SANDPOINT — Bleak weather days with low fog feel akin to walking around with a dirty coat on your head. If paint hues were named after the drippy, drab days in North Idaho this time of the year, they might be called cinder block or punitive gray.
But delightfully and contrarily, there are so many quality concerts and performances during the holidays in Sandpoint in the next three weeks — and very diverse ones at that — it is possible to have enjoy one’s self without focusing on the drearisome weather.
Some 65 individuals in the Pend Oreille Chorale and Orchestra have rehearsed for months in preparation for its 25th annual holiday concert. This year it is “A Musical Gift for Christmas,” so named by conductors Mark and Caren Reiner for “the generosity and love shown by the community” through donations at the concerts, as well as the large audiences, said Caren Reiner.
The first performance is at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13 and the second is 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15, both at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 601 S. Lincoln. Selkirk Brass will precede the chorale and orchestra with festive holiday music on trumpets, French horn, baritone tuba, and trombone/tuba, Caren said, followed by the chorale with five selections covering several centuries, including international carols and 20th century classical pieces.
A piano teacher at Music Conservatory of Sandpoint, Caren will play “Mozart Piano Quintet” with the concert mistress, first violin Gayle McCutchan; Janet Peterson, second violin; Marj Cook, viola; and Mark Old, cello. This will open the second half of the concert, she said, followed by the orchestral part of the program featuring pieces from the “Nutcracker Suite.”
The final piece is a Christmas composition written by orchestra conductor and composer Mark Reiner, written for both the orchestra and the chorale — “Christmas In the Stillness the Star.”
The performances are free and everyone is welcome.
Jack Frost Fest
A family-friendly event, the third annual Jack Frost Festival will provide many hours of what is sure to feel like sunshine inside the Heartwood Center — the former Catholic church — on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. when Creations will have face painting and cookie building for the children; dogs will visit from the Schweitzer Avalanche Rescue Dogs; and attendees can find out about cross-country skiing lessons and opportunities to participate from members of the Sandpoint Nordic Club. “It’s all about helping people enjoy the winter,” said Robb Mattox, co-owner of Mattox Farms Productions, named after Robb’s family’s farm in southern Virginia.
Beer tasting of “assorted local and regional winter ales with a few lighter beers in the mix and a cabin fever raffle” will provide some heady winter fun opportunities, said Mattox, but the main purpose is musical entertainment.
Canadian singer-songwriter Kevin Dorin, who describes himself online as a country blues artist, opens the show in the chapel hall at 5 p.m., followed by local musicians Ben Olson and Cadie Archer, who call themselves Harold’s IGA after the iconic Sandpoint grocery store where so many locals shopped in the wee hours in years gone by and where gigantic cookies could be purchased for 50 cents.
Olson and Archer have released three full-length albums and one five-song EP. To listen, go to haroldsiga.com Both musicians are versatile; Olson plays guitar, ukulele, piano, musical saw and he writes and sings the songs. Cadie plays banjo, ukulele, piano, musical saw, accordion, melodica, glockenspiel and she sings harmonies. Ali Thomas will sit in for the band’s drummer, Josh Vitalie, on drums at the fest. They play at 5:45 p.m.
Following Cadie and Ben will be the lively band Runaway Symphony, a folk rock band from Moscow at 7 p.m. and the oh-so-popular Spokane-based band Trego at 9:30 p.m. that will play until people go home. Trego is in its ninth year of playing Americana/rock and roll featuring heartfelt songwriting and vocal harmonies.
In the Grove Room, Kevin Dorin will play when the bands take a break.
For even more musical ventures, Mattox Farm is producing a show in Bonners Ferry at the Pearl Theater Friday, Dec. 13 featuring Hillstomp, an unusual blues duo with homemade instruments from Portland who might offer a surreal experience, and in the dribbling days of December, why not go? If you plan to attend both events, the cost is $30.
Tickets for the Jack Frost Fest are available at Eichardt’s, Evans Brothers, 7B Grooves and at mattoxfarm.com. Advance tickets are $20; $25 at the door; $10 for youth and free for those age 5 and under.
Christmas Guitar Summit
For extraordinary guitar music by guitar masters, the Christmas Guitar Summit is coming to Sandpoint at 7:30-9:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Heartwood Center and 7:30 p.m. at the Pearl Theater in Bonners Ferry, Sunday, Dec. 22.
