Anchorage Festival of Music revives first classical concert in city exactly 100 years later

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 5:57 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Festival of Music spent many months of the pandemic gathering musicians and creating a plan to revive “A Longfellow Evening,” the first classical music concert ever held in the city. It was performed on April 11, 1921, and now exactly 100 years later, the organization is bringing it back.

Before reenacting the concert was an idea, learning and researching it was more of an obsession by Artistic Director Laura Koenig. She spent the last two years digging into the history of the music, the performers, and the place that Anchorage was a century ago.

She said it was a surprise to learn about the presence of classical music in Anchorage so soon after it was incorporated. Koenig discovered in her research that the then Anchorage Daily Times documented much of the preparation for the original performance.

“I had no idea. I mean I knew there was music in Anchorage from the very beginning,” she said. “There’s a very funny advertisement that appears early on in the paper. For the Montana Poolroom, that says ‘classical music every afternoon, piano and violin. And you will like it.’”

Koenig explained that the original performance had 32 musicians in it. She’s even been in touch with some of their descendants.

“The thing that’s been most rewarding for me. I forward traced everybody,” Koenig said. “for some of them, it was a surprise that their ancestor had been in music. But for many of them, you know their grandmother or their great aunt, really inspired them to go on and do something in the arts.”

Because of the pandemic, there won’t be a live, in-person recreation. Instead, the Anchorage Festival of Music has recorded individual parts that have been put together by audio and video engineers. The entire concert will be posted on YouTube on April 11 to coincide with the original showtime.

In addition, there will be a live lecture via Zoom from the Anchorage Museum, hosted by the Anchorage Festival of Music and the Cook Inlet Historical Society, to inform people about the history of the show, the performers, and the historical context.

The lecture requires pre-registration, which can be done here.

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