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Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra presents “A Spring Concert” Sunday

  • The Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Matt McLellan, will present “A Spring Concert” on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • The Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra will present “A Spring Concert” on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • The Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra will present “A Spring Concert” on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • The Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Matt McLellan, will present “A Spring Concert” on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

A little over six years ago, some talented musicians in Charles City got together, and one of them said, “let’s start an orchestra and see what happens.”

The Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra was born on that day, and the group will complete its sixth season with “A Spring Concert” starting at 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City.

“It was a very interesting progression in how we’ve grown,” said Wendy Johnson, a violinist and spokesperson for the orchestra.

Johnson said the orchestra has always had about 12-15 volunteer members, not enough people to support a full symphony, with winds, brass and percussion, although that is the goal.

“It would be great to have a symphony, we just need to boost our numbers,” she said.

The chamber orchestra season runs from September through March, with two concerts per year, one before Christmas and one near Easter Sunday.

“I think Charles City is unique for our size,” Johnson said. “It is a really supportive musical community. They support the arts, and I think that is really outstanding.”

This season, the chamber orchestra has been conducted by Matt McLellan, who lives in Waverly and conducts the high school orchestra at Waverly-Shell Rock.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see a chamber orchestra here in Charles City, and see how well supported it is by the community,” said McLellan, whose first concert in Charles City was last December, when the chamber orchestra performed with the Charles City Singers.

“The place was just packed, and we’re looking forward to another packed house this Sunday. It should be really fun,” McLellan said. “I’m really excited about this group and how well supported we are in this community.”

The concert is free and open to the public. A post-concert reception with refreshments will follow outside of the sanctuary. The concert will also feature special guest violinist Daniel Kaplunas, who will perform solo pieces accompanied by pianist Melody Kosobucki from Cedar Falls and McLellan on cello.

Among other pieces, the chamber orchestra will accompany Kaplunas in Concerto in A Minor, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“One thing we like to do is bring in a special guest who has some relation to the community,” Johnson said. “Whether they are an alumni, or they’re related to someone within Charles City — there’s so much talent that comes out of this community, we like to pull from that and bring them in as guests.”

Kaplunas, who lives in Cedar Falls and conducts the Wartburg College orchestra, has been an avid supporter of the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra since its inception.

“He’s going to be performing a large body of work,” McLellan said.

The native of Lithuania started learning music at the age of 6 under the tutelage of his mother, also a professional violinist and teacher. By the time he graduated from Vilnius Ciurlionis School for the Arts, Kaplunas had won two Young Lithuanian Musicians’ competitions, and performed in Denmark, Holland and Germany.

“Daniel has done a lot of different things,” McLellan said. “He’s a very good violinist, and we’re very lucky to have him here.”

Kaplunas frequently appears as a violin soloist with orchestras in the United States and abroad. He has been featured with the University of North Texas Symphony and Chamber orchestras, The University of Georgia Symphony Orchestra, the ARCO Chamber Orchestra, and the International Chamber Orchestra of Buckow (Germany).

In addtion to his solo work, Dr. Kaplunas has conducted the orchestra and taught violin, viola, chamber music, ear training and other courses at the University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University, and Agnes Scott College. Kaplunas currently resides in Cedar Falls and conducts the orchestra at Wartburg College.

The chamber orchestra will also perform “Romanian Folk Dances,” by Béla Bartók and a movement from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major.

Members of the all-volunteer orchestra are Johnson, Kimberly Birch, Doralyn Bigelow, Danielle Ellingson, Rhiannon Funte, Kara Vogelson, Sophia Morton and Nancy Western on violin; Carissa Eagan, Brandi Johnson and Lynne Wilkens on cello; Danae DeLange, Grace Barter, Kim Watkins and Sarah O’Neill on viola; and Ellen Bengtson on bass.

The group missed a full month of Tuesday night rehearsals over the harsh winter, but McLellan said they’ll be ready to play on Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of fun this year,” McLellan said. “The musicians have really come together and we’re going to have a really good performance on Sunday.”

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