Hitting a high note

Marshall High musicians place second at St. Paul competition

Submitted photo Marshall High School seniors (from left) Annabelle Lecy, Joel Zabel and J.P. Rabaey recently earned second place at the prestigious Youth Chamber Music Competition hosted by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for the seventh straight year. The string trio performed “La Folia” by Antonio Vivaldi.

MARSHALL — Marshall High School seniors J.P. Rabaey, Joel Zabel and Annabelle Lecy were awarded second-place after performing at the 7th annual Youth Chamber Music Competition held recently in Sundin Hall on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul.

The regional event is hosted by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), sponsored by the Friends of the SPCO and featured three rounds of competition: video round, semifinal round and finals recital.

“It’s been a life-changing experience,” Zabel said. “We never expected to make it so far in such a prestigious and high level competition.”

Director Wes Myers said the students were well-deserving of the high honor.

“The three seniors performed ‘La Folia’ by Antonio Vivaldi as the string trio Pontem Firmissimum, which is Latin for ‘strong bridge,'” Myers said. “Pontem started playing together this year and have received some training from Southwest Minnesota Orchestra (SMO) concert master Bacco Liu, but have done most rehearsing on their own.”

Lecy, Zabel and Rabaey said they were grateful for the coaching and support offered by Liu and Myers, who is their orchestra director at Marshall Public Schools, along with Dr. Dan Rieppel, the director for SMO, of which the three students are members of.

The 2018 Chamber Music Competition is for pre-college students living in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota and playing in ensembles of 3-8 musicians.

For the video round, entering groups had the opportunity to submit videos of their performances and receive written feedback from the judges. The judges then had the opportunity to select up to 16 wind and string ensembles in the Classical category to advance to the semifinal round on March 10. The final round was held March 18.

“The finals round includes string quartets, clarinet trios and string trios competing for monetary prizes,” Myers said. The grand prize is an additional $500.”

Myers said that the Pontem Firmissimum trio had hoped to represent Marshall and the school orchestra program well at the finals — and they certainly did that and more.

“Even making it to the final round of competition shows their high level of musicianship and dedication to excellence in music,” he said. “While attending the semifinal round, the coordinators of the event remarked on how happy they were to have a group from Greater Minnesota. In its seventh years of existence, the competition has been dominated by Twin Cities student groups due to location and the larger source of resources found for music and chamber music training.”

The Youth Chamber Music Competition and medals are dedicated to the memory of Pat Whitacre (1926-2005), a longtime member of the Friends of the SPCO and its third president.

“The SPCO sponsors Whitacre medals for all ensemble members, along with a future performance in the Ordway in downtown St. Paul,” Myers said.

The Fourzando String Quartet took first place in the competition.

While participation in the competition with their peers is thought to be remarkable experience, the hope is that the competition will also encourage students to continue their enthusiasm for chamber music, ideally leading them to a lifetime of playing and enjoyment.