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RVS offers a free detour to solace

“Every challenge is an opportunity,” says Rogue Valley Symphony conductor Martin Majkut.

He’s referring, of course, to the lingering pandemic and its devastating affect on gatherings of any sort. One activity notably missing from my itinerary lately is cuddling into a balcony seat at the symphony. I like to close my eyes and let the music sail me off in the direction of some glorious place — Russia or some verdant field in England.

The Rogue Valley Symphony, along with a cast of talented musicians, recording techs and composers worthy of note, found a way to reach out and remind us that the music lives and thrives in quiet places. It had been too long since the notes rang out for an adoring symphony audience. Majkut and RVS created an especially lovely Masterworks program this past fall. They call it “An Unexpected Detour,” and it is safe and free of charge.

Who says adventures are nowhere to be found? Today I enjoyed a front row, center seat to some of the best concert music available, with valley locations as backdrops. The afternoon indulgence included eight composers and eight standout musicians, all bringing their chosen instrument into the light with love. I closed my eyes and let the music launch me far offshore from worry. There I floated for over an hour listening to a heart-wrenching “Viola Sonata #1 in C minor” by English composer York Bowen and played soulfully by principal violist Michael Sorenson. Next course was a delicate flute number called “Souvenir de Alpes” by Theobald Boehm and played to perfection by Katheryn McElrath, principal flutist. Majkut accompanies each soloist on piano.

I reclined on the sofa and sipped hot tea with my feet propped. Taking in a concert from the laptop has advantages. No fellow devotee whispers at a strategic moment making me want to tap them lightly with my shoe, and the crackly unwrapping of throat lozenges was noticeably absent. OK, I long to return to my balcony haven and risk the annoyances to be with the gang, but this presentation is a professional labor of love and a sparkling gift to us all, with seamless sound and camera work. “An Unexpected Detour,” filmed before and after the Almeda and Obenchain fires, can be viewed again and again on RVS’ YouTube channel. The best news is there are three Masterworks available to help you over the latest flapdoodle. We can return and be reminded of the hope that symphony concerts and other venues will fill again because of dedicated individuals like these.

One segment of the program takes us to the Old Siskiyou Barn. There we listen to a reverie on English horn played by Alison Dresser with Majkut on piano. Other soloists on the program are Will Scharen on trombone, Rhett Bender on saxophone, and Kristen Kessler on oboe and English horn performing with Majkut on a magical, whisk-you-away number — “The Call of Light for Oboe, English Horn and Piano” by local composer I’lana Cotton, who wrote the piece expressly for Kessler. The September finale consists of two disparate pieces with Majkut and Alexander Tutunov spanning the ebonies and ivories — one rouser by Rachmaninoff, the other, a comforting nocturne by Alexander Borodin.

Are we thankful 2020 is behind us? Is 2021 starting off as the slam-bang year we expected? Could we all use some solace? Whether already a symphony fan or simply curious, do yourself a favor and take advantage of these free programs generously extended to us. And please remember to support RVS, now and when venues open once more.

RVS dedicated the three Masterworks to our beloved Rogue Valley. I’ll sign off with the blessing from their YouTube page. “We wish you healing and peace as you enjoy our detour from tragedy to solace.”

Reach freelance writer Peggy Dover at pcdover@hotmail.com.