The New York Times earlier this week noted the irony: “Ireland has one. Norway has one. Sweden has one, and it will be at Carnegie Hall on Jan. 26. Even Iraq has one.” A national youth orchestra, that is. The United States does not.
But Flagler County has one. It’s not a national orchestra: the Flagler Youth Orchestra’s membership of about 280 has more of an international flair, with every continent represented. And at 7 this evening, the orchestra’s top ensemble–the 25-piece Harmony Chamber Orchestra–will be performing in the Palm Coast United Methodist Church’s annual Youth Music Festival under the direction of Caren Umbarger.
“The Harmony Chamber Orchestra is an ensemble that we are proud to present to the community as musical ambassadors,” Umbarger said. “I am impressed and inspired by the level of engagement that these students display and I hope that they will have a huge audience tonight to witness their musical development and celebrate their budding artistry.”
The program is rich in varieties of styles and musical periods spanning almost half a millennium–from Bach to the Beatles by way of one of the Strauss brood’s polkas and a challenging–and hopping–bit of Mendelssohn–the scherzo from his Four Pieces for String Quartet, composed toward the end of his short life: Mendelssohn lived just 38 years, just three years more than Mozart. Mozart is indirectly on the program, too. The ensemble opens the concert with Robert Longfield’s arrangement of Mozart’s famous “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman!,” the 12 variations for keyboard long since hijacked by commercials and ring-tones under the unfortunate glint of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Other composers featured this evening include Corelli and Handel (both Bach contemporaries) and various arrangements, among them Deborah Baker Monday’s “For the Star of County Down,” a rousing Irish ballad that lifts–in notes, tempo and spirit–from a quiet dawn to a festive celebration. The piece moves through moods and melodies that alternately break and brighten the heart. You may be tempted to clap along in parts: don’t. Musicians have a hard enough time pulling it off with full concentration. Clapping would throw them off, so save your effusions for the end.
Yes, the concert takes place at 7, an hour before kick-off at that New England stadium renamed for shaving blades, where Tim Tebow and his Broncos are facing the Patriots in a divisional playoff game. But you can Tivo Tebow’s first three wobbly throws. He won’t be the worse for wear. Besides, the concert is in a church.
And so to the boilerplate part of the program: The concert will be held in the sanctuary of Palm Coast United Methodist Church at 5200 Belle Terre Parkway. Free childcare and parking assistance is provided. A freewill donation is encouraged. This concert is made possible in part with a cultural arts grant from the City of Palm Coast. A reception with the members of the orchestra will follow the concert.
The Flagler Youth Orchestra is made possible by the Flagler County School District, with the support of the Friends of the Youth Orchestra, whose sole mission is to provide free music education after school to all Flagler children with a desire to play an instrument.
Incidentally, Carnegie Hall has announced that it is establishing a national youth orchestra. Reports the Times: “The orchestra will convene for three weeks in the summer and consist of musicians from ages 16 to 19. The first two weeks will be spent rehearsing on the campus of Purchase College of the State University of New York, in Westchester County. Then comes the payoff: performances at that college’s performing arts center and the Kennedy Center in Washington, and a tour that will take the orchestra to Moscow, St. Petersburg and London, all with the noted conductor Valery Gergiev on the podium. The first session will take place in July 2013. The orchestra will not play at Carnegie until the following year because of renovation work. Professional musicians from major ensembles will coach sections of the orchestra, and Mr. Gergiev will arrive in the second week to take over rehearsals. A different conductor will be chosen each year.
[…] The new youth orchestra is closed to college-level conservatory students and instrumental performance majors, who presumably have other opportunities to play in talent-rich orchestras. Students will audition through videos, and will be able to apply online at carnegiehall.org/nyousa. Travel for the tour and lodging will be paid for, and there is no tuition, though players have to make their way to Purchase. The program will run from June 30 to July 23. Eligible players must audition again to rejoin the next year.”
You’ve all heard the famous joke about “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” which has been variously ascribed to Jack Benny, the violinists Jascha Heifetz and Itzhak Perlman and the pianist Artur Rubinstein, among others. The punchline–“Practice, practice, practice”–is only half the story, and the rest of it is no joke: locally, you can start your way by way of the Flagler Youth Orchestra.
For more information on the Flagler Youth Orchestra, contact Cheryl Tristam, program director, at (386) 263-2543 or by email at Cheryl@flagleryouthorchestra.org.