Professional Conductor Attuned To Youth Symphony

Student Orchestra To Make Debut At Maryland Hall

January 25, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

By day, it's a junior high school cafeteria ringing with every cacophonous dissonance known to man, and then some.

But for one eveninga week, the sonorities of Haydn and Beethoven resound in the cafeteria of Bates Junior High School as the Chesapeake Youth Symphony rehearses under the direction of its conductor, Karen Deal.

The 38-member orchestra, which consists of talented young playersfrom Anne Arundel and surrounding counties, will make its debut at 7:30 Saturday evening at Maryland Hall in a program consisting of Beethoven's emotionally charged "Coriolan Overture," Haydn's rollicking Symphony No. 89 and the Larsson Trombone Concerto. Nils Fredland, lateof Annapolis High School and now a senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, will be the trombone soloist.

The orchestra will also be joined by 15 dedicated Suzuki-trained violinists in selections by Gossec and Weber.

"I'm very pleased with our progress," says Deal,who is best known to area audiences as this season's resident conductor and music adviser of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. "I have not gone easy on them. They are playing very difficult music and they've risen to the occasion, both in learning their individual parts and playing together as a group.

"Sure, I can't expect them to be note-perfect, but in only eight rehearsals they've gotten past the mere playing of notes and into the heart of the music."

The Youth Symphony was the brainchild of its president, Betty McGinnis of Arnold, a music lover whose children are musically active in the county school system. While her daughter, Kelly, a Broadneck High School cellist, rehearsed with the orchestra, McGinnis shared some of her excitement over the ensemble she helped found.

"We started off small," she says, "but that's actually worked out well. It's given everyone time to get to know everyone else personally and musically. We really think we're onto something."

A couple of adult "ringers" have been required to fill instrumental vacancies and a flute is playing the first oboe part in the absence of the real thing. But McGinnis is hopeful thata successful opening concert will publicize the orchestra and attract new auditioners for open positions.

"Hey, we need to grow," saidDeal. "Even in inviting these younger kids to play with us, I'm thinking of the future. Hopefully, these Suzuki youngsters will be in this orchestra before long."

One musical fact of life is that orchestras will go only as far as their conductors will take them, and Deal is clearly the catalyst in making this new orchestra happen.

"We had a chance to get a real conductor," says McGinnis, "and we jumped at it. She's an excellent teacher and she doesn't miss a note. She doesn't let them get away with anything and the kids seem to respect hertremendously."

The players echo this admiration. "She's tough on us because she expects a lot," says Jennifer Boisseau, a 15-year-old sophomore from Annapolis High. "But she also makes it fun. We learn alot about music in general and about the lives of the composers whose works we are performing. It's very educational."

"The stories she tells us and the images she uses make it easier for us to interpretthings the way she wants them," adds Janine Wilson, another Annapolis violinist.

The conductor's admonitions and explanations over thecourse of an hour or so did indeed reveal a vivid, inspiring communicator.

She stares disgustedly at a rhythmic breakdown in the strings. Then a smile. "Hey, this is like a down-home, southern hoe-down tempo. Let's find it."

"Watch the end of the phrase. The last note must be beautiful, too," she pleads.

To the Suzuki violinists: "You must be twinkle toes ballerinas here. Don't be such growling bears."

On hearing a too-bumpy Haydn Minuet: "It sounds like the people dancing this have my boots on. They shouldn't. Smile when you play it. Maybe that'll help." It does.

And, on the second evening of the Iraqi war, she provides a moment of touching introspection for her players who are striving valiantly to do justice to Beethoven's stormy "Coriolan Overture."

"There's war and peace in this music you're playing," she says somberly.

"This is music that brings out so manyof my own feelings and also heals me. Beethoven gives each of you a gift; a chance to tap into this music and be touched by it. Play it that way."

Thirty-eight young people listen intently and the rehearsal continues with renewed intensity.

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