Firenze Strings out to share chamber classics

A special concert is planned to honor area dads on Father's Day, as Firenze Strings is scheduled to perform the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonio Vivaldi at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mountain View Presbyterian Church, 8601 Del Webb Blvd.

The free concert will feature a group of musicians from the Las Vegas Philharmonic and shows on the Strip.

Firenze Strings was formed about two years ago after one of the musicians had a birthday and the others decided to put a group together for it. They chose to play a number of pieces by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who found inspiration living in Florence, Italy. He called it his "city of dreams."

"Firenze" is the Italian name for Florence.

The local musicians originally billed themselves as the Souvenirs of Florence, taking the name from the composition "Souvenir de Florence," which Tchaikovsky composed in 1890. They discovered the name was already being used by a group in the South, so they changed it to Firenze Sextet and finally Firenze Strings.

"It sounds more Italian than 'Florence' does," said Moonlight Tran, a member who played the cello in the pit orchestra of "The Lion King." "Florence sounds kind of old-time ... old-fashioned ... besides, we played at some middle school and junior highs, and they'd hear the word 'sextet,' and they'd immediately think of sex, and we didn't want any other connotation other than string players."

Another core member is Rebecca Ramsey, who played violin in the same pit orchestra as Tran, as well as in the orchestra for Celine Dion's show "Celine" at Caesars Palace. She has been a concertmaster for a number of the musical giants - Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Mathis and Luciano Pavarotti. She said she welcomed the chance to play on a smaller scale.

"It's very satisfying to perform chamber music," Ramsey said. "There's (usually) only one musician to a part, so it's direct communication with the audience."

Talking is as much a part of appreciating the music as is playing it. Throughout the 75-minute concert, Ramsey will explain things about the composer and the music, including anecdotes associated with the piece.

"It makes it come alive for them," Ramsey said. "You can't assume everybody knows about this music."

There is a lot of commercial work in town, Tran said, but classical music groups such as Firenze Strings are difficult to put together because the players have to be of a certain caliber and be able to donate their time.

Other Firenze Strings core musicians include: Geri Thompson, a violinist who has backed headline entertainment and played for "Phantom ---- The Las Vegas Spectacular," "Spamalot," "The Producers" and "The Lion King;" Hanna Suk on the viola, who trained at the National Music Academy of Ukraine, was a member of the Caprice Classic String Quartet and the Cunard String Quartet, and performed with the Kiev Chamber Orchestra; Tianna Harjo, a violist who is a viola instructor and chamber music coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to her duties at UNLV, she also works as a paraprofessional for the Clark County School District, traveling to various middle and high schools to conduct instrumental sectionals and workshops. Firenze Strings member Lindsey Springer is a cellist for major Strip shows, including "Celine." She has recorded with Air Supply, Beyoncé, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Latin Grammys.

Firenze Strings members were among the musicians who helped open The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Firenze Strings plans another concert for 2 p.m. July 14 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive.

Advance tickets may be purchased for $10 at the center or at Tickets will be $12 the day of the concert. For more information, call 455-7340.

For more information about the show at Mountain View Presbyterian Church, call 341-7800.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 387-2949.