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Let's Play! Community Musicians Say "Yes!" To Invitation By Pacific Symphony To Rehearse And Perform Chamber Music With Orchestra Musicians On Samueli Theater's Concert Stage
Orange County, Calif. — October 11, 2017
Pacific Symphony’s perennially popular program, “OC Can You Play With Us?,” has been inviting amateur musicians from across Orange County to perform onstage with orchestra members for almost seven years now. What began as a one-time endeavor in 2011 to expose the community’s musicians to professional music education and performance has continued to grow and morph with each passing year. In 2014, the Symphony expanded the program to include a chamber music edition that would allow for a more intimate learning and playing experience. Just as popular as the original program, which engaged avocational musicians in a side-by-side performance with the full orchestra, the chamber edition provides the unique opportunity of playing a variety of selected repertoire in one of five chamber ensembles led by Symphony conductors and musicians.
“This program highlights the various sections of the orchestra in chamber ensembles, where the philosophy is ‘the more the merrier!’ ” says Kelli Frager, the Symphony’s community arts engagement manager. “This allows us to connect with avocational musicians who enjoy getting together in a non-competitive environment to embrace the fun of making music with others who do the same. We make a place for everyone, and they get the chance to play under the guidance of a Symphony musician or conductor, as well as continue the network of community musicians in Orange County and beyond.”
The culminating event for “OC Can You Play With Us?,” which is similar to an open rehearsal, takes place on Nov. 6, at 6:30 p.m., in the Samueli Theater (located at the rear of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall). Friends and interested observers are invited to attend the workshop-style final event for free (general admission), but tickets are required and can be reserved through the Symphony’s box office at (714) 755-5799, online at PacificSymphony.org/tickets/concert/OCCYP_CE_2017-18 or at the door. Find music tips and interact with the musicians on the “OC Can You Play With Us?” Facebook page at: Facebook.com/OCCanYouPlayWithUs.
“I love this event because it allows me the opportunity to participate in something that is not typically offered at my age in an environment of highly skilled musicians,” says Taylor Sims, 35, a percussion ensemble participant. “I get the experience of performing in an amazing venue under the incredible direction of a world-known percussionist. This event challenges me musically while providing a warm environment for musicians all over Orange County to network with one another. I look forward to this event every year and will continue to participate in it for as long as I can.”
The individual ensembles include a chamber string orchestra led by cellist Ian McKinnell; a flute choir led by flutist Cindy Ellis; a clarinet choir led by clarinetist Joshua Ranz; a brass choir led by Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia; and a percussion ensemble led by Principal Percussionist Rob Slack.
“Chamber music is a unique and much more personal musical interaction,” says Ellis, who leads the flute choir. “Frequently, the musicians are one to a part, with a truly unique part, so the demands of making music are slightly different than playing in our side-by-side orchestra experience. I think this fact alone is a compelling one for our dear amateur musicians, many of whom play in bands where there are many musicians playing the same part.
“I enjoy working with the players at this more personal level!” she adds. “Last year we had a mixed woodwind group, and this year it’s a flute ensemble. Each ensemble is different, but I love seeing these musicians grow in a challenging, yet super-relaxed and fun musical environment. I can see the expressions on their faces when things really start to ‘gel.’ It’s truly fun to help guide, inspire and nurture.”
It all begins each year with a simple question asked by the Symphony: “OC Can You Play With Us?”—and the emphatic response that comes back every time is “Yes, we can!” The program’s chamber edition was announced months ago, when amateur musicians ages 22 and older from across and beyond Orange County hurriedly signed up for a spot to play as part of a chamber ensemble. Chosen on a first-come, first-served basis with no audition required, selected participants pay a $125 fee. The Symphony always receives more applications than there are seats, but for those who secure a place, a unique and valuable educational opportunity begins.
“I find it extremely rewarding to work with clarinet players in the community because they come in with such enthusiasm and energy!” says Ranz, who leads the clarinet choir. “They all seem so excited to play with each other and work with me. Many of them have worked together before, in other ensembles around Orange County, as well as repeat participants in the OC Can You Play program.
“I have really enjoyed exploring different arrangements of standard repertoire for clarinet choir because the instruments, ranging from the lowest notes of the bass clarinet to the highest notes of the clarinet, offer enormous range, both dynamics- and pitch-wise,” continues Ranz. “I especially enjoyed arranging ‘Tonight’ from ‘West Side Story’ by Leonard Bernstein for the clarinet choir last year. We all had a lot of fun working on and performing it. I look forward to some new repertoire to explore with the clarinets!”
Participants begin their musical sojourn with some valuable rehearsal time, which takes place at Orange County Music & Dance, located in the same building as the Symphony’s administration offices, with the exception of the percussion section, which rehearses at University of California, Irvine. Practicing with their particular chamber ensemble offers a chance for the community musicians to see a Symphony musician at work, as well as engage and learn from their leader. During this preparation period, everyone fine-tunes their individual parts and discovers how they play together.
“Generally, rehearsals always begin with a sense of the ‘uphill climb’ when learning a new piece,” says Ellis, “and end with a more confident and victorious mastery. The players always love the interpersonal communication and grow a lot through the experience.”
“OC Can You Play With Us?” is made possible with the support of Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
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