Regan Gregory, left, and Reese King perform Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins” at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Children’s Concerts program Thursday at the Etherredge Center. Gregory and King won the senior division of the Guild’s Concerto Competition. Eliza King, winner of the junior division, performed at the program’s performance Wednesday.
When violinists Regan Gregory and Reese King took the stage to perform with the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, they had rehearsed together many times but had not practiced with the orchestra.
Despite no preparation, the musicians, both high school seniors and winners of the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Senior Concerto Competition, played Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins” flawlessly for elementary school students who filled USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center on Thursday morning.
The concert was part of the Guild’s annual Children’s Concerts series. Over two days, the Guild’s music education program reached about 2,000 fifth-graders from Aiken and Edgefield counties.
“We were a little nervous, but it’s always an awesome experience,” said Gregory, who attends Aiken High, after the concert. “I love it.”
King, who is home-schooled, agreed.
“It’s always fun,” he said.
Gregory added that she especially loves performing for children.
“A lot of them might say it’s boring, but a few might think it’s pretty cool and might want to try it,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to think that you might be a kid’s inspiration.”
Fourth-grader Eliza King won the Junior Concerto Competition and performed the third movement of a concerto by Kuchler with the orchestra at the Children’s Concerts on Wednesday. All of the concerto winners are students of Joanne Stanford.
Dr. Donald Portnoy, who conducted the symphony, opened the program with a tour of the orchestra from the string section to percussion, woodwinds and brass.
When the French horn players held up their instruments made of coiled brass tubes, Portnoy joked, “That’s a lot of plumbing.”
The program featured several children-friendly pieces.
During the “Toy Symphony,” by Haydn, home-schooled students played toy instruments that might be found in a school music classroom: Craver King, small drum; Charis Hamic, triangle; Eliza King, train whistle; Serenity Hamic, toy cymbals; Sandi King, recorder; and Silver Hamic, guiro, a percussive instrument played with a wooden stick.
Scott Chappell, who teaches music at Mossy Creek Elementary in North Augusta, narrated “Peter and the Wolf,” by Prokofiev. The instruments represented characters in the story – the flute as the bird, the clarinet as the cat, Peter as the strings and the French horns as the wolf – and gave the students a greater education of each instrument’s sound and role in the orchestra.
To end the program, Bugs Bunny, one of the mascots of the Kids Club at Security Federal Bank, a sponsor of the Aiken Symphony Guild, danced around the stage to “Hoe-Down” from Aaron Copland’s ballet, “Rodeo.”
Sharon Johnson, chairman of the Guild’s Children’s Concerts Committee, said helping young children develop a love for music is the purpose of the Children’s Concerts.
When Johnson was a fifth-grader in Los Angeles, she attended her first opera, “Cinderella,” by Rossini.
“I had never been exposed to opera, but I absolutely and positively fell in love with it,” said Johnson, a retired teacher. “That is still one of the most important memories of my childhood. I want to make sure that every child gets that experience.”
And, from reports from ushers at the concerts, students do, Johnson said.
“They say the children come in kind of ho-hum, but when they walk out, they are all smiles, totally engaged,” Johnson said. “That’s why we do it.”
A grant from the S.C. Arts Commission helps the Aiken Symphony Guild fund the program.
Above image: Dr. Donald Portnoy, conductor of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, right, congratulates Charis Hamic, left, Eliza King, Sandi King, Serenity Hamic and Craver King for their performance on the “Toy Symphony” at the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Children’s Concerts series at the Etherredge Center. Silver Hamic, not pictured, also performed at the program for fifth-grade students from Aiken and Edgefield counties Thursday.