Alpin and hugs

CATE GABLE PHOTO World-class pianist Alpin Hong (center), whose performances were sponsored by the Water Music Society, was mobbed by enthusiastic fans after his music workshop/demonstration for students at the Hilltop Auditorium in October.

Firebrand pianist

In mid-October, many of us lucky Peninsula residents were wowed and astonished by the performance of Water Music Society (WMS) sponsored pianist Alpin Hong. The concert took place on a stunning sunny beach day at the Eagle’s Nest: a place, amazingly, I had never been in my nearly 15 years of living here.

As we listened to Alpin’s spectacular performance simultaneous with looking over his shoulder out the broad picture windows to the spread of water all the way to Sand Island and beyond — the magic was palpable. “Water Music” couldn’t have been a more appropriate name for the experience we shared.

Some in the audience had the pleasure of hearing Alpin nine years before — Robert Brake was his “taxi driver” that time — so they knew the treat we were in for. We first-time Alpin fans were blown away; the pleasure of live music performed by a world class pianist who traveled to us in our little neck of the woods was unforgettable.

Alpin whirled through his repertoire of pieces — some, like “Rhapsody in Blue,” familiar, and others, like “Pictures at an Exhibition,” less so — with a grace and polish that was surpassed only by his extremely vulnerable and intimate repartee between songs. The venue encouraged the feeling that we were sitting in his living room while he played only for us. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop as he pounced the ivories on this the culmination of the 34th year of Water Music performances.

Diane Marshall, the WMS guru of artist selection, says of Alpin, “We just fell in love with this ‘pianistic firebrand,’ as he’s called.” And, it’s true, the quality of his playing — he has toured the globe — his technique, emotional range, and humor mark him as a truly remarkable musician and individual. As the New York Times says, “Hong’s warmth, charm and seemingly boundless crystalline energy are contagious.” Diane continues, “He just inspires me so much — we won’t wait another nine years to have him back!”

Now that I’ve teased you with something many of you may have missed, I must just encourage you never, ever to overlook another WMS performance! What this dedicated group of individuals adds to the culture of the Peninsula would be hard to quantify.

Kids and music

And just to make my point even clearer, let me talk about the amazing ways that WMS ensures our young people can also participate in the riches music provides us. The morning after the Eagle’s Nest performance, Alpin arrived bright and bushy-tailed to tame and entertain a Hilltop Auditorium full of middle and high schoolers.

Kids marched in scraggly lines into the auditorium wiggling, heckling and poking each other, laughing, noisy, brash and radiant. How anyone could even calm them down and shut them up to listen to anything seemed a Herculean feat. But Alpin didn’t hesitate a moment; he had them in the palm of his hand. And in his inimitable brand of music education, he used their own language — the tunes from video games and movies — to explain and show how musical phrases and note sequences when strung together make us afraid (theme from Jaws!), excited (Harry Potter tunes), or take us back to a simpler time (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”). Even us adults in the audience couldn’t help but learn a few things.

As music instructor Rachel Lake said, “The kids loved the concert. All of them buzzed about it for weeks. It inspired many of them to try piano playing for the first time. Outreach experiences like this help build the music program in the Ocean Beach School District. Alpin made music look ‘cool’ to them.”

WMS started about nine or 10 years ago wanting to provide a live music experience for our young students in addition to their financial support. Before WMS made actual performances in the schools possible, they had been giving classrooms funds for music-supported events and equipment. Diane says, “Our normal annual WMS contribution has been in the neighborhood of $5,000. We’ve supported adjudicated competitions, clinics, jazz camps, workshops, college visitations, and chances to perform. One year we gave money that went toward a piano for the middle school.”

“Also, in April this year, we brought the Obo Addy Legacy Project here, including six or seven artists from Ghana. They performed interactive-with-kids assemblies at Naselle (all grades attended) and at Ocean Beach and Long Beach Elementary schools. Over 600 kids participated. The artists were wonderful, wearing colorful costumes, drumming and dancing. They explained the culture of Ghana and taught the kids to dance and held drum workshops for 30 or so kids at each school. The kids raved about it.” WMS leverages their resources with a grant from the Western States Arts Federation, which supports putting visiting musicians directly in touch with our kids.

More recently as part of many performances, our local music heroine, Barbara Poulshock, has been identifying talented young musicians to perform as part of the series. This year Rachel’s son Christopher played his trumpet to begin Alpin’s performance. Also this year, music students were asked to help serve food at selected concerts; this allows them to hear the performances for adults and engages them more closely in the events.

Christmas Concert and a Thank You!

Having said all that, you now have another chance to experience the work that WMS does on behalf of our home town. Their annual Christmas Concert takes place December 2, Sunday, at Inn at Harbour Village in Ilwaco (120 Williams Avenue, NE). The award-winning Rebecca Kilgore Quintet will be performing jazz tunes and others from the Great American Songbook. This concert, still only and always $10, will likely sell out so don’t wait.

Tickets available online at Cookies and savory pupu’s begin the evening and beverages to suit everyone’s tastes, from non-alcoholic to wine and champagne, are available.

I’d like to thank every last one of the WMS board members for the amazing work they do: Nancy Allen, Luey Anderson, Darlene Houser, Connie Kobes, Diane Marshall, Jim Sherman, Susan Spence, Linda Stark, Diane Thompson and Sara Zaga. Stay tuned for announcements about their 2019 season and their 35th anniversary celebrations next year. Of course, donations and volunteers are always welcome. Contact Diane at

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