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String quintet excites audience

Musicians enjoy visiting schools, Estacada and performing
by: Nolene Triska, Julie Coleman (from left), Keiko Araki, Jason Schooler, Viorel Bejenaru and Ken Finch perform for Estacadans Friday evening at Estacada Auditorium. The quintet played for an hour and a half as part of the Community Music Partnership.

It was hard for me to be dispassionate while covering the Oregon Symphony's string quintet concert Friday night, March 16, at the Estacada Auditorium. My camera and notebook were annoyances. I just wanted to sit with the rest of the appreciative audience and listen.

Violinists Julie Coleman and Keiko Araki, along with violist Viorel Bejenaru, cellist Ken Finch and bassist Jason Schooler performed, after working with Estacada students all day as part of the Oregon Symphony's outreach program, the Community Music Partnership, a program for which the Estacada School District 108 and Estacada Together had applied, in competition with other communities.

The excitement was palpable when I arrived at the Estacada Auditorium that evening. As Estacada Area Arts commissioners and Estacada Together members folded programs and arranged refreshments, they wondered whether the balcony would be needed to seat the audience.

Estacada High School band director Steve Christensen, who had worked hard to bring the musicians to the community, introduced the program, adding, 'As much as all of you enjoy having these musicians here, our children are the true winners by having them side-by-side with them in the classroom.'

The program contained pieces from Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn during the first half, with two or three of the quintet playing at a time. After the intermission, all five were on stage for the compositions by Tchaikovsky, Anderson and Elgar.

'It was thrilling to hear those beautiful sounds in this great auditorium filled with a wonderful range of community members, from two to ninety years old,' Estacada Together member Jane Ried said later.

After the concert, Ken Finch told me that being on stage separates the musicians from their audience when they're playing in Portland. 'The proscenium is a barrier,' he explained. 'Here, we got to meet the students in their classroom. Then, when we went to lunch and walked around the town, we met some of them again. Finally, after the concert, we could talk to the parents.' He said the musicians enjoyed the interaction. 'Thanks,' he said, 'for letting us inside the lives of Estacada.' As I listened to him, I thought that these were some really, really nice people.

The sprightly Anderson composition, called 'Plink, Plank, Plunk,' was a delightful surprise. Setting aside their bows, the quintet plucked, tapped, twanged and thumped their instruments, stomping their feet and making hysterical 'popping' noises with their cheeks.

The last piece, 'Salut d'Amour' by Elgar, ebbed and flowed, lifting at the end to an unbearable poignancy. There was a moment of awestruck silence. Then the applause began, and I ran down the aisle to shoot the performance's final moments. But the stage lights dimmed suddenly and I couldn't get the photo.

So you'll have to imagine it: Keiko, Julie, Jason, Viorel and Ken, their faces uplifted and exultant, standing with polished, gleaming instruments in blazing light on the beautiful auditorium stage in front of hundreds of madly applauding music lovers who had just jumped to their feet in the warm darkness. The scene gave me chills. I missed the shot. But you get the picture.