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Mission Chamber Orchestra Celebrates Music of Portugal

After a COVID-induced two-year hiatus,  on June 12, Mission Chamber Orchestra (MCO) under the baton of Maestro Emily Ray will once again be performing its annual Music of Portugal free community concert at the 103-year-old Five Wounds Portuguese National Church in San José. This is the 16th Portuguese concert and is sponsored, as it is every year, by the Portuguese cultural exchange agency Instituto Camões. Sunday’s program features Portuguese composers from the 18th through the 20th centuries. 

First on the program is Piano Concerto N. 3 by Domingo Bomtempo (1775-1842), a contemporary of Beethoven whose music is reminiscent of the era of Mozart, Hayden and Beethoven. 

Ray picked this particular concerto because “it has a lot of power and drama.” There was also another reason: The orchestral parts were available. “Some of this music isn’t readily available in the U.S.” Even so, Ray had to consolidate the individual parts into a full score. 

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Internationally renowned pianist Tamami Honma joins the orchestra for the Bomtempo concerto. Honma, who makes her home in the South Bay, is recording the complete Beethoven sonatas, which will be available later this year.

“She has great interpretive skills,” says Ray. 

In addition to the Bomtempo concerto, MCO will be performing Joly Brega Santos’ (1924-1988) Symphony No. 1 in D minor, “To the Heroes and Martyrs of the Last World War,” a work written in 1946. Brega Santos has been called Portugal’s greatest 20th century composer, and the rich harmonies and colorful orchestration that vividly evoke both wartime terror and heroism show why. 

“This is the completion of our first full season [since COVID] and we were so happy to be able to perform our entire season,” said Ray. “All of the music is very listenable and very audience-friendly.”

The MCO’s 2022-23 season will feature the west coast premiere of the late South Bay composer Henry Mollicone’s Requiem for George Floyd and a concerto for bassoon by Jerod Impichchaachaahá Tate, Ghost of the White Deer, based on a Native American tale.

Orchestra Had Its Start at Mission College

Emily Ray has been conducting in the Bay Area since she made her conducting debut with the UC Berkeley Symphony in 1975. She has taught at Santa Clara University, Mission and Foothill Colleges, and recently retired from teaching orchestra and piano in East Side Union High School District in San José. She was formerly music director of the Nova Vista Orchestra. 

Ray founded Mission Chamber Orchestra in 1996 with a core group of musicians. Originally planning to perform in San José, the orchestra found the well-known San Jose venues far beyond their means. She was teaching at Mission College at the time and the college invited her to bring the orchestra there and perform. Mission Chamber Orchestra’s first performance was in the “center space” of the original Mission College administration building. 

Music of Portugal is Sunday, June 12 at 3 p.m. at Church of the Five Wounds, 1375 East Santa Clara Street, San Jose, 95116. Admission is free.  For more information about and the Mission Chamber Orchestra, visit the website or call (408) 236-3350. 

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