Orchestraaahh delights

From left, Raymond Jenkins, Eileen MacNaughton and Lemuel Perry make up the first violin section of the Clovis Community Orchestra. They are practicing on Monday at First United Methodist Church for their Sunday performance. (Staff photo: Tova Fruc

Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Clovis Community Orchestra members are on the lookout for string-instrument musicians, and hope their first season performance Sunday will help recruitment efforts.

The group’s free winter concert will start at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.

Currently the orchestra has 10 to 12 string musicians, but the group is looking to double that number in an effort to perform symphony music.

A violin player and founder of the orchestra, Lemuel Perry has been a big recruiter of string musicians.

When he found out the Hobby Lobby manager’s daughter played the violin he went looking for him at work. Perry told him the Clovis Community Orchestra would love to have his daughter join.

That is how Kelsey Hale, a junior at Clovis High School, began practicing with the group at the beginning of the school year. She said she was glad to play with other people again — she wasn’t able to at school in Clovis.

For most of the small group of string instrument players the orchestra is their only chance for musical performance. They will perform music by staple composers like Bach, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

When Perry moved to Clovis from Phoenix more than two years ago he couldn’t find a group that needed his talents as a violinist.

“I just said that’s not acceptable,” Perry said.

He started networking to try to find others who played classical music — and the hunt led to the formation of the Clovis Community Orchestra.

His search also led him to David Gerig, dean of College of Fine Arts at Eastern New Mexico University.

Gerig had not played his violin for over 30 years when he joined the Clovis Community Orchestra. Now he plays the old violin his mother gave him every Monday night at rehearsal.

“It’s a chance for me to play. Performing is something I don’t do in my regular job,” Gerig said.

Gerig and Raymond Jenkins, who drives from Hereford, Texas, each week for rehearsal, learned to play violin in private lessons.

Others like Perry and Hale learned at schools in other cities.

John Rollinson, who conducts the orchestra, said he hopes to soon have a group of young string musicians to choose from for the orchestra.

At a Clovis school board meeting on Jan. 11, four community members including former Clovis band director Norvil Howell lobbied for a string-instrument music program. The board agreed to start researching the issue and discuss it at a future meeting.

“One of the reasons we’re so small is there is no base in school,” Rollinson said.

But Rollinson said what the orchestra lacks in size they make up for in performance.

“We’re small, but we stress quality,” he said.

Perry said he’s looking forward to sharing the orchestra’s hard work and practice with the Clovis community.

“There’s a joy in presenting it, in sharing it with an actual audience,” he said.