Passports in hand, bags packed and eager to experience the history of one of Europe’s most treasured countries, a group of enthusiastic students from Memorial’s School of Music are finally jetting off to a prestigious music festival in Russia next week.
Along the way, they’ll also become the first Canadian ensemble to perform at the Peterhof International Festival of Ensembles in St. Petersburg, Russia.
And music lovers can take in a gala send-off concert on Friday, April 27, on the St. John’s campus before the musicians head overseas.
From May 4-14, the 30 members of the orchestra will immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of Russia, performing a rigorous concert schedule.
Dr. Vernon Regehr, director of the orchestra, said the trip will be an eye-opening time for the students.
“There is an amazing experience to be had on a tour, both from a musical and personal perspective,” he said. “This trip will give students a chance to live and breathe in a totally different and unique place, one that will provide the students with a broader cultural perspective, and as well to represent themselves as a musical entity and the school they are a part of.”
In addition, Dr. Regehr said students will get a chance to tour professionally as a group.
“As we’ll be playing a number of performances, the ensemble will learn about the art of performing in a totally new light,” he explained. “Usually they perform a concert once a semester, and then move on to a new program for the following concert. In Russia they will repeat the program in a very short span of time, which will provide them with a level of understanding for the music, and their ability to communicate that, in a way that they otherwise couldn’t.”
Students in the orchestra have been gearing up for the trip for months. They were initially set to travel to Russia last summer but those plans were put on hold until this year to give the group more time to prepare for the festival.
At roughly $2,000 a student, the trip to Russia won’t be cheap. The group has held countless fundraisers over the past few months; one of the last events will be tomorrow night’s concert. It is also receiving some financial help from the School of Music which is “helping to defray the cost,” of the trip, said Dr. Regehr.
But he says the trip will be worth every cent.
“This should be a unique experience, especially as the styles of playing over in Russia will be noticeably different than what we play,” he said. “Again, this just serves to broaden their horizons yet further.”
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. Getting involved in the Russian festival happened by pure coincidence, said Dr. Regehr.
“I heard about the festival through an orchestral member who was taking a Russian class with Dr. Stuart Durrant, a professor in the German and Russian Department here at Memorial,” he said. “When I got in contact with him, he told me he was friends with the festival’s director. After Dr. Durrant heard our orchestra, he recommended us to the festival, and we were promptly invited!”
In addition to exposing students to the fertile culture and music of Russia, the trip will also be an opportunity to promote Memorial on the international stage, added Dr. Tom Gordon, director of the School of Music.
“I hope that the School will be able to make contact with musical scholars in St. Petersburg,” he noted. “Our new MA and PhD programs in ethnomusicology and the vibrant activity of the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place provide opportunities for exchange and collaboration which we could develop with Russian scholars.”
Dr. Gordon said the trip will also give students a chance to experience something they’d never be able to in their rehearsal halls and classrooms. He said students will get a chance to engulf themselves into Russia – “a place where music defines the culture,” he added.
“It has orchestral roots that go back into the 18th and 19th centuries. For the young musicians of the MUN Chamber Orchestra to play for and come in contact with this extraordinary environment will be an experience they never forget,” he said.
“St. Petersburg is one of the grandest of all imperial cities and one of the most musical. The opportunity to perform in palaces of the czars, to share a music stand with a musician from one of Europe’s most storied music conservatories, to be steeped in the atmosphere that was shared by composers like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky – a young musician cannot help but grow in musical understanding from such experiences.”
The send off concert for the Chamber Orchestra takes place on Friday, April 27, at 8 p.m. in the D. F. Cook Recital Hall in the School of Music. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students and seniors. Free parking is available in Area 15 and gated parking is available in Area 15B for a $2 fee.
Media agencies are invited to attend the send off concert on Friday, April 27. For complimentary media passes, please contact Adele Petten, concert assistant, School of Music, at 737-4700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
to reserve passes.