Quartet, quintet featured Tuesday night at Memorial AuditoriumWORTHINGTON — When the four members of the Great Plains String Quartet take their places on stage Tuesday night as part of the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center’s grand reopening week, they will be more than ready to entertain the audience.
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — When the four members of the Great Plains String Quartet take their places on stage Tuesday night as part of the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center’s grand reopening week, they will be more than ready to entertain the audience.
And after four years together, they’re having such a terrific time sharing their music that their enthusiasm is infectious.
“We have so much fun,” confided Sue Simonson, the group’s cellist. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come since we started playing together, and it’s such a privilege to be a part of Memorial Auditorium’s opening week.”
Added violist Karen Pfeifer, “To be part of the open house experience here is very humbling, but we know we’ll have a friendly audience.
“We enjoy exposing the public to string quartet music, which there really isn’t that much of around here.”
From a big band-era set to toe-tapping show tunes to some very hummable classical arrangements, the Great Plains String Quartet can’t wait to perform their roughly hour-long program for a revved-up, hometown crowd.
“Our favorite to open with is ‘Entrance of the Queen of Sheba’ by Handel, and another favorite, in great contrast to that, is Cole Porter’s ‘Begin the Beguine,’” noted Melanie Loy, first violinist.
“We chose a variety, from classical to sacred to popular,” continued Loy. “The program is designed to appeal to a variety of listeners.”
“And a lot of what we play this week will be included on our program when we travel to Germany in July along with the ‘Amazing’ Worthington City Band,” shared Beth Habicht, second violinist in the group.
“We are incredibly flattered to be included in the list of entertainers at the auditorium this week.”
This won’t be the Great Plains String Quartet’s first appearance on the Memorial Auditorium stage, although it is their first time to headline a show there.
“We were in a Corn off the Cob show here a couple of years ago, and when Margaret (Hurlbut Vosburgh, MAPAC manager) approached us to ask if we’d be available to play for this grand reopening week, we were humbly obliging to contribute music in this way,” offered Loy.
During the past four years, the quartet has established a reputation as a classy, skilled group of string players able to perform in many settings. They’ve been in demand for weddings, receptions and church services, while also playing during the Worthington Chamber Singers’ Advent concerts and at intermissions of the “Amazing” Worthington City Band.
Additionally, the fledgling Worthington Area Orchestra, which performed its inaugural concert last December to critical local acclaim, has its roots in their group.
“Much of our time lately has been devoted to establishing and giving leadership to the Worthington Area Orchestra,” explained Loy. “We run the whole gamut, from assisting with grant writing to developing the concert program to contacting musicians and arranging for all the rehearsal and performance details.”
Loy, who succeeded Habicht as District 518’s orchestra instructor in 2006, is also managing to incorporate her students into the Memorial Auditorium gig, with the Worthington High School string quintet serving as the senior quartet’s opening act.
“These are my high school orchestra students who rehearse with me daily, and they are together when the other 20 orchestra members participate in concert choir,” detailed Loy.
“They enjoy the variety of musical literature we explore, and I’ve used this ensemble to accept invitations for small groups of strings at other events, such as at the Sunset Hospice Cottage, the Dayton House and at American Lutheran Church’s Scandinavian buffet.”
Like their counterparts in the Great Plains String Quartet, the student group is thrilled to be among the early performers at the newly updated and expanded Memorial Auditorium.
“It feels like an honor,” expressed freshman violinist Alex Tang.
“It’s kind of cool,” agreed senior violinist Nicole Ektnitphong. “We’re the only high school performers during the auditorium’s opening week, and we get to open for Mrs. Loy’s group.”
The student string musicians will play “Allegro in D” by Vivaldi and a lovely arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Each of the five anticipates having personal fans — family or friends — in the audience, which helps them overcome their nervousness at being featured on the big stage.
“We will charge for autographs,” joked sophomore cellist Elizabeth Luke.
The Great Plains String Quartet and the Worthington High School String Quintet perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center. General admission tickets are available at the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at the box office one hour before the performance. For more information, call 376-9101.