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Talent blooms in vibrant musical colors for two Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles Spring Concerts

February 12, 2014

Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra tackles selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and movie music for performance at Soka Performing Arts Center

Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble performs Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

Two captivating displays of youthful musicality take place next month as Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) and Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (PSYWE) perform an impressive range of music for their individual spring concerts. The students are bonded more than at any other time during the year, having recently returned from winter retreats, and have prepared some challenging repertoire to perform for the community. Led by Music Director Alejandro Gutiérrez, PSYO travels for the first time to Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, on Saturday, March 1, at 3 p.m., to perform a concert of 20th-century music by Prokofiev, John Williams, James Newton Howard, Ginastera and more. Then, the exuberant sounds of PSYWE are heard the following weekend on Sunday, March 9, at 3 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Led by Music Director Joshua Roach, the wind ensemble performs and narrates Mussorgsky’s masterwork, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and plays exciting music by Shostakovich, Grainger, Barber and Barnes. Tickets are $12, general admission; for more information or to purchase, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

“I always love the spring session for the youth ensembles,” says Maestro Roach. “The growth of young adult musicians during each of their years in high school is astonishing. If you compare a student’s playing six months apart during the year, you might not think it would be

the same player! Also, we spend an intense weekend together at a retreat in January, and after this, everyone comes to know one another so much better that the group really begins to form its own culture. It’s very exciting, and it means that the level of music-making rises.”

Maestro Gutiérrez adds, “At the retreat, the students had the opportunity to get to know each other better, socialize and participate in a session of acting and group exercises, which helped them to feel and share the energy around them while performing, be more expressive and work as a team. I’m most proud of their positive attitude and the high level of performance they are accomplishing.”

 

Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra

The outstanding young musicians of PSYO dive into an afternoon of 20th-century music that ranges from well-known film scores to music from the electroacoustic and neoclassical movements, with a little Argentinian flare to wrap it all up.

“For me it is very important to expose the youth orchestra to as many varieties of genres, musical styles and different ways of musical expression as possible,” says Gutiérrez. “The diversity of musical movements that occurred during the 20th century offers the possibility to expand that exposure beyond the traditional orchestral repertoire.”

The program opens with “Tuning Up” for orchestra, written by Edgard Varèse, known as the “Father of Electronic Music.”

“The piece by Varèse, ‘Tuning Up,’ is the only one on the program that could be affiliated with the modernism period in the late 1940s—for his intention to organize the sound experienced during the tuning of an orchestra and the adding of extra noise, with sirens and percussion, into a short piece of music,” says Gutiérrez. “My goal with this piece is to teach the members of the orchestra about this experimental musical language of the 20th century that has been so difficult for audiences to digest due to the lack of proper ways to deliver it in concert contexts.”

Movie music follows as the orchestra performs John Williams’ theme from “Jurassic Park” and James Newton Howard’s themes from the Disney film, “Dinosaur”; scores which are also being played alongside Pacific Symphony at the Family Musical Mornings concert, “Dinosaurs!” selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” center the program, with guest narration by Richard Soto, an actor at South Coast Repertory. The concert concludes with bravura, as the orchestra plays “Suite Estancia” by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera.

“The Suite from the ballet ‘Estancia’ by Alberto Ginastera is rich in rhythm, textures, sonorities and folk traditions from Latin America that were a nuance during the second half of the 20th century. This suite offers the orchestra quite different challenges and demands that are crucial for the musical development of the students, but also gives a great variety to the whole program.”

 

Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble

The talented woodwind, brass and percussion players of PSYWE deliver a program of favorites chosen by Music Director Roach. To open, the wind ensemble captures the audience’s attention with the lightning-fast tempo of Shostakovich’s “Galop” from his only operetta “Moscow, Cheryomushki.” Then, Grainger’s light and airy “Handel in the Strand” gives way to Barber’s rousing “Commando March.” Barnes’ Third Symphony is a farewell to the memory of his daughter, with a finale that brightens with fulfillment and joy, as the composer reflects the blessing of his new baby son.

“I had a wonderful experience when I was younger performing ‘Handel in the Strand,’ and I hope to pass along to the students the joy of playing this little gem from the master, Percy Grainger,” says Roach. “I have always wanted to perform Barber’s ‘Commando March,’ and though it is short, there is meat for everyone in the ensemble to sink their teeth into. Barnes’ Third Symphony for Band is an enormous work, and the third movement, the Mesto, has such a heartbreaking story behind it, and is so beautiful and beautifully written for the wind ensemble.”

The young musicians return from intermission to perform Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in its entirety, arranged for wind ensemble by Merlin Patterson. Roach explains: “It was originally my intention to perform only selections of ‘Pictures,’ but I challenged the ensemble to prove to me that they could tackle the entire work, and a few weeks ago, they did. ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ is a masterwork that has such a clear and powerful connection to the visual art that inspired its composition. As was Patterson’s goal in orchestrating it, this setting fully utilizes the modern wind ensemble with its instrumental combinations and colors. It has been a wonderful process exploring the work with PSYWE.”

Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE) is a premier performance program, nurturing and inspiring young artists in grades 6 through 12. More than 423 students auditioned for places in the three PSYE this year—a record-breaking number! PSYE provides members with a high-quality and innovative artistic experience and strives to encourage musical and personal growth through the art of performance. The Youth Ensembles include three performing ensembles: PSYO, PSYWE and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings. All three benefit from the artistic vision of Music Director Carl St.Clair, who acts as the artistic advisor for all activities. Representing 72 schools in and beyond Orange County, PSYE performs in the world-class Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, as well as at other venues in Orange County. Students enjoy a variety of interactions with Pacific Symphony musicians including sectional coachings, master classes and side-by-side performances.