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Czech musicians to play Katrina benefit

During one of their first-ever American tours, the Brno ChamberSoloists will make Mississippi – and Brookhaven – one of their mainstops.

Members of the Brno Chamber Soloists, a 12-string orchestra fromthe Morvian region of the Czech Republic, have decided to give up aday off to perform an extra concert to benefit Hurricane Katrinavictims here in Mississippi.

The group will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday in the sanctuary ofFirst United Methodist Church at 215 W. Cherokee St.

“We’re pleased and proud they would choose to come to Brookhavenand to our church,” said Dr. Wayne Webster, pastor of First UnitedMethodist Church. “It will be a blessing for all those who come aswell as to the Katrina victims.”

The musicians are not accepting a fee to perform so that allproceeds from the concert can be directed toward those affected bythe hurricane. There is no admission charge for the performance,but a love offering will be taken.

According to a news release, seeing the devastation in theSoutheast was served as a painful reminder for the musicians.Disastrous floods ravaged their native Czech Republic in August2002.

“We recalled the subways being flooded and all the destructionto the archives of the concert halls and museums in Prague,” saidcello soloist Jan Skrdlik. “So we were all very sympathetic to theplight of the recent hurricane victims in the U.S.A. and asked ourmanager in New York what we might be able to do to help.”

The Department of Music at Millsaps College in Jackson (wherethe orchestra is to perform Monday) quickly formed an alliance withMillsaps’ Center for Ministry and First United Methodist Church inBrookhaven to host the event.

The concert features solo pianist Michiko Otaki, who will play aportion of Mozart’s K. 415 Concerto, as well as works byMyslivecek, Grieg and Johann Christian Bach. Otaki is director ofkeyboard studies at Clayton State University in Atlanta and haspreviously recorded and performed with the Brno orchestra at summerfestivals in Europe and toured with numerous orchestras and chambermusic ensembles.

“We don’t hear string playing at this level of expertise in thispart of the country,” said H. Lynn Raley, assistant professor ofmusic at Millsaps. “We’re really excited to have them here.”

Milos Vacek established the Brno Chamber Soloists in the 1990sas an ensemble of outstanding musicians from Brno, the secondlargest city in the Czech Republic. The group performed a number ofconcerts in the Czech Republic and in neighboring countries. In2003, the membership was revised and violinist Jiri Besperatassumed responsibility for the orchestra.

According to Raley, the ensemble will perform 32 concerts in 19states to complete a demanding seven-week tour.

“They have no affiliation with Mississippi at all but felt greatempathy for Katrina victims and wanted to help out.” said Raley.”With such a grueling tour schedule ahead of them, I can’t believethey’re willing to play on their day off – and for no pay – just tohelp Mississippians out.”