SIUE SIUC Combined Orchestras sell out tonight’s performance

Though more than 100 miles apart, SIUE and SIUC join forces this evening for a combined orchestra performance as part of the 2013-14 Arts and Issues season.

The sold-out event features works by Giuseppe Verde and Richard Wagner in celebration of their 200th anniversary.

SIUE professor Michael Mishra will conduct four Wagner pieces, two tenor arias and one duet. SIUC professor Edward Benyas will conduct the rest of the arias and duets. Because the majority of the arias and duets will be performed in Italian and French, Benyas said English translations will be projected above the stage during the performance.

The two orchestras did not perform as a single unit until Sunday, according to Mishra, though Mishra traveled to Carbondale last week to rehearse the pieces he will conduct with the SIUC orchestra.

Challenges of playing together while not practicing together include:  ensuring that the style of playing matches and, because guest singers will perform with the orchestra, not knowing how the singers will respond to the music.

One of the “major challenges” of performing with an orchestra that is not close by, according to Benyas, relates to wind players in both orchestras. Many times, there are more players than available parts, Benyas said.

“We have to negotiate which players will play which pieces,” Benyas said. “In other areas, though, each orchestra has some weaknesses. For example we have less French horns and SIUE has less double reeds (oboes and bassoons), so in that way combining personnel is complimentary.”

But Benyas also said there can never be “enough good string players” and the more there are “the richer the sound.”

“In this way, it is terrific to put our two string sections together,” Benyas said. “Each section on its own would not be adequate enough to do justice to some of the Wagner excerpts, but together there will be a terrific ensemble.”

Mishra and Benyas decided over the summer that the orchestras would perform “Three Tenors and More.” Both orchestras consist of current students, alumni and professors. Rehearsals began in October.

Mishra said when the orchestras last performed together in 2011 the performance was well-received on both campuses. There was “a lot of energy” at SIUE and SIUC, according to Benyas.

“It is always nice to do more than one performance after working this hard on rehearsals and logistics,” Benyas said. “I especially appreciate Michael Mishra working with our SIU Carbondale musicians. He is a very fine musician and it is great for the players to learn from him.”

Though Mishra and Benyas have been in the SIU system for almost 20 years, Benyas said they first met a few years ago at a conductor’s conference.

“I know that collaboration between campuses within the SIU system is important, and so we hope to make this a regular event,” Benyas said.

The combined orchestra will also perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at SIUC.

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