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Moving mountains: California Youth Symphony joins Music in the Mountains for Bernstein, others

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms performed by the California Youth Symphony & Music in the Mountains Chorus

WHERE: Amaral Family Festival Center, Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

WHEN: Sunday, March 8, 2 p.m.

TICKETS & INFO: All seats are reserved and start at $19. Free admission for those under 18. Purchase tickets at musicinthemountains.org or by calling 530-265-6124

Music in the Mountains had such a great experience when the California Youth Symphony visited last year they invited the organization to join them for another special performance in Grass Valley on March 8.

The Music in the Mountains chorus – a singing group of over 80 members – will perform alongside the renowned youth symphony at the Amaral Family Festival Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for a program that will include Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” “Violin Concerto” by Erick Korngold, and Bela Bartok’s “Dance Suite.”

Christine Lee, a 17-year-old violin prodigy who has played since the age of five, will perform the Concerto as well as serve as co-concert master. She is looking forward to returning to Nevada County.

“(California Youth Symphony) got to perform at Music in the Mountains last year, and I loved how warm and inviting the audience was,” said Lee. “Everyone was so kind and supportive. It felt so amazing to be able to play there.

“Since this is the first time I’m playing a concerto in its entirety – rather than just one movement – with an orchestra, I’m really excited.”

Leo Eylar is the Music Director of the California Youth Symphony and is in awe of Lee’s talent.

“In the 30 years I have been music director she is the most remarkable violinist (I’ve taught) and I have had thousands,” said Eylar. “She is an exceptional musician with profound depth and technique and reliability. She is playing a concerto that basically no student plays. That in itself is quite a statement but I stand by it.”

Eylar added: “Aside from her musical abilities, there is something so winning about her personality.”

Lee herself finds solace in playing music, and cites its influence on helping her be more disciplined and at the same time more flexible.

“Music has taught me a lot beyond my actual playing,” she said. “Inherently, there’s the hard work that goes into practicing. You have to learn to persevere through some pretty frustrating moments: how to work with stress and being under pressure, even little details about yourself like how long your attention span is. There’s a lot you learn that extends past the practice room.”

“But I think the best part about playing music is the community you find— you get such a tight family that you really can’t find elsewhere.”

The March 8 program was selected in conjunction with Music in the Mountains in an effort to not only showcase the talent of the musicians but to appeal to a wide audience.

Eylar said: “(Music in the Mountains Artistic Director and Conductor) Ryan Murray is a former student of mine, and we decided we would do a choral piece in conjunction – we worked together to come up with the repertoire.”

“We wanted to find a program that would be the typical level the orchestra plays – which is high – and is something that would be accessible to the public is well.”

Attendees will likely recognize Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” an extended choral composition in three movements, a piece which according to Eylar was inspired by another Bernstein composition, that of the famous Broadway production “West Side Story.”

Eylar is passionate about his work and is confident that attendees of his orchestra’s concerts will be impressed by the talent of his young performers.

“I want people to be astonished because that is always the word that people use (to describe us),” said Eylar. “When you hear ‘youth symphony,’ some people dismiss it. This is not like that. This is like listening to a professional (orchestra) – people’s jaws drop.”

The California Youth Symphony is not to be taken lightly, with nearly 400 hopeful youths auditioning each year for approximately 20 available spots.

Music in the Mountains executive director Jenny Darlington-Person said that the decision to bring the symphony back to the area was a no-brainer.

“Last year the audience was in awe,” said Darlington-Person. “We were expecting something pretty great but when you hear them it’s mind-blowing. During intermission I had people coming up to me saying, ‘you have to have them back again.’”

She also mentioned that during the March 8 show, the age range of the performers onstage will span from 11 to 84.

“It’s a perfect show for families,” she added. “When kids see other kids doing something this amazing it opens up a whole world for them. It’s a great show for parents who want to broaden their kids’ horizons.”

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in Grass Valley. She can be reached at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.


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