This year’s annual Abilene ISD trip to the Abilene Philharmonic took students from every elementary school in the district back to Russia in the early part of the 20th Century. With the Russian folktale “Firebird,” students were treated to music from a ballet that was first performed in 1910.
Fifth-grade students from every elementary school in the district made their annual trip to the Abilene Convention Center to get a taste of classical music. The philharmonic played two concerts on Oct. 27 to very appreciative crowds of students from AISD and surrounding school districts. The philharmonic, amid preparations for an Oct. 28 concert, played four movements of Igor Stravinsky’s Concert Suite No. 2, completed in 1910.
The ballet is based on the Russian folk tale of the “Firebird,” which Stravinsky used as inspiration in his score. The ballet tells the story of Prince Ivan, who defeats the evil Kastchei with the help of the Firebird, who offers one of her enchanted feathers to Prince Ivan after he spares her life. Prince Ivan later uses the feather to summon the Firebird when he needs her help as Kastchei’s creatures chase after him.
The Firebird premiered in 1910, performed at the Paris Opera by the Ballets Russes, and was choreographed by Michel Fokine. The Firebird’s popularity marked the first international success of Stravinsky’s career, and today, The Firebird continues to be performed as a ballet and a standalone orchestral suite.
The annual trip to hear the Abilene Philharmonic is meant to expose students to genres of music they might have yet to hear and might not hear again after their one-day trip to the Convention Center. But that half-hour listening to classical music and the instruments that make it come alive might be all it takes to spark a lifetime love for that style of music.
“I was fortunate to be introduced to classical music by some of my teachers, and that set me on a path in my life that has brought me so much joy,” AISD Executive Director for Fine Arts Jay Lester said. “But many of the students who were here (on Oct. 27) are not exposed to classical music at home, and so they don’t realize that this music can be found in so many of the TV shows, movies, and even video games that they enjoy every day.”
The musicians, under the direction of music director and conductor David Itkin, not only played the three movements from the symphony but also gave the students a sample of what each instrument sounds like with short musical interludes by each section. This year’s favorite of the students was the theme from Looney Tunes, as performed by the percussion section.
This year’s trip to the philharmonic for AISD elementary students had a little bit of a different flair as the foyer of the Abilene Convention Center was decorated with artwork drawn and painted by AISD students depicting the Firebird. Some of those pieces of artwork were part of a slide show that went along with elements the orchestra played during the show.