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For the love of music: Youth orchestras perform again – live at Concert Hall

Conductor Sayra Siverson leads a rehearsal of the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra on Tuesday at Fort Lewis College. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)
Musicians set to take stage Monday night

When the legendary “Take Five” is on a concert program, any concert program, you can bet audience members will be humming that famous jazz tune all the way home.

At 7 p.m. Monday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, the Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond tune will compete with other memorable melodies like Mussorgsky’s majestic “Great Gate of Kiev” and Bach’s dreamy “Sleepers Wake.” All are worthy of humming homeward.

The two youth orchestras under the banner of the San Juan Symphony will perform Monday evening for a live audience for the first time in two and a half years. The Junior Orchestra, under the direction of Molly Jensen, will play Bach’s “Sleepers Wake,” arranged by Jerry Brubaker, “España Cani,” by Pascual Narro, and “Take Five,” arranged by Bob Ceruli.

At rehearsal last Tuesday, Jensen convened this year’s JO orchestra of 12 strings, four flutes and a pianist to breathe life into Bach’s beautiful, intertwining lines from the famous Cantata 140.

“It’s a challenge,” Jensen said. “The Bach is in a style familiar to the string players in a legato style. The ‘España Cani’ stretches them. And I chose ‘Take Five’ to have a little fun and get them out of their stylistic comfort zone.”

In the Spanish piece, Jensen asked her players to aim for rhythmic accuracy: “You are all acting like trumpets here, crisp triplets.” And when she added: “I’d rather hear a wrong note in the right place,” the musicians audibly sharpened their patterns.

Ceruli’s arrangement of “Take Five,” will be familiar even played by strings and flutes. Consider how difficult the rhythmical structure and all the offbeats and can be for any musician.

The Youth Symphony, conducted by Sayra Siverson, will perform the energetic, life-infusing Mozart Overture to The Magic Flute and, astonishingly, three of Mussorgsky’s sections from “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Conductor Molly Jensen rehearses the musicians in the San Juan Symphony Junior Orchestra in Bach’s “Sleepers Wake,” on Tuesday in preparation for the winter concert Monday. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

“We have a full orchestra,” Siverson said, “so I’m excited for the performance. Even though,” she added at rehearsal last week, “we were very lucky to have rehearsed all through the pandemic and performed virtual concerts last season, it’s just not the same without an audience. We are here to share our love of music with others.”

Siverson’s Youth Orchestra consists of 56 musicians ranging from grades eight through college. Dominated by a full complement of strings, as most orchestras are, the YO has respectable wind and brass sections this year.

“We are super happy to have 16 Fort Lewis players,” she said.

If you go

WHAT: San Juan Symphony Youth and Junior Orchestras Winter Concert, Directors Sayra Siverson and Molly Jensen, works by Mozart, Mussorgsky, Bach, Narro and Brubeck-Desmond.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday.

WHERE: Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive.

TICKETS: Students free, adults $10. Available online at www.durangoconcerts.com, by phone at 247-7657 and at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: Call 382-9753 or visit www.sanjuuansymphony.org.

The brass phalanx particularly made a strong showing at rehearsal, triumphantly constructing Mussorgsky’s Great Gate with its spectacular fanfares. For Mozart’s Overture, the flutes spun the magical themes of the opera’s title through the violins’ constantly spinning textures.

With an arsenal of teaching techniques, Siverson spent a full hour fine-tuning the overture, encouraging the musicians to internalize an eighth-note pulse to keep the Mozartean engine running.

“Part of the excitement of Mozart is the ‘NOT YET’ feeling of that pulse. The excitement has to keep building,” she said to her musicians.

As she drilled each instrumental section, Siverson asked the other musicians to tap the underlying pulse – to keep the motor running.

From left to right back row: Ethan Mazur, McKay Thunell, Ian Brennan, Grace Rogers and Titan Toyekoyah; and front row (clarinets) Kobe Perry and Felicia Johle, practice ahead of Monday’s performance. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

And before a well-deserved snack break, Siverson set the company metronome at 152 “for your home practice,” she said, reminding them again of the remaining rehearsals, a “final” and a “dress on stage” at the Concert Hall.

“The presence of music in our lives is to uplift, inspire and create family. That’s why we do this!” she said.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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