I’ve recently gotten really into the music scene in town. My toes are still tapping from the Big Band Fever show a couple weeks ago. Going to shows like that make me think of the 12 years I played violin and all the different genres of music I played with different ensembles. I love a chance to embrace nostalgia, and last weekend, I did just that at the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.
Last Sunday, I attended the CSO’s annual “Side By Side” concert with the CSO Youth Orchestra (CSOYO) and Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, at the beautiful Tivoli Theater downtown. It didn’t take long for my memories of playing in orchestra and youth symphonies to rush back, especially since they played some familiar pieces that I’d played before, too. Even as I watched the players tuning, I thought back to those same moments before my last symphony concert my sophomore year of college.
The CSO Youth Orchestra began in 1949 as a place for young musicians to play in a full orchestra. It has grown dramatically since then, and now includes multiple youth ensembles, including the Philharmonic and Symphony. I really love how the youth orchestras are connected to the main CSO and that they have the opportunity to perform together. So cool!
To start the concert, the Youth Philharmonic and Symphony orchestras each performed their own pieces: Robert Sheldon’s “Resurgences,” and “Espana” by Chabrier, respectively. Both pieces were full of energy and got everyone in the mood for the rest of the concert. Even the conductors–Sandy Morris and Gary Wilkes–were feeling it.
Each year, the CSOYO holds a solo concerto competition, in which Symphony students can audition to play a concerto accompanied by members of the CSO. This year’s concerto competition winners performed stunning concertos on flute and tuba: Mercadante’s “Flute Concerto No. 2 in e minor” and Edward Gregson’s “Tuba Concerto.” I had never heard a tuba concerto in my entire life and I was blown away by the student’s performance. Think of the lung power it takes to get through a tuba concerto! The flute concerto was absolutely breathtaking, quite literally; I got a little out of breath just watching and listening.
The last solo performance of the afternoon had me feeling very emotional and nostalgic. Soloist and associate concertmaster Josh Holritz performed Beethoven’s “Romance No. 2 in F,” which was one of my absolute favorite solos I played back in the day. It was the closest I ever got to a perfect solo, and every time I hear it, I think of playing it and wish that maybe one day I can play it again. Before he played, CSO conductor Kayoko Dan said that Josh had played the “Romance” as his concerto competition piece when he was in the CSOYO himself. Full circle, right? I had never heard or seen the “Romance” played live before, and I absolutely got a little misty-eyed.
But the show didn’t end there. The real side-by-side fun was saved for the end, when the CSOYO Symphony and CSO sat on stage and performed the two final pieces together. Their joint performance of Rossini’s famed “William Tell Overture” brought almost everyone in the audience to their feet and it wasn’t even the final song. Even though “William Tell” was one of the more challenging pieces I played as a violin student, I loved hearing and seeing it performed by other musicians, especially with double the sound. It was nice listening to it instead of having to play it!
The Side By Side concluded with an awesome performance of Liszt’s “Les Preludes.” By the final note, every single person in the audience was on his or her feet for a standing ovation. And the CSO and CSOYO deserved it.
It made me want to go home and get my violin out again.