ORION STORIES
Q&A with Roger Chase, guest violist
Roger Chase, who performs as guest violist on Orion’s final concert program of the season, has played as a soloist or chamber musician in major cities across the globe. He was a member of the Nash Ensemble for more than 20 years, as well as the London Sinfonietta, the Esterhazy Baryton Trio, the Quartet of London, Hausmusik of London, and the London Chamber Orchestra. He has taught in the UK at various schools, including the Royal College of Music, and at Oberlin College in the U.S. He currently teaches at Roosevelt University in Chicago and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London.

Following is our conversation with Chase, who will join Orion on its fourth concert program of the season in May.
What first attracted you to the viola?
Although I was playing the viola from the age of nine, meeting the instrument that I now play at the age of 11 convinced me that the viola was what I wanted to play. The particular sound of this particular instrument was utterly different from anything I had heard before.

What do you enjoy about playing with chamber ensembles (vs. orchestras)?
It’s a different experience altogether, neither better nor worse! The joy of playing with a larger team and making a sound as a section is impossible as an individual, and, together with all the instruments of the whole orchestra, there is a musical and sound potential that is obviously different from a small ensemble. But playing in a small chamber ensemble allows personal interaction and intimacy of communication, which at its best is profound and life-changing. We’re talking about a human activity that must be at the top of the totem pole of the transcendentally difficult, comprehensively illuminating and potentially most satisfying and startlingly ego-drowning experiences known. 

Orion performs each of its programs in three venues. Do you find you must adapt the way you perform in different venues?
Yes. We listen to what is coming back to us from the room and adapt tempi accordingly. It takes time and changes as the performance progresses and as we sense what is happening to the audience. 

What do you find most satisfying about teaching?
Endless subject. I am frightened by the commitment necessary to a student—four years, or two years minimum. They don’t have to commit to me, but I must to them. No truer words: What you need to learn you should first teach. Teaching when you are older has a function: To unburden the teacher of knowledge that has taken a lifetime to acquire, that weighs so heavily on them. To be able to give that to a student who is strong enough to carry it is an enormous relief and a joy that is incomparable.

Anything else you’d like to share?
The last couple of years have been challenging as never before for the performing arts, but to me there has never been a time when they are of greater importance. I otherwise worry about another dark age. And if that is true, it will be necessary for some people to keep a flame alight and protect and carry it until the lights come on again. A new renaissance and enlightenment? People argue whether or not we can afford art and culture at a time when we seem to be fighting for everything but. I, however, would argue that if it is not for arts and culture, why are we fighting at all?
See Orion's May concerts!
Concert 4

May 8 - 7 pm (New England Congregational Church, Aurora)
May 11 - 7:30 pm (PianoForte Studios, Chicago)
May 15 - 7:30 pm (Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston)

$30 adults | $25 seniors | $15 students

“Innovative programming. Unique repertoire.
Thoughtful performances that get to the music’s soul.”
~ Jim Ginsburg, President, Cedille Records

29th Season—2021–22
 The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund, the Arts Tour Fund of the Illinois Arts Council, the Illinois Arts Council Agency,
and generous donations from our dedicated patrons.