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Awe-inspiring musicians of Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra show off their passion and honed skills during last concert of 2015-16 season—the perfect launch pad for tour to China!

Orange County, Calif. — April 25, 2016

In its triumphant season finale, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) gears up to embark on an international tour of China in June by performing a program that ranges from 19th-century masterpieces to a brand new work by one of today’s leading composers. Energized from a season of artistic achievement, the orchestra opens the concert with “Lighter Than Air,” a newly commissioned work by the Symphony’s composer-in-residence, Narong Prangcharoen, and ends with Tchaikovsky’s dramatic Symphony No. 4. In-between, the program spotlights the winner of this season’s concerto competition, Erica Huang, who performs Dvorák’s moving Cello Concerto. Comprised of Southern California’s most talented young symphonic musicians, grades 9-12, PSYO is led by the Symphony’s Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia, who says: “You will not see many high school youth orchestras perform works of this caliber at such a high level.”

The concert takes place Sunday, May 22, at 7 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Thanks to generous sponsors, PSYO concerts are free to attend this season. To reserve a general admission seat, call the Symphony’s box office at (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

“All of us at PSYO are quite excited to commission a new work by the talented composer Narong Prangcharoen,” says Maestro Kalia. “ ‘Lighter than Air,’ serves as an upbeat opener to our final concert. It is nine-minute in length and is highly rhythmic and energetic. The work starts softly with a repetitive motive in the piano, played by our two wonderful pianists, and grows more intense and lively—until there is an explosion of sound.”

Thai composer Prangcharoen last wowed Orange County audiences during Pacific Symphony’s opening classical concert in September 2015 with his new piece, “Beyond Land and Ocean,” which spread a message of joy and community. The highly anticipated unveiling of this composition, which was written for and inspired by Orange County, was the result of a project called “OC in Unison.” Last season, Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble concluded its 2014-15 season with a performance of another world premiere by Prangcharoen, “The Rising Tide,” and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings premieres yet another piece written by the prolific composer, called “The Night Sky” on May 1. PSYO tackles “Lighter Than Air,” after having the opportunity to gain input from and work directly with Prangcharoen himself.

“The PSYO students have not had a great deal of exposure to contemporary music, and this is one of the reasons why I feel it’s so important to expose them to a work like this,” comments Maestro Kalia of the piece. “We are so lucky to have Narong attend a handful of our rehearsals and work with the actual musicians. It is a real treat for everyone involved.”

As part of the concert, this year’s concerto competition winner, 18-year-old cellist Erica Huang, a senior at Beckman High School, makes an appearance to perform the repertoire from her winning audition—the technically challenging first movement, “Allegro,” from Dvorák’s Cello Concerto. During Huang’s audition, she displayed high artistry with a performance full of grandeur and power, thus sealing her fate as the competition’s top performer. Huang has been a member of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles for six seasons—two in Santiago Strings and the last four in PSYO.

 “I am so proud to feature our Concerto Competition winner on our final concert of the season,” says Kalia. “Erica will be performing the first movement of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto, one of the most well-known concertos in the orchestral repertoire. This is a huge opportunity for Erica in that most high-school musicians do not get the opportunity to perform with an orchestra in a major concert hall like ours.  

“Not only that, but having her perform as a soloist will be an inspiration to other musicians in the orchestra as well as those out in the audience,” he continues. “I am positive that she will never forget this experience, and it can only benefit her as a musician in the long run.”  

PSYO’s program—varied, challenging and meant to stretch the students to help them grow as musicians—is anchored on the second half by Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Fourth Symphony, one of the most popular of all symphonies, and also one of the most challenging, technically and musically.

“The first movement alone is 18 minutes!” exclaims Kalia. “The Tchaikovsky Four is a work that these young musicians will encounter as they progress in their musical journey. It is a work that they need to know, which is one of the biggest reasons why I’ve programmed it. To rehearse and perform it at such a young age will prepare them for the future, and I think the performance will be extremely memorable for them.”

Kalia adds, “As an orchestra, we have been working and progressing toward this symphony every week since last September, and I think that it will feature our young musicians in the best possible way. The strings have lush and highly rhythmic melodies, while the brass have brilliant fanfares representing the so-called ‘fate’ theme.”

The fourth movement is one of the most exciting finales in the orchestral repertoire, and Kalia says, “I think that it will cap off our season in a brilliant and rewarding fashion. Not only that, but we will send our senior students off with a bang!”   

It is also the perfect send-off for those musicians traveling on tour to China. The Youth Orchestra plans to bring two pieces from this concert with them on tour: Prangcharoen’s “Lighter than Air” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The tour program also includes Huanzhi’s “Spring Festival Overture” and excerpts from Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from the musical, “West Side Story.”

“Having all of these rehearsals for this upcoming concert will save us a great deal of rehearsal time during our tour!” says Kalia.

A separate “Bon Voyage” concert for PSYO takes place the week before the musicians depart for China. It is being held at the 600-seat Northwood High School Theater in Irvine on the evening of Wednesday, June 22. Stay tuned for forthcoming details on this concert and the exciting tour to China!