String Orchestra of the Rockies opens season

Joshua Roman
Montana Kaimin

By Jesse Flickinger


Bows glide through the air, immersing the room in a mountain of sound and emotion. The practiced musician’s fingers fly across a series of fret boards. The audience becomes so hypnotized with the composition that even the children’s eyes are captivated by the performance, and it’s only the first piece.

The String Orchestra of the Rockies opened its 29th season with an electric performance to a near-capacity crowd Sunday night at the University of Montana Music Recital Hall. 


The orchestra was joined by nationally renowned guest cellist Joshua Roman, in a program titled “American Cello Idol.”  The 29-year-old award-winning Roman had been specially invited by the orchestra to perform as a soloist in a concert titled for his arrival.

Roman said how nice it was to be able to work with a smaller orchestra instead of the larger ones he’s more accustomed to.

“I know some great conductors,” Roman said. “But it’s really great to be able to hear everybody’s feedback and not have to go through the normal protocol.”

The evening began with the orchestra demonstrating its skills, breezing stylishly though the first movement of Karl Jenkins’s Palladio. 

The three-movement concerto began frantically, as if the orchestra was racing from an impending danger.  The second movement subdued the pace, slowing into a more mournful piece that would be right at home at a Viking funeral.  The final movement brought back the heat, beautifully overlapping instrumentation which culminated into an explosive chorus, before quieting once more, only to race back again.

Samuel Barber’s Serenade for Strings followed shortly after, a much softer piece than the previous.

The orchestra then erupted into three Victor Herbert pieces specifically designed for cello and strings as they brought Roman to the stage.  His all-black attire matched the performance platform as he performed. He flew through difficult passages flawlessly, making it look easy, as he manipulated his 1899 Venetian Degani. 

President of the SOR board of directors Magda Chaney was elated over the night’s performance.

“Music makes an enormous difference in people’s lives,” Chaney said. “I think that the music they play is absolutely sublime.”

Chaney was especially impressed with Roman.

“He’s an amazing representative of this young next generation of cellists,” Chaney said.

After a brief intermission, the orchestra fired back into motion with Gluck’s “Dance of the Furies.” The orchestra reminded the audience once more how capable they are, not allowing Roman to completely steal the show, as it played the mythological tale of Orpheus running from the furies.

The final piece for the night, Boccherini’s Concerto in B-flat Major, brought Roman back on to the stage for three more movements, as he demonstrated his finesse through several intricate passages.  Roman flourished his bow with a stylish poise and swayed to the music with his cello, enthralling the audience.

Stage manager Thomas Morrison enjoyed the music’s professionalism.

“It’s quite possibly the highest caliber of music you’ll find in Montana,” Morrison said.

The concert ended to a thunderous ovation. The performers took a bow and Roman had to return to the stage three times before the applause would be silenced.