2012-02-02 / Family
Youth Orchestras’ performance moves audience, literally
In what could be the first and possibly last use of pyrotechnics on the stage of the Fred Kavli Theatre, the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestras moved some members of the audience out of their seats during Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance.”
The sulfur fumes from the explosions and fireworks, meant to punctuate the percussion in the song, sent many coughing patrons into the lobby before the piece was finished.
This was one of many highlights in the orchestras’ Jan. 29 presentation, “Nature in Concert.”
Musical descriptions of Earth’s natural wonders were the threads that linked the performances by the different levels of the youth orchestras.
The concert began with Karen Sanchez leading the Youth Strings.
Contemporary film and TV composer Alan Lee Silva’s “Golden Fields” is a wistful and melodic piece written especially for developing string players. The orchestra also performed Silva’s “Path to the Pacific.”
The strings continued with the “Romance” from the opera “The Pearl Fishers” by Georges Bizet, St. Louis composer Gary Gackstatter’s popular overture “The Black Sea,” and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Leonard Bernstein’s operetta “Candide.”
While the Preparatory Orchestra set up, the CVYO Brass Quintet performed the final movement of Tomaso Albinoni’s Sonata in C Major.
With Bill Benson taking to the podium for the remainder of the concert, the orchestra began with “Lake Dance” by William Harbinson, a spirited number in 5/4 time that segued to a majestic interlude and then back again, at one point featuring the violin section clapping along with the quirky off-kilter rhythm.
Before starting the next piece, Benson told the audience not to get up and dance to the next number, Jonny Richards’ exciting “La Suerte de Los Tontos” (The Fortune of Fools).
The work requires an eightperson percussion section. The rhythm became so infectious that during the raucous finale Benson forgot where he was and, in his enthusiasm, fell off the podium and knocked over the concertmaster’s music stand.
He was up in an instant and finished the piece, ruefully explaining, “They forgot to tell me not to dance,” which brought a roar of laughter from the audience.
The set closed with Edvard Grieg’s atmospheric incidental music from Henrik Ibsen’s play, “Peer Gynt,” which features one of the most familiar musical passages in the repertoire, the thunderous “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”
Bonnie Boss’ Percussion Ensemble concluded the first half with a segment titled “Fire and Ice.” Max Candocia’s “Deep Freeze” (with faux snowflakes blown from the balconies) segued into the aforementioned “Ritual Fire Dance” with its explosive finale.
When the Youth Orchestra, the senior group in the program, took to the stage after intermission to perform Rossini’s “William
Tell Overture,” it wouldn’t have surprised me if the Lone Ranger himself galloped across the Kavli stage. He didn’t, of course, but the orchestra’s performance of the rousing work was as well-played as any I’ve heard, with an exceptionally beautiful cello solo played by Matthew Chen as well as expressive and stirring passages by flutist Joyce Zhang and English hornist Jaclyn Belleville.
The waters of Bedrich Smetana’s tone poem “ The Moldau” washed away any remaining sulfur fumes, as flutists Zhang and Paige Norling played the beautifully overlapping lines that begin the piece.
The concert concluded with the majestic final movement from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.