The bedpost-shaped, sometimes comical instrument accompanies Hunter Gordon across continents. Just this month, the Port Angeles-bred musician is performing with orchestras in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Mo., and Charleston, S.C. — before coming to play on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Yet Gordon, 27, admits he wasn’t too familiar with the bassoon when he was a student in Port Angeles.
Undaunted, he took it up.
“It was a completely foreign thing. So it was kind of exciting to figure out how to play it,” said Gordon, who today holds two degrees in bassoon performance, one from Ohio’s Oberlin College and Conservatory and one from Texas’ Rice University.
He’s returning home to be guest soloist with the Port Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which this week offers a program including Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, Grieg’s “Erotik” and two bassoon pieces chosen especially for Gordon and the string orchestra.
The ensemble will appear at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Lopez Ave., Port Angeles, on Friday, Jan. 18, and at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., Sequim, on Saturday, Jan. 19. Both concerts start at 7 p.m.
Tickets to these first Port Angeles Symphony performances of the new year are $15, while youngsters 16 and under accompanied by a paying adult are invited to attend free.
Advance tickets are available at Joyful Noise Music Center in downtown Sequim, Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles and at the Symphony office (call 360-457-5579). Remaining tickets are sold at the door, and all seating is open.
For information about these and the rest of the new season’s concerts February through May, see PortAngelesSymphony.org.
The “Romance for Bassoon and Strings” by Edward Elgar plus “Theme and Variations for Bassoon” from Anton Reicha make these highly unusual concerts, said Jonathan Pasternack, the orchestra’s music director and conductor.
“You get to hear a bassoon solo, and how cool is that?” he quipped.
“It’s a remarkable thing to hear any solo bassoon music in any concert, anywhere,” and Gordon is the one for the occasion.
“He’s been doing some really high-level playing,” Pasternack said. Besides his traveling around the United States, Gordon this past September joined the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. So his home base is New Orleans.
For the past three summers he’s flown to Geneva, Switzerland, to play in the Verbier Festival Orchestra. This festival, Pasternack said, “takes only the cream of the crop.”
Back when Gordon was a teenager in Doug Gailey’s Wind Ensemble at Port Angeles High School, he hoped to attend college and build a career in music — but he wasn’t certain that was at all possible.
“Sometimes it’s strange,” he said, to realize that now, it’s happening. For Gordon, this life requires not only dedication but also humility. When he auditions for a position as a bassoonist, he often competes with scores of others.
“For everything I’ve won, there have been 30 rejections,” he said. “It’s been a big learning process. You develop a thicker skin. Classical music is such a subjective art form. One person can say you sounded great; another person can say you sounded tragic. You learn to accept it, and move on in a positive way.”
Gordon bows to his teachers, beginning with Gailey.
“The more I look back now, more I realize what a great teacher Mr. Gailey was. Even though we were playing band music, we were always listening to the great symphonic works,” Gordon recalled. He also went with then-conductor Ron Jones and the Roughrider Orchestra to play New York City’s Carnegie Hall shortly before graduating Port Angeles High in 2010.
While in high school, Gordon, who is the son of Larry and Jacki Gordon, studied with Otto Eifert, the renowned Cincinnati Orchestra performer who retired in Sequim.
“He is an incredible bassoonist who happened to live 30 minutes away from where I grew up,” he said, adding that Eifert, who hasn’t heard him play since he graduated high school, might come to one of this week’s concerts.
Gordon’s inspirations also include Thelma and Richard McCoy of Port Angeles and Deborah Rambo Sinn of Sequim, with whom he studied piano.
“They were all extremely influential in my musical development,” he said.
Now Gordon is preparing for his performances with Pasternack, whom he salutes for choosing two pieces of music that are nothing alike.
“The Elgar has a very lyrical quality … it shows how the bassoon has a lot of expressive ability. It’s really fun to play music like that. The Reicha is light and fun,” traveling through various moods inside 10 minutes.
Gordon hopes to make each concert a brand-new experience for the listener — “something they didn’t expect. That is what’s great about live performance: Every time, it’s different. Connecting with the audience, providing an interesting experience that changes people’s mood,” he said, “that is the greatest feeling.”