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PREVIEW: Birch Festival, May 18–20, features an all-star band performing Stravinsky’s ‘Soldier’s Tale’

The "Danse du diable" delivers all the wit, thrills, and adventure you hope for in a Stravinsky piece, and hearing this particular group of musicians perform it is sure to be a satisfying experience.

Lenox — The lineup of performers for this year’s Birch Festival (now in its second year) should be sufficiently stellar to command your attention. It commanded mine, because it includes not only Birch Festival co-founder and violinist Yevgeny Kutik but also four members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: Principal Bass Edwin Barker, Principle Trombone Toby Oft, Associate Principal Trumpet Tom Siders, and Associate Principal Bassoon Rick Ranti. Also in the lineup are two Boston-area players of excellent repute: clarinetist Rob Patterson and percussionist Mike Williams. Rounding out the group are conductor Fernanda Lastra and narrator Alysha Deslorieux. These are the musicians who will perform on Sunday, May 19, 4 p.m., at Lenox Memorial High School Auditorium, and on Monday, May 20, 6 p.m., at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield.

What brings this unusual combination of performers together? It is a theatrical work Igor Stravinsky and librettist C. F. Ramuz created in 1918, “L’Histoire du soldat” (“A Soldier’s Tale”), based on the Russian folk story “The Runaway Soldier and the Devil.” A soldier hands his fiddle to the devil in exchange for unlimited wealth, only to regain possession of the instrument after challenging Lucifer to combat. The ensuing “Danse du diable” delivers all the wit, thrills, and adventure you hope for in a Stravinsky piece, and hearing this particular group of musicians perform it is sure to be a satisfying experience. The themes of this fable are all too familiar, but the ending is so surprising that I mustn’t spoil it here.

While it is a rare treat to hear a live performance of Stravinsky’s “Soldier’s Tale,” the piece is so full of changing time signatures that it is usually performed with a conductor, as it will be in this case. Performing “Soldier’s Tale” requires such a high level of musicianship that it is smart to hold out for a performance given by players of virtuosic skill. The musicians on this program unquestionably meet that requirement. Read their bios and you will see what I mean:

On Saturday, May 18, Yoga and meditation instructor Rachel Barker (E-RYT® 200, YACEP®) will teach a yoga class from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Church on the Hill Chapel’s labyrinth room at 55 Main Street, Lenox. RSVP required. Class size is limited to 10. At 11 a.m. at the same location, Rachel will conduct a workshop discussing links between “A Soldier’s Tale” and Tarot archetypes. Both events are free.

The Birch Festival, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded by Yevgeny Kutik, a Belarusian-Jewish refugee whose family resettled in Pittsfield with assistance from the Jewish Federation, and Rachel Barker, a yoga and meditation instructor.

Hear Stravisnky’s “L’Histoire du soldat” (“A Soldier’s Tale”) on Sunday, May 19, 4 p.m., at Lenox Memorial High School Auditorium, 197 East St, Lenox, or on Monday, May 20, 6 p.m., at Zion Lutheran Church, 74 First Street, Pittsfield. Tickets to Birch Festival events are available here.

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