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Winter Concert - Young People's Symphony Orchestra
El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater
El Cerrito, CA
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Winter Concert - Young People's Symphony Orchestra
Berkeley's Young People's Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) Winter Concert will feature three YPSO Concerto Competition winners, music director/conductor David Ramadanoff, and 100 young orchestra musicians in a program of Mussorgsky's A Night on Bald Mountain; Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, First Movement, Sabrina Chern, violin; Holst's Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, Tanaeya McCoy and Jonathan Altman, violin; and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor (Pathétique).

Each season, YPSO offers all members who have been in the orchestra for at least one full season the opportunity to enter the Concerto Competition to compete for the opportunity to play one movement of a concerto with the orchestra at a regular concert. This year's judges were Ramadanoff, violist and conductor Rem Djemilev, who is Music Director of Young People's Chamber Orchestra, and Monica Scott, who is a cellist and cello teacher. This season's concerto competition had 16 competitors.

Chern, McCoy and Altman were chosen as concerto competition winners along with two other musicians, Rachel Adams, flute, and Ellie Kanayama, violin, who will play on the YPSO Spring Concert in May.

Modest Mussorgsky's A Night on Bald Mountain was the composer's first large orchestral composition. It underwent several revisions by the composer and, after his death, his friend, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, reworked it in 1886 into the version heard today. Leopold Stokowski adopted Rimsky-Korsakov's version for Disney's 1940 film, Fantasia, which made Mussorgsky's piece famous.

Henri François Joseph Vieuxtemps  (1820 1881) was a Belgian composer and virtuoso violinist. He occupies an important place in the history of the violin as a prominent exponent of the Franco-Belgian violin school during the mid-19th century.  He composed seven concerti for the violin, but his Concerto No. 4, composed in 1850, was his favorite.  

YPSO violinist Sabrina Chern originally began working on the fourth movement of the Vieuxtemps Concerto, but changed her mind after falling in love with the first movement's lyrical melodies. "I especially love the way Vieuxtemps uses virtuosic passages to develop a larger theme," she says. The whole movement has the feeling of an introduction, and the first half of the movement is all orchestra and then the violin provides commentary. "It's almost as if she's playing a wordless recitative. It's lyrical and has a flexible tempo," says Ramadanoff.

Sabrina Chern, age 15, is a sophomore at the Head-Royce School in Oakland and lives in Danville. She is currently in her third season with YPSO, and has studied violin for 10 years under instructors Crissa Volhontseff, Nancy Mitchell, and, currently, James Greening-Valenzuela. Sabrina has played in various orchestras since the age of eight. She became co-concertmaster of the Berkeley Youth Orchestra in 2011 before joining YPSO, and she accompanied YPSO on their 2012 tour to Central Europe. For the past four years, she was a finalist for the Contra Costa String Competition, receiving an Honorable Mention in 2011 and 2013 and winning 1st place in 2012. In addition, Sabrina has also participated in the Contra Costa Baroque Festival two times, winning the Highest Honor each time. Besides music, Sabrina enjoys playing tennis, and has competed on her school's varsity tennis team for the past two years. She also holds a strong interest in STEM, participates in VEX robotics and started a 3-D Printing Club at her school.

Gustav Holst's (1874-1934) contrapuntal and bitonal Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra drew mixed reviews after its 1930 premiere. One critic's verdict was "highly intellectualized," while The Daily Telegraph said it had outstanding qualities and moments of rare beauty. It has echoes of the English pastoral tradition, but also bares the mark of the composer's mystical, unique style with its unusual tonalities, and Holst's liking for wind instruments. "It's so well built. Holst finds a way to of putting the pieces together in unique ways, stretching tonality, and giving dissonances," says Ramadanoff.

YPSO violinists Tanaeya McCoy and Jonathan Altman chose the Holst Double Concerto for several reasons.  They wanted to work together on a double concerto, as they are very close musically due to four years of intensive duet playing together. They wanted a piece that would give each of them a fairly equal solo part. Finally, they fell in love with the Holst after hearing it and playing it.  "They really worked on the piece and mastered it," says Ramadanoff, who only became aware of the piece several years ago. "I love the piece. It's very challenging."

Link to a performance of movements one and two of Holst's Double Concerto with Janice Graham and Sarah Ewins, violin, and the English Sinfonia, conducted by Howard Griffiths:

Tanaeya McCoy, age 18, is a senior in high school at Connections Academy, and lives in Riverbank, California.  She taught herself violin from YouTube videos and CDs at the age of 11, and began having regular formal lessons only in the last couple of years. She studies violin currently with Ryo Fukuda at Santa Clara University and Juan Gutierrez of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. This is Tanaeya's second year with YPSO.  Previously she was a member of the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra for three years.  She also plays duets in the duo Worldweyes, with her music partner, Jonathan Altman. Tanaeya does online schooling in order to have more time to study music. She plans to major in music performance in college, with a focus on Baroque music.

Jonathan Altman, age 13, is an eighth grader at Ustach Middle School in Modesto.  He began piano studies at age four, and violin studies at age six, and joined the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra's (MSYO) senior division as a violinist at age nine.  He is now in his second year with YPSO.  He also plays duets with his violin partner, Tanaeya McCoy, in their duo, Worldweyes.  He studies violin with Juan Gutierrez of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, and Doris Fukawa of Crowden School in Berkeley. Jonathan won the Concerto Competition of the MSYO in 2013, playing the first movement of Bruch's Violin Concerto.  He wants to study music in college, and loves singing and musical theater as well as instrumental music.

In February 2013, Ramadanoff and the orchestra played Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony for the very first time. For this season, Ramadanoff has programmed the Sixth Symphony, a work the orchestra last played in the summer of 2008. Both works are very challenging for any orchestra, let alone a youth orchestra. "The emotional arc is just as challenging as the technical parts of the piece," says Ramadanoff of the Sixth Symphony.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor (Pathétique) had its premiered with the composer on the podium just one week prior to his premature death in 1893 from cholera at age 53. The symphony stands as a unique achievement in orchestral history: filled with anguish in an emotional language unique to Tchaikovsky, and an unprecedented slow fourth movement that ends quietly, it was his final and greatest symphony. "This ends with a great feeling of sadness and resignation. He was definitely trying something different here," says Ramadanoff.

Celebrating his 25th season as Music Director/Conductor, David Ramadanoff conducts 100 YPSO young musicians who range in age from 12 to 19 and hail from 32 Bay Area cities in seven counties.

Founded in Berkeley in 1936, YPSO is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second oldest in the nation. The 2013-14 season is the 77th season since violinist and conductor Jessica Marcelli founded YSPO at the suggestion of Clarabelle Bell, an amateur harpist and Berkeley resident, who got the idea after hearing a youth orchestra on a trip to Portland, Oregon.



El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater (View)
540 Ashbury Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530
United States

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Music > Classical
Music > Symphony

Minimum Age: 5
Kid Friendly: Yes!
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Non-Smoking: Yes!


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