Ballet, orchestra to bring ‘Healing Power of Music’ to Alexandria

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The strings section of the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra will perform alongside the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Alexandria Area High School Performing Arts Center. All performers will be socially distanced from each other.

Titled the “Healing Power of Music,” the concert is partly an homage to pandemic-related suffering and partly a thank-you to the Alexandria community for continued support. It will feature music by Ravel and Tchaikovsky. During the Tchaikovsky piece, the ballet will perform an original work about the life of the 19th century Russian composer.

Music director Brad Lambrecht said the orchestra well understands the struggles the community has been facing during the pandemic and chose the music accordingly.

“Many of us are struggling right now,” Lambrecht said. “The mental health of the world is being challenged. Because of that we need to lean on our music. We have to. The ability of us to come together and finally play, it’s a start toward the healing process.”

The Ravel piece, called “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” was not intended to be a lament, contrary to its title, according to Still, it is a reflective, somewhat solemn work.

The Tchaikovsky piece, “Serenade for Strings,” plays tribute to a Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky who suffered depression and hid his homosexuality for fear of repercussions in his beloved home country, according to “The Tchaikovsky Letters,” published in 2018 by Yale University Press. It’s to this piece that the ballet dancers will perform original choreography, with one dancer representing the composer and the other dancers representing the forces of society.

Organizers are planning to include Lakeland Public Health and are still working out those details.

The concert is being offered free as a way of thanking the community.

COVID forced the orchestra to cancel performances, which meant it wasn’t receiving income to pay its four employees, of which Lambrecht is one. Even without concerts, there was still work to be done and bills to be paid, so about 70 businesses and individuals continued to fund the orchestra over the past months, said Sandy Susag, who as concertmaster is another employee. A grant from the Lake Region Arts Council is covering the cost of the performance.

“We have decided to dedicate this concert to the community,” Lambrecht said. “We have been well supported in our community through these difficult times. The community has stepped up to make sure we are sustainable.”

The concert will be live-streamed on YouTube, and will not be archived. Whether a live audience will also be allowed, and if so, how many, will likely remain uncertain until close to the date, Lambrecht said. He said the orchestra will post information about the event on its website and Facebook page.

Whichever scenario plays out, all performers will follow precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Beautifully, we have a stage that is large enough where we can be socially distanced playing and there’s still room on stage for the dancers,” he said.

Organizers decided to include only the string section, as there are enough string players to carry the music if one has to quarantine. The seven dancers will wear masks and be spaced 12 feet apart.

The orchestra and the ballet company have worked together once before, about six years ago, soon after the high school opened. That collaboration involved many local children.

Alexandria is the only place outside the Twin Cities where the ballet has performed, said artistic director Denise Vogt. They also plan to connect virtually with Alexandria Area High School students on Thursday, Feb. 4, to perform the Tchaikovsky piece for them and to talk about ballet.

Twin Cities Ballet says its goal is to make ballet accessible to all; in one performance, dancers performed alongside a Pink Floyd cover band.

Vogt said she and Lambrecht enjoy collaborating.

“You have an incredible gem in Brad in Alexandria,” she said. “We’re very grateful to work the with the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra.”

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