Russian String Orchestra Encore Series Event

STORY BY DAWNE LEIKER

Twenty-four hours before Tuesday’s Encore Series performance, FHSU faculty and students began readying themselves to take the stage as temporary members of the Russian String Orchestra. Because the orchestra’s cellists, who had purchased seats for their cellos on their flight to the U.S., were forbidden to fly with their instruments, the orchestra arrived in Hays Tuesday sans cellos and cellists.

To make it possible for the “show to go on,” Department of Music Chair Ben Cline assembled a local group of musicians to fill in for the missing cellists. FHSU students Natalee Thomas and Clara Kachanes, violin; Jayce Milburn, viola; Tanner Callis, Megan Rayl, and high school senior Carl Rorstrom, cello; along with Cline and Sunnat Ibrahim, adjunct professor of cello from Pittsburg State, performed Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” during the show’s second half. The local musicians became a seamless addition to the orchestra, in what was an expressive and beautifully performed work.

With only two hours of practice with the orchestra, from 5 to 7 p.m. prior to the 7:30 performance, the local musicians were able to showcase their abilities together with the expertise of the Russian String Orchestra.

“I was very proud of the students,” Cline said. “They handled their nerves and stress well, and it was a wonderful opportunity for them to work with seasoned professionals. They were brave and took a chance and it paid off. Even though one of them said it felt like ‘preparing for battle.’”

The flurry of last minute program changes, along with the entry of new performers didn’t detract from the evening’s show. For me, the adaptation was a reminder of how live music is always a unique, yet shared experience between audience and performers.

During the first half of the program, the orchestra performed Mozart’s Adagio K. 322, with its haunting melodies, and Tchaikovsky’s “Snow Maiden,” a lyrical yet stately piece. Then the group rounded out the set with upbeat renditions of Leroy Anderson’s “Pizzicato Polka” and “Fiddle Faddle:” songs that conductor Misha Rachlevsky pointed out, are typically reserved for curtain calls.

Rachlevsky, although his frustration was often visible, kept a whimsical outlook during the much-adapted performance, pointing out, tongue-in-cheek, at the end of the evening that: “We did everything we could.” Indeed. And those efforts were greatly appreciated by the audience.

The next Encore event will be Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, Beach Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

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