HOMESTEAD ORCHESTRA RETURNS FROM PHENOMENAL ST. PETERSBURG AND HELSINKI TOUR
80 Homestead High School students recently trekked to St. Petersburg, Russia and Helsinki, Finland to perform for audiences in those cities and visit historic and musical sites. John Emanuelson, Homestead High School Orchestra Director, with assistance from Megan Aswegan, the district’s elementary orchestra director, lead the Mequon delegation. The concert performance repertoire included music by composers from the host countries, as well as by American composers. John Emanuelson exuberantly points out, “I was really proud of our students throughout the tour as they represented our school and nation to the citizens of Helsinki and St. Petersburg. I believe the tour provided educational, inspiring, rewarding and world-expanding experiences for our students, and I know we truly connected with our hosts in Finland and Russia. In many ways, this felt like a magical week!”
Smolny Cathedral in St. Petersburg was the venue for a joint concert with students from the Mravinsky School of Music, a pre-conservatory high school fine arts academy. The school provided an artistic invitation to the Homestead Orchestra opening the doors for the Russian visa applications. Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, the school had organized an elaborate welcoming reception and presentation. The concert in the Smolny Cathedral was attended by Stephen Hubler, Deputy Principal Officer, Consul at US Consulate General St. Petersburg, Russia, who expressed great pride and appreciation for the professionalism and level of artistic skill exhibited in the performance, as well as for Homestead’s collaboration with the Mravinsky students and its positive impact on US-Russian relations.
In Helsinki, students were afforded the honor to perform at the famous Temppeliaukion kirkko, more popularly known as the Rock Church, as it is literally carved out of granite. The rough granite walls boast outstanding acoustics and the church is a prized concert venue. For the concert finale, John Emanuelson had arranged a special string version of Finnish composer Sibelius’ Finlandia, which evoked such emotion that it brought tears to some and lead to a standing ovation.
Professor Oswald Lehnert, guest artist for the tour, charmed and engaged audiences as he strolled through aisles playing Monti’s Czardas with the student orchestra accompanying him. This was the distinguished University of Colorado professor’s first visit to Helsinki and first time back in Russia since his invitation to participate in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 when he was a cultural guest of the Soviet Union.
Students were treated to a tour of the world renowned Hermitage museum, visits to Tchaikovsky’s and Sibelius’ graves, and special musical performances. In Finland, a visit to the composer Kokkonen’s historic home included a delightful concert highlighting folk songs endemic of the Finnish character and culture. Another special performance of Russian sacred and folk music was attended in St. Petersburg. As Danielle Dooge, class of 2013 reflects, “The tour was an incredible experience where we got to perform in amazing acoustical spaces, see stunningly gorgeous monuments and museums, interact with other music students and local people, and experience things that otherwise would not have been possible had I gone on my own.”
John Blaser, parent volunteer Tour Director, organized the tour working with Conceptio Tours over the past three years to create a once in a lifetime experience. Homestead Orchestra takes on a major international tour every four years with destinations chosen to expand students’ cultural and historical appreciation of music. Past tours have included Vienna and Prague, and more recently Italy. All tour expenses were individually funded by students, who were offered numerous fundraising opportunities over the last few years. Congratulations to the Homestead Orchestra on a successful tour—sharing the universal language of music and proving to be great ambassadors for Mequon, Wisconsin and the US.
For more information contact John Emanuelson, Orchestra Director, 262-238-5672.
Mequon-Thiensville School District, 5000 W. Mequon Road, Mequon, Wisconsin 53092
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