Making music across the globe

Local sisters travel to Germany, perform in concert

The musicians played for a capacity crowd in Munich, Germany, on July 16 as guest members of the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra.

Professional musicians and sisters Carole Reifsteck Parsons of Altoona and former Altoonan Cheryl Reifsteck played for a capacity crowd in Munich, Germany, on July 16 as guest members of the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra.

The DPO has had a partnership with the Bavarian Philharmonic (Bayerische Philharmonie) since 2017.

The July concert was originally scheduled as a birthday celebration for Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020. Like many events, the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be postponed until July 2022, according to the program booklet.

Due to the schedule change, the DPO, under the direction of Lawrence Golan, needed to recruit additional traveling musicians, so Golan spread the word to the York Symphony Orchestra, which he also directs, said Reifsteck.

Reifsteck, 66, plays viola and violin in the York orchestra and suggested her sister Reifsteck Parsons also participate in the cultural exchange as a violinist. Both women played in the eight-member violin section for the concert at Hercules Hall (Herkulessaal) in Munich, Germany.

The Bavarian Philharmonic, based in Munich, Germany, is the leading European orchestra and is led by music director Mark Mast, according to its website. The two organizations began this international partnership in 2017 and it extends through 2024.

Reifsteck Parsons, 78, a retired music professor at Penn State University, is a member of the Altoona Symphony and has played violin previously with the York orchestra.

While based in Denver, the DPO draws musicians from throughout the midwest, Reifsteck said. About 60 American musicians made the trip to Germany. The sisters were two of 18 violinists.

The sisters said the trip also included “phenomenal local German food” including white sausage, potato salad with vinegar dressing, egg noodles and Bavarian cream dessert. The sisters also toured Munich and the Neuschwan King Ludwig II castle at Schwangau, Germany, among other sites.

“It was a trip of a lifetime,” Reifsteck said.

Also participating as a photographer was Harald Dertinger of Altoona. Dertinger serves as the photographer for the Altoona Symphony Orchestra. He is a native of Wurzburg in Northern Bavaria, about 2.5 hours north of Munich.

“It came to me out of the blue through Carole. I had planned a trip to Germany for this summer anyway and it turned out like a charm,” he said, adding he spent three days in Munich and four days in his hometown visiting family.

Reifsteck said Dertinger assisted them in finding their hotel upon arrival in the morning of July 11. Later that day, the trio went to the MarienPlatz for dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.

“We took pictures with the Mad Hatter from the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ novel and got lovely photos of Carole and myself sipping tea with the Cheshire cat/Mad Hatter,” Reifsteck stated in a travel diary she shared with the Mirror. Reifsteck retired as a music teacher with the Philadelphia School District and previously at the Philadelphia College of the Bible.

Both sisters have traveled internationally previously but this trip fulfilled Reifsteck Parsons’ desire to see the land of their German ancestors, she said.

The orchestra members prepared individually to learn the performance music, which included Pennsylvania native and composer Diane Wittry’s composition “Ode to Joy Fanfare,” as well as Beethoven’s “Chorale Fantasie” and “Symphony No. 9.” The concert also featured the “excellent singing” of the Bayerisch Philharmonic Choir and 17-year-old Swiss pianist, Javelyn Kryeziu, whom Parsons described as a “rising star.”

“I have never heard anyone play like that,” Reifsteck Parsons said. “She was that good. She was flawless. So musical and so technically beyond her 17 years of age. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve heard a lot of piano playing as a judge for the American Guild of Piano Teachers for over 50 years.”

The orchestra members spent about 20 hours over three days rehearsing for the two-and-a-half hour concert as the co-conductors worked to create a unified sound.

The audience, which numbered about 2,000 attendees, provided a 15-minute standing ovation at the concert’s conclusion, Reifsteck Parsons said. “We were very thrilled with the reception that we had. The auditorium was completely full. They gave us a standing ovation, clapping and clapping for at least 15 minutes. They clapped in rhythm asking for an encore. We left them waiting for more music. So we’ll have to go back again,” she said.


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