LAST SQUALL – Skaters head to Swan Lake during a snow squall Saturday night --  the last day of skating before temperatures warmed up to above freezing. Birch Equipment Rentals donated the use of a high intensity light during the recent cold snap to aid evening skaters. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Recital to Inaugurate Gift Piano at Church

Sentinel Staff Writer
    A topnotch classical musician, a 100-year-old Steinway and the beautiful acoustics of a historic Sitka church will share the spotlight Thursday at a recital to celebrate the donation of the piano to the Sitka Summer Music Festival – and the community.
    “For 100 years old, it’s really definitely a good piano,” said Alfredo Oyaguez Montero, who will be a guest pianist at the upcoming Autumn Classics series. “The keyboard is great, responsive. The acoustics of the church help.”
    Oyaguez will play a recital 5:30 p.m. Thursday as St. Peter’s Episcopal church welcomes the Steinway Model 0 to its new home. The recital is free and open to the public.
    The piano was donated to the festival by Linda Kumin, a festival patron from Anchorage, who had it crated up and shipped to Sitka in June. Festival Executive Director Kayla Boettcher said the gift presented the organization with the opportunity to partner with St. Peter’s to provide it with a permanent home.
    For the 45-minute program, Oyaguez plans to select pieces that show off the beauty of the instrument, helped by the acoustics of the historic church at 611 Lincoln Street. As he spoke to the Sentinel today Oyaguez said he was still fine-tuning the program for Thursday, but that it should include some standard German fare as well as pieces by Spanish composers, including Astor Piazzolla. Oyaguez’ home is in Mallorca, Spain.
    Oyaguez gave solid reviews to the instrument, which was built about 100 years ago at the Steinway factory in New York. Pianos are affected by age, but Oyaguez said the New York Steinways have a reputation of being more resilient than those manufactured in Hamburg, Germany.
    As to this particular piano, Oyaguez commented, “I found it very comfortable and rewarding to play on it.”
    Since its arrival this summer the Kumin piano has been played at special programs as well as at regular Episcopalian church services. The church is a popular venue for amateur as well as professional musicians, and community concerts.
    “We’re grateful we have this space for the piano, and to share it with the community,” said the Rev. Julie Platson, rector of St. Peter’s.
    Oyaguez was a guest artist at the Sitka Summer Music Festival in 2018, and will perform this fall at Juneau Jazz and Classics in Juneau Sept. 7 and 8, followed by a SSMF concert in Cordova on Sept. 9. He will perform on the first weekend of the Autumn Classics Sept. 13-15 and Sept. 19-22 in Anchorage.
    Oyaguez has a master’s of music from Yale University and master’s degrees in conducting with Professor Heiichiro Ohyama and Piano Performance from University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been associate conductor and general manager of the UCSB Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theater and a lecturer for the Conducting Department at the UCSB Department of Music.
    Oyaguez has a “High Degree in Music” and the “Piano Professor Diploma” from the Madrid Royal Conservatory where he studied with Professors Almudena Cano, Consuelo Mejias and Josep Colom. He is on the faculty of the Palma de Mallorca Conservatory in the Balearic Islands and is artistic director of the Deia International Music Festival and the Palau March Chamber series, and director and founding member of the Camerata Deia. He is a professor at the Folkwang Universitat der Kunste in Essen, Germany, and the “International Music Seminars “Musica en Compostela.”
    This season, he performed at El Paso Pro Musica, and the Northwest Bach Festival, where Zuill Bailey (Sitka Festival artistic director) is artistic director. Oyaguez also played at a festival in Mesa, Arizona.
    During his nine days in Sitka, Oyaguez been visiting schools, and talking to the kids about music, music history and culture.
    “He really enjoys being in Sitka and it’s great he’s willing to share his experiences with the community,” said Boettcher.
    Kumin said today from Anchorage that she decided to donate the instrument after she was unable to find a buyer, and is happy her gift will be appreciated by the Festival and community.
    “It needs to be played,” she said. “I’m glad someone’s going to play it.”

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