Into the maelstrom

I sit in Portland Airport and I’m feeling a little anxious.

In less than two hours, I’ll be back in Pendleton for the first time since the OES offices burned down. I tried hard to get over a few weeks ago, but we had an illness in the family (what is it about bad things coming in threes?), so I have yet to see the damage, or the larger impact it’s had on the orchestra, in person.

I’m hoping this week will be good for everyone there. We’re in constant email and phone contact, and I’m all too aware that the board and everyone in the office has been in 24/7 crisis management mode for weeks. Now, we finally get a chance to get back to music, to get some semblance of normalcy. Are we ready for normal? Do we now have the time and energy to put on a major concert? A Mahler symphony, no less? Oh yes, and a youth orchestra tour, retreat and concert, and a choir performance……

As befits “the best goddamn redneck orchestra in the world,” we’ve moved from temporary office no 1, the bank, into temporary office no. 2, ‘the trailer.” Yes, we’ve traded our elegant offices for…. a double-wide! Could it get any funnier?

Actually, we’re closing in on some long term plans for the orchestra which are really bold and visionary. Watch this space.

The imposing facade

The warm welcome

I don’t know if it just got harder or easier to maintain our sense of irony.

Give us your money and get us out of here! 


Photos by Christina van der Kamp

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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