and Dianne Vars as secondo piano.

Weidendorf founded the consort about a year ago after attending performances at the Whidbey Island Music Festival. She saw the festival draw in many artists from off-island but also local community members who often played off-island.

She asked herself, “Why are there so many musicians going to the mainland to perform?” It struck her deeply and she decided to get a group together solely from the island.

“I decided then and there to have a music ensemble,” she said.

She since has gathered people who range from professional musicians to high-level amateurs to fill the sections in the consort. The consort features more than 20 members including instrumentalists and vocalists.

After spending nine months getting the group together, vocalists started rehearsing in May and instrumentalists in July. 

“The capacity to have more seasoned musicians next to amateurs is humbling and beautiful all the way around,” she said. “There’s more for everyone that way.”

Though the entity has been in existence for more than a year, their first notes to the public were played in an October concert.

Weidendorf said the sound of the group is one of the many things that make the consort distinct.

“I find that I prefer ensemble music to solo work because of the added resonance and depth to the music,” she said.

She further explained that playing music individually is just a road map, but working in a group helps her explore a piece of music and dig into the depths of what’s hidden.

The group is multifaceted, she said. Aside from being a group exclusively from the island, it is one of the few groups that includes instrumentalists along with vocalists and is also non-directed. Musicians will provide each other with cues in the music to guide themselves.

“We have all these amazing people doing beautiful things,” she said. “I feel fortunate to play together.

Weidendorf said she was excited to perform in this weekend’s performance, and even a little jittery.

“I’m nervous about the harpsichord solo, I haven’t had a harpsichord solo before.”

“It’s always humbling to sit before a piece of great music to have that moment of ‘aha,’ cracking the code in honor of the music itself, to bring something to community,” she said. “I’m grateful for that opportunity every day.”

The chamber music series features music from Christian Friedrich Witt, Nicolas Chédeville, Gioachino Rossini, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Allard and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The performance begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

Tickets cost $10 for students and $15 for adults.

The next performance, a Christmas concert called “In Dulci Jubilo,” will feature the full consort at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 18341 Highway 525, Freeland.


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