CHARLES CITY — The single violin flitters up and down a set of measures, repeating them to perfect the tone and character. Chatter fills in the background as a low thrumming.
Cases click open. More violinists start their tuning. Cellos join in the cacophony, until the conductor, John Chiles, motions. The silence is a void soon filled by talk of programs and an introduction of the orchestra’s guest.
It’s practice night at the 500 N. Grand Auditorium for the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra.
Since its inception, the orchestra has fluctuated between 10 and 15 members. It’s at the high water mark of 15, Wendy Johnson, founding member, said.
Aside from his role with the Charles City orchestra, Chiles is the conductor of the Northern Iowa Youth Orchestra, the assistant conductor of the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra and a leading faculty member at the UNI Suzuki School. Learn more about him here.
The special guest is mezzo soprano Megan Grey, a UNI graduate who as a cellist representing UNI gave solo performances with the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra and as a member of the college’s Concert Chorale toured Estonia. Learn more about her here. She will be singing the Charles City orchestra.
Practice is interrupted by the lights blinking on about 12 minutes in. The musicians were mostly in shadows until Linda Brant arrived to work with her Charles City High School Drama performers. She knows how everything works in this auditorium. Her crew is preparing to perform “Don’t Drink the Water” by Woody Allen at 7:30 p.m. both April 28 and 29. This week, they’re building the set, pieces of which were stacked up behind the orchestra.
The Iowa Supreme Court will also be using the stage on April 4 for oral arguments beginning at 7 p.m. CCHS Drama co-director Michael Lembke said the set work will likely leave about 13 feet for the court to operate.
The orchestra will take the stage before the justices, however, by two days. It will present “Springtime in Paris” beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 2. Admission is free.
Here is a short preview from Tuesday’s practice.