Friday, May 10, 2013

A Mother's Day Treat: Hear the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra

There are three concerts this month: the last Masterworks of the season featuring Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony (which you can read about here) on May 18th and 19th; this year's edition of "Stuart & Friends" which comes up right afterwards on Tuesday, the 21st at 7:30 at HACC's Rose Lehrman Center; and this weekend, the symphony's Youth Orchestra will be giving its spring concert on Mother's Day - this Sunday at 3pm at the Forum.

The program includes a suite from the "wild west" ballet by Aaron Copland, Billy the Kid, which the Harrisburg Symphony played last season on a program of musical tales called "The Don's Deeds" which also featured Strauss' Don Quixote, the "Don" in question. You can read more background about Copland's ballet in this earlier post which also includes video clips of a recording of the suite.

Also, there are two very lively pieces to open and close the program: in keeping with the perhaps completely fortuitous tradition of programming lots of Russian and Slavic music (Borodin's and Tchaikovsky's 2nd symphonies, Dvorak's New World Symphony among shorter works), Woodbridge has chosen an overture by the Soviet-era composer Dmitri Kabalevsky (best known in the West for his light-hearted "Comedians" Suite). The story of Colas Breugnon takes place in 16th Century France rather than having anything to do with Stalinist politics, but you don't need to know any of that enjoy a thoroughly good romp when you hear it.

Here's a recording by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Vasili Sinaisky from their Chandos disc:

The program concludes with a popular work by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, his Danzón No. 2.

Gustavno Dudamel conducts the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra from Venezuela in this performance recorded at the London Proms: this orchestra is itself a youth orchestra, the "apex of the nation's system of Youth Orchestras" in the world-famous arts program known as El Sistema.

Katy Downs
This year's winner of the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition is Katy Downs who'll be playing Cecile Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra with her colleagues of the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra, conducted by Gregory Woodbridge.

Katy has been a member of the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra for two years. She has also been a part of Cedar Cliff High School’s wind ensemble, marching band, and orchestra. Katy has spent three wonderful summers at the Luzerne Music Center in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. In tenth grade she attended District Band and then State Band playing piccolo. This year she earned first chair in the PMEA All-State Wind Ensemble. Although music is a huge part of her life, Katy also likes to relax with British television: Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, or Sherlock.

Outside of school, Katy has been a part of many other musical ensembles. She went to Europe with American Music Abroad and was featured on piccolo in Sousa’s famous march, Stars and Stripes Forever. In 2011, she was selected to be in the NAfME All-National Honor Ensemble and was first chair. She was also selected to be a part of the 2013 American High School Honors Performance Series, an honor which sent her to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Katy hopes to graduate from a music conservatory with the ambition of being a member of a professional orchestra.

Cecile Chaminade
Cecile Chaminade wrote this brief concerto (a concertino rather than an actual, all-out "concerto") in 1902 as a competition piece for students at the Paris Conservatoire when she was 45. Though she wrote a great many short piano pieces and songs and was very popular in her day, she had been largely forgotten by the time she died in 1944 at the age of 86.

This concertino is probably her most frequently performed piece and is available as a work for flute and piano as well as in other arrangements.

Given how difficult it is to find sometimes reasonable performances or recordings on YouTube, I decided to choose this video by the Hong Kong Wind Philharmonia with soloist Matthew Wu:

The concert is at the Forum this Sunday, May 12th, at 3pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Hope you can join us and realize how the future of classical music is in good hands.

And thanks, of course, to all the musicians for their hard work, to their teachers for all their guidance and inspiration, and especially to the students' parents and family who have supported them in their studies, in their practicing and in just schlepping them around to lessons, rehearsals and concerts!

- Dick Strawser

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Photo credits for the Youth Symphony musicians: Stephanie Dutton

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