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Musicians honored at symphony performance.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Two orchestra chairs sat empty when the music began Thursday night at the Eugene Symphony's sold-out Hult Center concert with Sir James Galway.

The empty seats in the strings section were in memory of Kjersten Oquist, the orchestra's principal violist, and Angela Svendsen, the principal second violinist.

The two women were killed Sunday night on Interstate 5 near Albany when their car was struck by a wrong-way driver as they headed home from a rehearsal.

The concert, featuring flute superstar Galway and his wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, was expected to be one of the high points of the symphony season. Instead it was nearly canceled as a result of the musicians' deaths until musicians, the symphony staff and board members decided that the show should go on.

In a change from tradition, the audience walked into the Silva Concert Hall and found the stage empty of musicians. At at few minutes past 8 p.m., orchestra members silently walked in, one by one, each carrying a white rose, to take their places.

Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero laid his rose on Oquist's chair and concertmaster Kathryn Lucktenberg laid her rose on Svendsen's.

"The Eugene Symphony lost two of its members in a tragic accident early this week," Guerrero said, noting the orchestra had considered canceling the evening's performance. "But we overwhelmingly wanted the opportunity to honor Angela and Kjersten the best way we know how - with music."

The orchestra then played a stately and familiar short piece, Variation No. 9 from Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, as a tribute to the two musicians.

When the music stopped, more than 2,500 people shared an extended moment of silence so profound it seemed wrenched from some remote place.

"Our grief is nothing compared to the families of Kjersten and Angela," Symphony Board President Mary Ann Hanson said. "Their light is shining through this sadness and loss."

Two floral arrangements framed the stage, and a program insert described the two musicians and their careers. The white roses brought on by the musicians lay scattered around their seats during the performance.

Galway concluded the evening with a rendition of the Irish tune "Danny Boy," saying the music was like a prayer and asking the audience to "pray for our lost friends and their families."

Principal oboist Kelli Gronli was injured in the crash; she did not perform Thursday.

Earlier in the evening Guerrero announced the program for the symphony's 2007-08 season at a reception.

The new season will include performances of Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony, Gershwin's American in Paris, Copland's Appalachian Spring, Beethoven's sixth symphony and Orff's Carmina Burana. Among guest soloists next season will be violin virtuoso Joshua Bell and pianist Andre Watts.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Violist Kjersten Oquist and violinist Angela Svendsen died in a car wreck
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 16, 2007
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