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Philharmonic Orchestra embarks on tour of South Africa

The Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Paul Chou, is performing in South Africa.

Over 100 travelers have made the journey from South Mountain to South Africa to perform concerts, attend cultural events, connect with local residents, interact with local schoolchildren, and enjoy the sights. The group of travelers consists of Lehigh alumni, parents, and friends in addition to the Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra members.

While the trip includes a heavy concert schedule, the itinerary also includes lectures, guided tours and a panel discussion to ensure that the students and other travelers will come home with more than just a wonderful music experience but also with a deeper understanding of the history and culture of South Africa.

This approach to traveling and touring with a musical group is unusual in that it provides a broadening experience for the alumni, students, and parents who have made the journey to Africa. Conceptualized by Lehigh professor Paul Chou, these musical journeys are very similar in concept to eco-tours and culinary vacations and other "alternative" vacations which are popular with seasoned travelers. Since the orchestra traveled to Europe in 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in interest in these tours by current students, alumni, parents and other music lovers.

In Johannesburg, South Africa, they will start their tour by giving a May 14th children’s concert at Linder Auditorium followed by a concert where they will appear with the renowned Symphony Choir of Johannesburg. That evening, members of the LU Philharmonic will also give a chamber music concert at the Northwards House.

After a brief visit to Kruger Park, the orchestra will then travel to Cape Town, where the Lehigh University Philharmonic Chamber Players will perform at St. George’s Cathedral on May 19 and then at Stellenbosch University on May 20. At the end of the trip, about 42 students will continue on to Victoria Falls in Zambia for more sightseeing.

The highly acclaimed Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Chou, is a group of over ninety talented musicians, most of whom are undergraduate students majoring in disciplines outside of music. They regularly perform to sold-out audiences at their home in the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University, and have performed at various international venues in Europe, Asia, and South America.

While in Brazil, they were invited to perform at the Ofecina de Musica in Curitiba, an international music festival. This tour of South Africa will mark concert appearances on five continents in the past seven years. Critics have described the LPO as “large, versatile and talented enough to tackle some of the most demanding orchestra literature” and that “music director Paul Chou has worked a miracle”.

The Orchestra Program was founded at Lehigh University with only three students in 1993 when Chou joined the faculty in the Music Department. Presently, the program now engages students who are involved in the flagship LU Philharmonic Orchestra, the LU Chamber Orchestra, and the LU Chamber Music Collegium.

The Lehigh University Chamber Players, a selective core group of advanced musicians drawn from the larger Philharmonic, often performs without a conductor providing an opportunity for the experienced instrumentalists to challenge themselves on more difficult works from the chamber orchestra literature.

The Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra has sponsored concerts and collaborations with the Boston Underground Railway Puppet Theater, Lehigh University Choral Arts, Hank Levy, Touchstone Theater, and several internationally renowned musicians including soprano Carmen Pelton, pianist Sandra Rivers, and conductor Samuel Wong.

--Z. Candi Staurinos

Posted on Sunday, May 07, 2006

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