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Vol 38  No 13
April 27, 2006


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Memorial group signs on for historic festival

To Russia with love

By Jeff Green

Memorial University’s Chamber Orchestra will become the first Canadian ensemble to perform at a prestigious music event in Russia this summer.

The group has been invited to take part in the highly-regarded Peterhof International Festival of Ensembles, which was revived in the summer of 2000 as part of the 300th anniversary celebration of St. Petersburg.

The 34-member orchestra will tour that city along with Peterhof from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6.

The trip not only allows students to visit historic Europe, but it will also give them a chance to tour professionally, said orchestra director Dr. Vernon Regehr.

“Beyond the benefit of international exposure, by repeating their concert four or five times in different venues, the musicians will be challenged to greater standards of performance and deeper musical understanding,” he said. “And, to live this experience in the company of young musicians from across the globe ­ and in one of the most culturally rich cities on the planet ­ will be the experience of a lifetime.”

Since its inception in 1995, Memorial’s Chamber Orchestra has become an integral part of the music scene in St. John’s. The ensemble has collaborated with other student groups, released its own CD and won the St. John’s Kiwanis Festival Group Rose Bowl.

Students have been gearing up for the trip for several weeks, holding fundraisers which included a telephone pledge drive, bake sales and selling raffle tickets to help raise the approximately $135,000 it will cost to travel to Russia.

Dr. Regehr said the trip will give his musicians a chance to foster their love of music while learning more about another country’s culture. He said the idea of getting involved with the festival was “hatched” while chatting with Dr. Stuart Durrant, an associate professor in the German and Russian Department at Memorial. “When he spoke with the director in Russia and told him that Memorial had an orchestra, he responded very enthusiastically and essentially invited us right then and there,” said Dr. Regehr.

Prior to embarking on their trip, students will be offered courses in Russian language during the summer semester at Memorial. These credits will then be enhanced through the tour.

“We have an ongoing challenge to make available experiential learning and artistic development to students at the university level,” Dr. Regehr said. “This project furnishes university students with valuable advanced performance opportunities and, for many, their first professional touring experience.”

That enthusiastic sentiment is echoed by Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial’s School of Music, the largest of its kind in Atlantic Canada. He said the musicians are honoured to be the first Canadian group to take part in the festival.

“This is an astonishing opportunity to showcase the talent and professional skills of our young musicians while exposing them to the depth of history and culture in one of the musically richest cities in the world,” Dr. Gordon said.

Fifth-year student Melissa Doiron, who is completing bachelor of music and education degrees, said the tour will be a prime opportunity to promote music from Memorial while visiting another part of the world most of her fellow musicians have never visited.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to perform in a world-class event, surrounded by world-class musicians,” says Ms. Doiron, who is also the president of the MUN Chamber Orchestra Society and a principal flutist. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime!”

The society will spend the next few months continuing to raise money for the trip. It has also opened an account with Evergreen Recycling in St. John’s. People can donate their recyclable items to the society or contact munchamberorchestrasociety@yahoo.ca.

Meantime, if anyone else would like to support the trip they should contact the School of Music or Jennifer O’Neill, development officer, Faculty of Arts and the School of Music, at 737-7539 or joneill@mun.ca.

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