By Lisa Stapel
The Kent Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO) hosted their annual Halloween-themed concert and costume contest on Friday at St. Cecilia Music Center. This year’s theme was “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The evening began with a costume competition. Children and adults gathered in the Wege Recital Hall grouped by age bracket: ages 9 and under, 10-16 and 16 and over. Henry Obermeyer, age 3, was dressed as a Ghostbuster and was one of the youngest participants. Kakoah Bos, 5, was disguised as an old man. Siblings Xavier and Ali Almonte, ages 13 and 8, combined forces to wear a large two-part costume made of painted cardboard to represent the R.M.S. Titanic.
Grand Rapids Community College Music Director Kevin Dobreff and WOOD-TV8 personalities Casey Jones and Henry Erb were on-hand to serve as judges for the costume contest. After inspecting each entry and chatting with the contenders, they made their decisions. Winners would be announced at intermission. The participants were all given small bags of Halloween candy and sent scurrying to their seats so the show could begin.
The concert began with “The Flying Dutchman,” an overture to an opera by Richard Wagner that tells the tale of a captain cursed to forever sail the seven seas as he searches for his salvation. Fans of the Disney films may also recognize “The Flying Dutchman” as the name of the ship captained by Davy Jones that ferries the souls of those lost at sea to the afterlife.
The orchestra then performed two selections from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. Young dancers from Michigan Ballet Academy joined the musicians on stage as they played music from “Curse of the Black Pearl.” Dressed as colorful pirates, they performed a jig inspired by national Armenian dance, while the more graceful character of Elizabeth Swann was portrayed using the more familiar elements of classical ballet. Soon after Swann’s appearance, gray-faced ghost pirates dressed in rags emerged from the aisles of Royce Auditorium. They climbed onto the stage and lurched towards Swann with rhythmic movements inspired by modern dance. At the end of the performance, the dancers made their exit and the orchestra continued with a selection from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
At intermission, prizes for the costume contest were awarded. Prize bundles included items such as KPO season passes, McDonald’s vouchers, GymCo passes and Barnes and Noble gift certificates. Xavier and Ali Almonte shared the second place prize for their Titanic entry. Kakoah Bos also took second place in his age group.
The evening resumed with performances by two of KPO’s 2018 Concerto Competition winners. For ninth grader Audrey Zhang, 14, of Northville, Michigan, it was her first time being awarded an opportunity to play live with an actual orchestra. She performed during Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and received a standing ovation.
Cameron Gouin, 16, is in 11th grade at East Kentwood High School and performed the Saint Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3, also to a standing ovation.
The concert concluded with a rendition of “The Water Goblin” by composer Antonín Dvořák, a ghoulish tale of a creature who abducts a maiden to be his bride and punishes her dearly when she tries to escape.
After the show, several in attendance offered their praise of the performances and the venue. Kelly Obermeyer, whose husband Rick Obermeyer plays in the symphony, marveled at the value that KPO provides.
“This is kind of like a hidden treasure, you know? … People don’t know about it,” Obermeyer said. “It’s such wonderful music for such an inexpensive price.” Her grandson, Henry, had changed out of his Ghostbusters uniform and was slumped sleepily on a bench. “Too hot,” she said.
Lynn Jakubik, whose daughter Emily Jakubik is one of the violinists in the orchestra, called the soloists “extraordinary” and offered praise to Libor Ondras, KPO’s music director.
“I did enjoy the show,” she said. “The growth of the orchestra has been remarkable under Dr. Ondras.”
Featured violin soloist Cameron Gouin also spoke highly of Libor Ondras.
“He’s so much fun,” Gouin said. “I have a trio that I work with, and last year I got to work with him. He helped us out and he’s great. I love him.” With his big performance behind him, Gouin had simple plans for the weekend. “School work, probably hang out with friends,” he said. “Probably not practice tomorrow.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Friday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. to correct a caption on one of the pictures.