Classical Education: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Resumes Annual Student Concert

When soft cellos harmonized the “Baby Shark” theme, laughter of surprise and appreciation spread through the concert hall. When the daring trombone section danced to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” it was impossible not to clap and hum.

And when the monstrous tuba sounded John Williams’ famous “Imperial March” – the menacing music from “Star Wars” that warns of Darth Vader’s approach – the young audience at Skyview High School cheered.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the professional musicians of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra appeared to be having as much fun as the elementary school students in the audience as they resumed their annual educational concert on Friday.

This kind of artistic education is central to the orchestra’s mission, said Igor Shakhman, VSO director and first clarinetist. Educational concerts are the very first introduction to classical music and orchestral instruments for many young people, he added.

So, with engaging excerpts from Bach and Sibelius, the orchestra played a bit of jazz, a bit of “Over the Rainbow” and, as a grand finale, a rousing interpretation of the theme from the film “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Between these bursts of symphonic sound, Ashley Johnson, concert master of ceremonies and orchestra spokesperson, interviewed first violinist Brandon Buckmaster about the parts of his violin and what it means to be the band’s concertmaster. for this performance.

Concertmaster means you lead the whole group in tuning and stay in close communication with the other section leaders throughout, Buckmaster explained.

“The first violin is the ‘glue’ of the whole orchestra,” he said.

Johnson led the audience of around 450 local students on a tour of the orchestra as different instruments and sections – strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion – took turns showing how even the simplest music can sound when manipulated with normal skills.

Two special guests were in town to play lead roles in the concert. Maestro Salvador Brotons, who lives in Barcelona, ​​Spain, demonstrated how he keeps time, unifies the different sections of instruments, and silences everything with the snap of his fingers. Brotons conducted the Friday morning educational concert before leading the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in regular concerts on Saturday and Sunday.

Guitarist Adam Levin, the musical guest of these concerts, also participated in the educational program. Levin explained the difference between “twangier” steel-string guitars and his classic instrument, which has softer strings and exotic woods that add richness.

“A chocolatey, warm, sultry sound” is how Levin described the sounds produced by his guitar’s low strings, which are metal wrapped around tang.

Levin, Brotons and the orchestra delivered a short interpretation of the centerpiece of the weekend’s concerts, the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo.

What is it like to be a conductor? Being responsible for everything — tempo, feel, all the sound — is a big responsibility, Brotons said. But it is also a joy.

“It’s like a dream, to have all of these feelings and emotions and power under your control,” Brotons said.

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