String Ensemble Video Echoes “Victory to MSU”

Elegance and artistry blends with Spartan pride through a specially arranged version of the MSU Fight Song.

The International Chamber Soloists is directed by Dmitri Berlinsky, MSU professor of violin.


MSU Professor of Violin Dmitri Berlinsky strives to find ways for his students to advance and elevate their artistry with unique performances and engaging repertoire. Berlinsky directs the International Chamber Soloists, a 12- to 15-member student chamber string ensemble. When asked to have his ensemble perform something special at a donor reception, he embraced the idea, but never anticipated the pride-filled reverberations that would later unfold.

The September 2015 pre-football game reception at Cowles House went off without hitch, but with a surprising conclusion when the performance of what was thought to be a classical work abruptly and artistically erupted with Spartan pride. Within moments, the audience rose to their feet with infectious chants and claps as Berlinsky’s ensemble performed a special variation of the MSU Fight Song.

The special arrangement of the fight song by College of Music faculty emeritus member Dr. James Niblock was suggested by James Forger, dean of the College of Music.

“Jim’s arrangement was a perfect fit for Dmitri and the International Chamber Soloists,” says Forger. “It’s the perfect blend of artistry and pride that has the power to connect with all Spartans.”

Forger added that Niblock's arrangement reflects the rich and spirited traditions of the University but also leaves a lasting artistic impression.

“It’s a wonderful way to illustrate the remarkable talent of the faculty and students in the College of Music,” he says.

Unbeknownst to attendees at the donor event, Niblock’s arrangement of the fight song was originally written for a group of special musical guests to MSU. From the late 1970s through the late 1980s, members of the Juilliard String Quartet took part in an annual residency for the then MSU School of Music. Commemorating their residency, Niblock put together a special arrangement that reflected the unique playing style of the contemporary string quartet and balanced that with the recognizable qualities and traditions of the fight song. Performed at Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the arrangement surprised and delighted the audience. Identical reactions now echo nearly 30 years later, but far beyond the confines of the MSU campus.

The ICS performance of the fight song captured the attention of MSU’s marketing team. Producers and videographers of MSU Communications and Brand Strategy worked with Berlinsky and the ensemble with a goal of recapturing reactions from the 2015 reception, but this time, share with all Spartans far and wide.

Thanks to the digital age and the advent of social media, the video reached 1.2 million on Facebook and garnered more than 450,000 video views in just the first week. See video at the top of this article.

“It’s great to be a part of something that creates such a wonderful sense of unity,” says Berlinsky. “I always strive for my students to find powerful ways to connect with their audience, and this opportunity proved to be just that on so many levels.”

Berlinsky also looks for his students to discover unity as a group. During rehearsals, the ensemble took time to incorporate their own style and personality, tweaking the arrangement in subtle ways. The students embraced the project and were excited to be a part of it, which demonstrates their dedication and drive to perform at a high level. Berlinsky says the ensemble’s high quality and performance opportunities helps recruit new students and ultimately advances the College’s string player reputation across the globe.

The ensemble’s name, International Chamber Soloists, reflects a common bond that aligns with Berlinsky’s vision for the group. 

“We all speak a common language, and that language is music,” he says. “We communicate across all cultures and connect with people. Connecting is part of who we are as artists, but it’s also a part of who we are as Spartans.”


International Chamber Soloists, directed by Dmitri Berlinsky. Violins; I-Pei Lin, Samvel Arakelyan, Oleg Bezuglov, Anna Khalikova, Hayne Kim. Violas: Chi-Jui Lee, Howard Jones. Cellos: Hong-Hong, Wan-Jou Hsu. Double Bass: Robert Johnson.

Video Produced by MSU Communications and Brand Strategy: Kevin Epling, director, producer, videographer; Anthony Siciliano, co-producer, editor, videographer. Additional videographers include Chris Buller, Kurt Stepnitz, Greg Kohuth, Jordan Noble and Derrick Turner.

Audio recording produced by Jen Shangraw, College of Music. Additional video and audio production assistance provided by Steve Boughton and Jon Whiting.
 

International Chamber Soloists performs at the Fairchild Theatre for an MSU Federal Credit Union Showcase Series concert in April of 2016.


International Chamber Soloists

The International Chamber Soloists ensemble is a unique group of extraordinary young string players from all over the world. Founded in 2004 by violinist Dmitri Berlinsky, the group has received high praise for its performances. The Toronto Globe & Mail wrote: “In the best of today’s chamber orchestras, there’s no room for wimpy playing: These ensembles are muscular, agile, flexible and out to make an impression. That’s a pretty good description of the International Chamber Soloists — These musicians approach everything they play with an infectious alacrity…”

Berlinsky’s intention was to develop a new ensemble for advanced MSU students to have exposure to a variety of string repertoire and close collaboration with experienced professional performers including some of the MSU faculty.

The ICS has held concerts and done outreach in Michigan, New York, Florida, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas and Texas, and participated at prestigious international festivals in Costa Rica and Mexico. The ensemble performed at the Fontana Arts Festival in Kalamazoo, and the San Francisco Conservatory as part of a Michigan State University gala concert.

In September 2015, the ICS performed at the prestigious Merkin Hall in New York City as part of MSU College of Music “Viva Vivaldi” sold-out concert.

The ICS was the orchestra in residence at the 2010 and 2013 Southampton Arts Festival in Long Island, N.Y. The group’s past performances were in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Toronto, Danbury, Conn., and an eight-concert Midwest tour.

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