Presented by the Friends of the Guitar Hour radio, the summit features renown guitarists Leon Atkinson of Sandpoint, the Tonedevil Brothers, and Sandpoint’s Mike Johnson on a wide range of guitars and styles.
Atkinson started playing the guitar at age 3 when his father took him to the Apollo Theater in New York City. At age 8, he studied guitar at the Henry Street Settlement in New York with Mark Oalth, who taught him folk guitar. At that young age, he won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts contest and performed with the McGuire Sisters. He studied classical guitar with Albert Valdes Blain from Cuba and performed with poet Langston Hughes.
Atkinson went on to play Carnegie Hall in 1975 and later moved West where he performed with the Spokane Symphony and he presently is head of the Guitar Department at Gonzaga University.
The Tonedevil Brothers, Anthony Powell, who plays mandolin and sings, and brother David, harp guitar, are best known for designing the modern harp guitar; they will perform new arrangements of swing, bluegrass, blues, and Americana.
Mike Johnson studied classical composition and theory at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2007 he started his group, the 8-Legged Monster, a 10-piece jazz ensemble, selling out shows at San Francisco jazz clubs. He organized the 14-piece orchestra, RayBand, which performed music by Ray Charles. His work is heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. Three years ago he moved back to Idaho to be closer to his family.
Tickets for this event are $25, available through http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ref/19649/event/4448152
Opera — Hansel and Gretel
You generally might have to travel quite far to have this kind of experience, said Karin Wedemeyer, professional opera singer and executive director and founder of the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint.
Wedemeyer was speaking of the upcoming performance of a local group of professional opera singers who with local children will perform “Hansel and Gretel” at 3 p.m.-4:10 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22 at the Heartwood Center, 615 Oak, and 3 p.m., Monday, Dec. 23 at the same venue.
Bel Canto Opera was founded in 2016 “to bring opera back into the eyes of fine arts beholders and the next generation who might think opera is stuffy,” said Wedemeyer.
Bel Canto is a chamber opera with core singers — Wedemeyer, soprano, who will play the part of witch; Brenda Rutledge, mezzo soprano, who plays the mother; John Fitzgerald, baritone, who will perform as the father. Lucinda Meshberg will play Hansel; Jamie Langford plays Gretel; and Sloane Ettinger plays the Dew Fairy.
Wedemeyer believes this is a fine opportunity for children to hear opera in this very palatable setting.
“We are not out for perfection,” said Wedemeyer, adding there is a kind of purity when you bring in children. “They’re doing a nice job in their roles, learning to project without microphones,” she added.
Gingerbread house building will occur after the show for children to bring their own structure of sweets home.
Cost is $5 for students; $15 for adults; $25 for families.
Music Matters Winter Concert
Some 160 students at the Music Conservatory at Sandpoint will present its Music Matters winter concert from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, 526 S. Olive. The youth orchestra, youth choir, and percussion groups will play Christmas music. There is no cost.
This Christmas Night
A collaborative holiday concert celebrating music and dance will be performed by the Suzuki String Academy students and the Allegro Dance Studio students in an interactive live performance experience from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 with an evening gala at 6 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center in Ponderay. Adult tickets include one beverage and a dessert. Children’s tickets include meeting the characters and a visit to the hot chocolate station. Cost is $35. For tickets — https://thischristmasnight.ticketleap.com/this-christmas-night/dates/Dec-14-2019_at_0600PM
More Christmas Concerts/Performances
A Celtic Christmas featuring the award-winning Irish trio, Affiniti, will perform at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Panida. The event is sold out.
Pend Oreille Arts Council’s sponsored event, Eugene Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” is set for 7 p.m., Dec. 18 at the Panida. This event is sold out.
Studio 1 Academy will present the ballet dance recital of “Jazzy Nutcracker” at 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 14 at the Panida Theater, according to the Panida’s website.
The Hankers, a country western band, performs at the Panida at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15 at the Panida as a benefit for the food bank. Bring a food item.
Selkirk Brass Band plays at the First Presbyterian Church from 5-6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14.
Alas, the aforementioned events should chase away the dreary-weather related blues, and keep in mind these are just a few of the holiday events featured in our town this month.
Susan Drinkard can be reached at email@example.com.