Strings will sing during Monday night orchestra concert at WHS
WORTHINGTON -- Looking for the District 518 Fall Orchestra Festival?
Just follow the long line of 160 students toting violin, viola, cello and the occasional oversized bass cases into the Worthington High School (WHS) gymnasium on Monday at 7 p.m.
"We're really focusing on our strings for this show, and we're calling it a 'festival' because in future years we may invite other school orchestra programs to participate," explained Melanie Loy, director of District 518's sixth- through 12th-grade orchestra students.
With the local orchestral program now in its 116th year, Loy is joined by Katie Stafford, who instructs the fourth- and fifth-grade string players, in supporting a large number of students animated by the opportunity to study a string instrument.
"My 55 fifth-graders are very excited to perform, and to hear the older students play," confirmed Stafford. As Stafford begins her third year in District 518, she observes that many of her string students are multi-tasking musicians.
"Twenty-seven of my fifth graders are also in band, and they show great responsibility and a strong work ethic to study two instruments," she said.
Stafford added that the 80 fourth-grade orchestra students from Prairie Elementary will give their first performance in December.
The WMS fifth-graders will demonstrate their string-playing progress as they perform "Buckeye Salute," "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore," "Ode to Joy" and "Old Joe Clark" Monday evening.
Appropriately, Loy's 40 high school orchestra students will tackle a more advanced repertoire, entertaining with the four-movement "Serenade for Strings" and "Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Saens.
"This is our first concert of the year, even though the first quarter has already ended," Loy said. "The orchestra program is alive and well in District 518, and we have in fact maxed out on our school instruments -- all of our school string equipment is in use -- and a lot of parents have supported their sons and daughters by either renting or purchasing instruments this fall.
"That's helpful, and keeps our program growing."
Loy's sixth-grade group is set to deliver "Pizzicato Magic," "Sword Dance" and the well-known "Pachelbel's Canon."
"They love all three of the numbers," Loy said.
The seventh- and eighth-graders will make a splash with "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" by G. F. Handel and the haunting Civil War-era melody "Ashokan Farewell," the latter of which they will play along with the Augustana String Quartet.
"The 7/8 group is also playing 'Pizzicato Popcorn" and the theme from 'E.T.,' which is their favorite," Loy said. "It's the 30th anniversary this month of the release of the movie 'E.T.,' so it's fun to do that."
Loy recruited the Augustana String Quartet, a professional ensemble comprised of string faculty members from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., to provide a bit of professional flair -- and some inspiration for her pupils -- during the evening.
In just a few more weeks, the WHS orchestra students have another chance to show their stuff. They will be in concert Nov. 20 with the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra, combining on two pieces plus "The Star Spangled Banner."
And on Dec. 17, the WMS orchestra will play as part of the school's Festival of Music holiday performance.
But first, Loy anticipates a lively concert this Monday featuring focused musicianship on the part of both students and professionals.
Commented Loy, "Miss Stafford loves teaching strings and so do I."
The Worthington Middle School and Worthington High School orchestra students perform Monday at 7 p.m. in the WHS gymnasium, along with the Augustana String Quartet. An admission fee will be charged; District 518 activity passes will be honored.