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Soundtrack of the Rhine

Seventeen-year-old cellist Chas Barnard makes his professional solo debut with the Rogue Valley Symphony. Until this season, Barnard was the youngest member of RVS. He has been a section cellist with the orchestra since 2009.

"Not a lot of kids my age get the opportunity to play in a professional orchestra," Barnard says.

The symphony's concert series is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, in Ashland; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, in Grants Pass. (The Ashland show is sold out.)

For the concert, Barnard will perform Camille Saint-Saëns' Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, A minor, Op. 33.

Last year, Barnard asked Martin Majkut, the symphony's music director, to give him some feedback on Saint-Saëns' piece, which he was preparing to play in the Marrowstone Music Festival in Seattle.

After hearing him play, Majkut says he recognized his potential and immediately decided to give him an opportunity to solo.

Barnard, who studies with Thomas Stauffer, has played with the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, the Schoenard Trio, the All-Northwest Orchestra and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. He is enrolled at Southern Oregon University.

RVS' 80-member orchestra will bookend Banard's solo with Wagner's "Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey," abstracted from the prologue to Wagner's opera "Twilight of the Gods" ("Götterdämmerung"); and Schumann's Symphony No. 3, E flat major, Op. 97, "Rhenish."

Both German 19th-century composers depict the Rhine River in their featured pieces, which are both written in E flat major.

"One musician asked me, 'Does that mean the Rhine flows in E flat?,' and I got to thinking, I guess it does," Majkut says.

Majkut describes Wagner's piece as the "Lord of the Rings" of compositions, in that it is a mystical soundtrack to a heroic tale.

"It's about a hero awakening in the morning, saying goodbye to his beloved, getting dressed and hopping on his horse and going to the river," Majkut says. "It starts very mystical and ends with full fanfare and lots of brass. I can almost see him driving into the sunshine, going toward his adventure."

Schumann's symphony is best described as a photo album, Majkut says. The piece illustrates the Rhine River, west of Schumann's home in Düsseldorf, as well as the nearby Cathedral of Cologne.

"You can very much hear the river," Majkut says. "You have a steady flow of eighth notes, which are very fast, in the first and second movements that indicate they could be waves on the river. ... The fourth movement changes. The trombones come in, and trombones always mean something serious and often something sacred in classical music."

Tickets cost $28 to $38 for the Medford show and $20 to $34 for the Grants Pass show. Student tickets cost $5 at all shows. There are a limited number of $10 economy seats available for the Medford and Grants Pass shows. Free tickets also are available on a first-come, first-served basis to students with vouchers, available at www.rvsymphony.org. Students may present filled-out vouchers at the door to receive free admission for themselves and an accompanying adult. Call 541-552-6398.

Chas Barnard, 17, joined the Rogue Valley Symphony when he was 14 years old. - Photo by Bryon DeVore