Love the Beach Boys? Olympia orchestra to debut piece that weaves their tunes into symphonies

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From Tchaikovsky and Berlioz to movie music and a playful concert aimed at families, “variety” is the word for the Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s 2023-24 season, which includes four subscription concerts and four others meant to expand the orchestra’s reach.

First up: the North American premiere of “The Seven Symphonies: A Classical Tribute to Beach Boys Music,” a Dutch project that weaves together 33 songs from the beloved and influential California rockers. Olympia is getting the premiere, set for this Saturday, Sept. 16, because orchestra music director Alexandra Arrieche conducted both the album and the live world premiere by the Antwerp Philharmonic.

“The day of the premiere in Antwerp was the day that I got the call that I got the job here in Olympia,” Arrieche said. “I told them because I was super happy. Immediately, Rob (van Weelde, who selected the tunes for the project) went online and checked out the orchestra, and he saw some videos, and he said, ‘This is the perfect orchestra to do the premiere.’”

The Seven Symphonies” incorporates themes from Beach Boys songs, some more recognizable than others. “If you are familiar with the Beach Boys’ music, you will recognize most of the tunes,” Arrieche said. “I say most, because some are puzzles. If you are not familiar, at least you will know ‘God Only Knows.’ ”

Saturday’s concert, not part of the regular season, will be filmed for a Dutch documentary about the international project.

The orchestra’s regular season, with the theme “True Colors” and a focus on diversity and inclusion, begins Oct. 15 with “Pakiam Song,” named for local Young Artists Competition winners Ava Pakiam, a homeschooled eighth-grader, and Chloe Song, a junior at Olympia High School. Pakiam will play Barber’s Violin Concerto, and Song will perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Arrieche is particularly excited about featuring the young artists.

“We had the first competition last year, and we were so impressed with the level of talent,” she said. “Usually, young artists will perform one movement of a concerto in a non-subscription concert, not because they are not talented but because it’s a lot of responsibility playing a whole concerto in a subscription concert. It’s like running a marathon.

“But we saw the potential, and we saw that they were so mature, that we asked … if they would be comfortable to perform a full concerto in a subscription concert. So we are offering them this opportunity to perform a marathon with a professional orchestra. This is something they will never forget.”

Nurturing young musicians is the focus of another of the orchestra’s projects this season as well. The orchestra is enhancing music education in the Olympia School District by offering the Link Up Carnegie Hall program to all fourth-graders.

“With the fourth-grade strings being cut in the Olympia School District, we fast-tracked our plans to implement the program,” said Jennifer Hermann, the orchestra’s executive director. “We worked with Joe Dyvig, who’s coordinating the program with the district. Link Up doesn’t require that you do this as a district-wide initiative, but for me and for Joe, it really seemed like we could not miss the opportunity to do this as a fourth-grade-wide initiative.”

Students will learn to play recorders in their regular music classes, and the program will culminate in a Jan. 18 concert only for students in the program. The orchestra will play from the stage, and the students will play from their seats.

“This will give them something special and more in-depth in music, so that when they get to fifth grade, hopefully they will choose strings or band,” Hermann said. “That’s a critical age.”

Arrieche participated as a guest in a Link Up program a few years ago.

“The experience of having the kids in the concert hall being part of the performance is very special,” she said. “It’s magical for both sides. You see the transformation.”

‘The Seven Symphonies: A Classical Tribute to Beach Boys Music’

  • What: Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the fall is a North American premiere of a suite of music derived from 33 Beach Boys songs. The concert will be filmed for inclusion in a Dutch documentary about the project.

  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

  • Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

  • Tickets: $29-$99

  • More information:

The orchestra season: ‘True Colors’

“Pakiam Song” (3 p.m. Oct. 15): Named for the symphony’s 2023 Young Artists Competition winners, Ava Pakiam and Chloe Song, the concert offers pieces by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Barber and contemporary composer Mason Bates.

“Fantastique” (3 p.m. Feb. 4): On the program are Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and the West Coast premiere of Jacob Banks’ Concerto for Clarinet, played by Ricardo Morales.

“Pride” (3 p.m. March 17): Inspired by prohibited love, the program features Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto played by Kristin Lee, and a surprise ending.

“Flamenco” (3 p.m. April 21): Live flamenco dancing will be included on the program inspired by the culture of Southern Spain. Composers are Bizet, Ravel and early 20th-century Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

Other concerts

The Animated Orchestra Family Concert (3 p.m. Nov. 12): The concert will incorporate a story and opportunities for young listeners to learn about instruments.

More John Williams Movie Music (3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 31): The December 2022 John Williams concert was such a success that the orchestra is doing another.