One-on-one with a witch

LSO children’s series brings out the strange


More than a year of lockdown has done some odd things to the musicians of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra.

A charming online children’s series is showing sides of them we’ve never seen.

Even series host Ashleigh Lore, an enthusiastic elementary school music teacher, was taken aback by the wild glint in Florina Georgia Petrescu’s eyes.

Between sharp snippets of Vivaldi and Bach, the Romanian-born violinist does spot-on imitations of a mosquito, a mooing cow, a creaky door and a motorcycle. She brandishes a broom and gleefully tells Lore she comes from Transylvania (really).

“I knew she was very kind, very sweet, but I never saw her playful side before,” Lore said.

The first entry in the second LSO Kids series, available online; cuts instantly (and hilariously) from Lore’s gentle smile to a deafening snare drum roll by principal percussionist Matthew Beck. He whacks away as if he’s been stuck in his basement, with too many things to hit, and is grateful to have someone to talk to.

“The percussion family has hundreds of instruments!” he exults. “HUNDREDS!”

The popular series is attracting a new audience from around the country, and the world, in part because it shows a playful, off-kilter side of the musicians you’d never get to see otherwise. Music teachers use the series to pique their students’ interest in playing music.

The guest artists explain in simple terms how instruments are made, how they produce noise and what it’s like to be a part of an orchestra.

Best of all, Lore asks the questions an adult would never ask, but would love to, if given the chance.

Forget minor key modulations and Beethoven’s inner turmoil. Don’t you get tired blowing on that horn? What’s the highest and lowest sound you can make? Can you play something fast and loud?

The guest artists also play some great music, more or less straight. Petrescu plays a demonic Bach toccata, harpist Brittany DeYoung drifts through an enchanting passacaglia by Handel and horn player Corbin Wagner intones Darth Vader’s theme from “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Future episodes roll out some heavy hitters, including principal tuba player Phil Sinder, principal trombonist Ava Ordman, principal bassist Ed Fedeway, principal bassoonist Michael Kroth and even the LSO’s composer-in-residence, Patrick Harlin.

All of them are likely to have some pent-up energy to vent on appreciative kids.

Wagner surprised Lore at the end of the taping by suddenly whipping on his formal jacket.

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘Dr. Strange’? Wagner grins. “He has a magic cloak and we have a magic jacket.”

“He came out like gangbusters,” Lore said. “I only had to make two edits on that one.”


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