Two Rockwood orchestras spend spring break performing in England
By: Diane E. Samson
Forget Florida, 42 high school orchestra students from Eureka and Marquette high schools are traveling to England to perform during spring break this year, March 15-22.
Under the direction of Patti Fleer of Eureka and James Nacy of Marquette, the students will perform three concerts that feature a mixture of English and American composers spanning more than 300 years of musical history. The concerts will conclude with a piece based on the melody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
The students are excited about traveling overseas to perform, Fleer said.
“The prospect of sharing their talent and love of music with other people in another country will be the best part of all,” said Fleer. “I’m sure it will be a highlight of their high school experience.”
Eureka senior Jared Kilbreath is looking forward to the entire experience, including witnessing the “crazy” sports fans during soccer games, seeing cathedrals, visiting old and new parts of London, and performing in historic settings.
“It’s going to be nerve-racking because playing with another orchestra is challenging, and we’re not going to have a lot of time for rehearsals once we’re there,” Kilbreath said.
The two orchestras only practiced together five times before the trip, but Kilbreath said they have improved with each rehearsal.
“Hopefully people there appreciate the practice time we’ve put in,” Kilbreath said.
Nacy is looking forward to performing in such historical sites as the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Oxford University, which dates back to the 13th century and served as the site of the trial of Anglican priests who were burned at the stake during “Bloody” Queen Mary’s reign.
The students will also be performing at the Guild Hall in Salisbury and the Ark Theater in Borehamwood, England.
During their stay, the students will tour sights such as Winchester Castle, Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British museum, among others. They also will take a cruise on the Thames river.
Kilbreath said he is looking forward to seeing the air base where the famous U.S. Army Air Force B-17 Bomber Memphis Belle aircraft returned in World War II. His grandfather was based there during the Korean War.
The students helped pay for the trip with fundraising. The orchestra booster club also helped with incidentals and fees such as instrument rental. It was more practical to rent some of the larger instruments such as cellos and basses in England rather than try to transport them there.
Nacy said the trip never would have happened without the help of the booster organization president, Karen Smith, who has overseen the details.
“We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude,” said Nacy.
No district money was spent on the trip and a travel company found the group discounted rates for lodging and tours.
Suhaas Garre, a junior at Marquette, said he is most looking forward to the interaction with the other students, which will be fun in a different country.
This is the first time two Rockwood high schools have partnered for an orchestra trip, and traveling outside the country will be a first for many orchestra students as well.
“In addition to performing, the students will be immersed in local culture as they participate in guided tours and learn about the country’s amazing history,” said Nacy, who has been to England several times before. “The real thrill and excitement for me will be to see it for the first time through the eyes of the students.”