The Youth Symphony of the Okanagan presented its first concert of the season to an enthusiastic, appreciative audience this past Sunday. While this was the first of the season, it was really the debut of the newly reorganized Youth Symphony.
Imant Raminsh, the founder/conductor for 23 years, stepped down, and the group came under the wing of the Okanagan Symphony as part of the OSO Outreach and Education Program.
Conducting honours are shared Rosemary Thomson and Dennis Colpitts, both outstanding musicians and conductors.
The result of this new model is an orchestra of 68 players from all across the Valley, ranging in age from 12 to mid-20s. Many of them are experiencing their first time in an orchestra. This being the case, one might expect the calibre to be less than wonderful. Not so! These young, dedicated musicians take their role seriously, turning in a near-professional level of playing.
The creative program itself was no doubt the result of consultation between Thomson and Colpitts, resulting in an entertaining evening for the listeners and a challenge for the players, making them stretch, but not overwhelming them.
The opener, Danse Macabre (Saint-Saens) featured Rebecca Ruthven playing two differently tuned violins, the "off-tuned" one creating a ghoulish atmosphere. She played with confidence and verve, a pleasure to hear. Overall, I thought the tempo was perhaps a bit slow, but the orchestra covered the full dynamic range, with great climaxes.
Variations on a Rococo Theme (Tchaikovsky) featured Piccolo soloist Misty Rose Kohl from Kaleden, who played stylistically, with apparent ease. There were several cadenza-like passages in which her intonation appeared to have suffered a little, as was the case in the lower strings. These were minor slips of short duration. In general, tuning was right on.
After intermission, the orchestra tackled two of Three Bavarian Dances (Elgar), capturing all the rustic charm with a fine blend of sound. The strings provided some beautiful sweeping lines, and the brass and winds were solid.
Rodeo (Copland) ended the evening in fine form, with enthusiastic, rhythmic playing from all the musicians. It was filled with energy, emulating the American country very well, a fine ending to a wonderful evening.
While not yet at the professional level, these young musicians are well on their way and can be rightfully proud of their musical accomplishments to date. They are the future artists who are now honing their skills by hands-on experience, available only in this way.
A word about the conductors. Although Thomson and Colpitts have very different styles, they communicated their wishes clearly to the musicians, who responded with near perfection.
- Marvin Dickau is an organist, pianist and conductor who has an A.Mus from the University of Alberta. He is currently Minister of Music at First United Church and Executive Director of the Kelowna Kiwanis Music Festival.