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Originally published Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:35 PM

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Orchestra presents first concert since founder George Shangrow's death

Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers' first concert since the sudden death of its founder, George Shangrow, was a musical success, but sad memories lingered.

Special to The Seattle Times

At first glance, Sunday's concert at Queen Anne's First Free Methodist Church seemed like any other with Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers.

A large flock of silver-haired music lovers chatted with each other. The occasional child darted past, followed by a patient parent in Gortex. Teens giggled in a corner, while a chic foursome chatted in Japanese.

The near-capacity crowd that had gathered for OSSCS's first concert since the untimely, accidental death in August of its founder, George Shangrow, was both young and old; veteran and neophyte; scruffy and chic.

Everything seemed just like it always was.

Except it wasn't.

As Terry Rogers, president of the board of trustees of OSSCS, said in his introductory remarks, "It's a telling time for OSSCS. This is our first concert — in 40 years — without George."

Rogers went on to express his gratitude "for every member of the orchestra and chorus who stood up and said, 'This will continue for many more years.' "

His last remark could have been said by Shangrow himself. "This is not just work we enjoy doing — we must do it."

Guest conductor Roupen Shakarian, recently retired music director of Philharmonia Northwest, strode across the stage to lead the players. In the pause before the baton descended, you could see anguish flit over the faces of many of the musicians. A grimace quickly controlled. A face reddening. A quick dab at the eyes.

And then the music started.

Brassy and loud and exuberant — that's Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks. The musicians threw themselves into the fray, a bit stiffly at first and then with increasing suppleness. In the audience, toes tapped and heads bobbed. A man in a beret waved his fingers in time, as if he were wafting the notes toward him like a scent.

Hoffmeister's Viola Concerto in D Major came next, with soloist Alexandra Takasugi, a junior at Seattle University who took first place in the inaugural Seattle University Concerto Competition. Takasugi was a charming presence on stage, shyly smiling at friends in the audience.

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The emotional heart of the evening was surely the passionate performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major. Concertmaster Stephen Provine was joined by soloists Shari Muller-Ho on flute and Lisa Michele Lewis on harpsichord, all of whom played gorgeously. No doubt, however, many in the audience couldn't help remembering Shangrow at the keyboard.

The late-afternoon concert concluded with a passionate, prayerful choral piece from Handel. The Te Deum in D Major is incantatory and powerful, surging forth, pausing dramatically, and always addressing the divine. The mingled voices of the OSSCS players and choir moved as one, united in feeling and purpose. The group made it quite clear that their work — of making music — must and will go on.

Sumi Hahn: sumi@bewodo.org

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