KAILUA-KONA — Associated with sophisticated atmospheres and classical music, orchestra concerts can leave an impression of having a low-key approach to music and a night of entertainment.
But that’s not how cellist Anthony Arnone is preparing for his upcoming performance with the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra of Antonin Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto in B minor.” He wants to have fun.
“It’s probably the greatest cello concerto. At least, cellos will tell you that.” Arnone said. “It’s just one of the great pieces of music, and I love any chance I get to play it with an orchestra. It’s always so much fun.”
A staple on the Big Island for now 14 seasons, the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra is opening its new season Sunday with the help of Honolulu-native Arnone, a long-awaited guest to the island’s music scene. “A Hawaii Homecoming,” the orchestra’s first concert of its 2018-19 season, is also Arnone’s first performance with the orchestra.
“I’m most looking forward to having my mom, dad and sister in the audience,” Arnone said. “They’re flying over from Oahu and they’ve never heard me play a concerto with an orchestra, so I’m really excited to look out while I’m playing and see them.”
Also on the program for this weekend’s concert is Bela Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major.” The concert begins at 4 p.m. at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea.
Arnone’s passion for the cello intensified off Hawaii while he was studying psychology at the University of Washington, and he transferred schools to study the instrument at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
“From there, I never looked back,” Arnone said. “As long as I kept getting better and still enjoyed it, I thought I would stick with it. I never stopped playing.”
Arnone now teaches at the University of Iowa, and it’s through the Iowa orchestra scene that he met the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra’s artistic director and conductor Brian Dollinger. Dollinger is also the music director at the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra and the Clinton Symphony Orchestra, both in Iowa.
“Tony and I have been friends and colleagues for a number of years now, and each and every time we work together it’s like two kindred spirits being reunited to bask in the brilliance of great music,” Dollinger said.
Dollinger said his son was also taught by Arnone on cello, and Dollinger has come to know the cellist well in that time.
“Tony’s personality is very endearing and open, and he brings the audience into his music in the same ways,” Dollinger said. “He is also not afraid to bring music to less traditional locations. I’ve known him to play his cello at grocery stores and even center court at a Big Ten basketball game.”
With the cellist on the mainland, Arnone will only have two rehearsals with the orchestra to prepare for the concert — the day before and the day of. That doesn’t phase the professional, who said the concerto always comes together behind a talented orchestra.
“It’s a beautiful piece of music. It’s very orchestral,” Arnone said. “It’s not just about the cello, the whole group sounds beautiful.”
Dollinger has been head of the orchestra since 2016, and said all he wants out of the season opener is to once again bring music to life on the Big Island.
“I’ve had a wide variety of experiences in my life, and each and every time I am able to share emotions and stories through music with folks, I am reminded how blessed I am to do this for a living,” Dollinger said. “I’ve seen the good and bad in this world — through music and my time in the Marine Corps, and truly appreciate the beauty of every small sixteenth note and silent moment that we create for our audience.”
Info: The Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra’s “A Hawaii Homecoming” is 4 p.m. Sunday at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Tickets are $50/$40/$30/$15 and can be purchased online at kamuelaphil.org, by calling 885-6868, or by visiting the Kahilu Theatre box office.