Musical all-stars perform at O'Connell

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The sound of clarinets and flutes, violins and violas could be heard from the Bishop O'Connell High School auditorium in Arlington Oct. 31, as more than 80 students prepared for the first Diocesan Honors Music Festival. While there are a number of honors festivals in the area, this festival was the first of its kind for the Diocese at the high school level. The idea for the event came about during a routine staff development meeting at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax last March, according to Bishop O'Connell Music Director Ronald Isaacson.

"We said, let's do something diocesan-wide for all the high schools," he said.

In September, students from O'Connell, Paul VI, Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, and Gonzaga College High School in Washington auditioned for three musical ensembles, an honors band, chorus and string orchestra. Those who made the final cut came together for three days to learn the performance pieces with students they had never met before and with special guest conductors Anthony J. Maiello, Michael Ehrlich and Gene Pohl.

The honors band opened the festival with a performance of "Rise of the Firebird" by Steven Reineke. Ireton French horn player Anna Eleuterio enjoyed playing in the honors band and was encouraged by Maiello.

"He just wants to share his love of music," said Eleuterio.

The band was followed by the honors chorus, which presented its own set of challenges to the singers.

"In chorus, you get used to how everyone's voice sounds, but with this it was sometimes hard to keep up with the whole group," said Vasili Varfis.

The final group to perform was the honors string orchestra, directed by Gene Pohl. The group started things off with a Hungarian dance by Johannaes Brahms and concluded with two South American tangos by A.G Villoldo and M. Rodriguez. The lively conclusion to the event was met with an enthusiastic round of applause from both the audience and fellow musicians.

"I believe one of the biggest benefits of Diocesan Music Festival is the lines of communication that have been fostered among the diocesan music teachers," said Isaacson. "We talked about sharing our music libraries with each other, we collaborated on instrumental and directing techniques, lessons that we all benefit from."

Isaacson hopes that the success of the festival will encourage the students to find more opportunities to play in ensembles. He also looks forward to future collaborations between his fellow diocesan music teachers.

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The sound of clarinets and flutes, violins and violas could be heard from the Bishop O'Connell High School auditorium in Arlington Oct. 31, as more than 80 students prepared for the first Diocesan Honors Music Festival. While there are a number of honors festivals in the area, this festival was the first of its kind for the Diocese at the high school level. The idea for the event came about during a routine staff development meeting at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax last March, according to Bishop O'Connell Music Director Ronald Isaacson.

"We said, let's do something diocesan-wide for all the high schools," he said.

In September, students from O'Connell, Paul VI, Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, and Gonzaga College High School in Washington auditioned for three musical ensembles, an honors band, chorus and string orchestra. Those who made the final cut came together for three days to learn the performance pieces with students they had never met before and with special guest conductors Anthony J. Maiello, Michael Ehrlich and Gene Pohl.

The honors band opened the festival with a performance of "Rise of the Firebird" by Steven Reineke. Ireton French horn player Anna Eleuterio enjoyed playing in the honors band and was encouraged by Maiello.

"He just wants to share his love of music," said Eleuterio.

The band was followed by the honors chorus, which presented its own set of challenges to the singers.

"In chorus, you get used to how everyone's voice sounds, but with this it was sometimes hard to keep up with the whole group," said Vasili Varfis.

The final group to perform was the honors string orchestra, directed by Gene Pohl. The group started things off with a Hungarian dance by Johannaes Brahms and concluded with two South American tangos by A.G Villoldo and M. Rodriguez. The lively conclusion to the event was met with an enthusiastic round of applause from both the audience and fellow musicians.

"I believe one of the biggest benefits of Diocesan Music Festival is the lines of communication that have been fostered among the diocesan music teachers," said Isaacson. "We talked about sharing our music libraries with each other, we collaborated on instrumental and directing techniques, lessons that we all benefit from."

Isaacson hopes that the success of the festival will encourage the students to find more opportunities to play in ensembles. He also looks forward to future collaborations between his fellow diocesan music teachers.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015