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December 2, 2009

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Youth Orchestra plays on Sunday

THE Shanghai Youth Orchestra will give its year-end concert on Sunday at the Oriental Art Center. Auditions are coming up. Sam Riley reports. It has been a busy year for the Shanghai International Youth Orchestra who have defied the global financial crisis to hold a number of high-profile concerts.

The group, comprised of both Chinese and international music students from Shanghai and Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, will round out the year with a concert on Sunday afternoon at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

The group was started three years ago by former concert cellist Sam Matthews. They have performed five times this year.

Matthews is the music director and conductor of the orchestra.

For their winter concert, the 16-strong string ensemble will perform a mix of American, Russian and European composers, as well as a jazz piece.

The orchestra has grown from just four performers to its current size - 10 violins, two violas, three cellos and a double bass. Musicians range in age from 13 to 18.

The student musicians come from Chinese and international schools, including the Shanghai American School, Concordia International School Shanghai, Xinge and Nantong Qi Xiu high schools.

Matthews also teaches music at Fudan University and instructs a younger orchestra of players aged eight to 14 years.

On Sunday the orchestra will play a serenade for string orchestra by American composer Norman Leyden, who arranged work for Glenn Miller's band in the 1940s and wrote scores for Hollywood movies.

First violin American Leslie Kinnas, 16, will be featured in the "Leyden Serenade."

"This is now our third year and the level of playing has definitely increased," Matthews says.

"The kids are gaining a larger repertoire and it is becoming a more mature group because when we started all the kids were 13or 14 and now they are inmiddle or upper school, so the group is developing."

The orchestra will also perform Tchaikovsky's andante cantabile from the "String Quartet No. 1 in D."

The program also features Bach's "Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D Minor."

The concert will include a psalm and fugue by Alan Hovhaness, one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His works include traditional Armenian elements, reflecting his heritage.

Hovhaness traveled extensively throughout Asia and was fascinated by traditional music and instruments in the region.

Finally, the orchestra will perform "Jazz Pizzicato," composed in 1938 by Leroy Anderson, an American considered a master of light orchestral pieces.

The depth and quality of the music being performed is a testament to the hard work of the musicians who have been practicing since September, says Matthews.

The group aims to encourage children of different cultures and backgrounds to make music together and build ensemble playing skills.

"The orchestra also fills a void for students who want to achieve goals in music outside of school because there isn't a lot here," Matthews says.

"In America there are competitions and festivals they can attend but there are not so many of those things here."

This year the group has managed to maintain its numbers despite the departure of some musicians whose families returned home in the financial crisis.

"We lost some students because they transferred back to their home cities or other cities in China so it has been a fluctuating a little bit," he says. It started with 17 musicians at the beginning of the school year and still has three of the original four members.

The orchestra performed for the China Entrepreneur of the Year award at the end of October.

In November the orchestra performed at the Shanghai Community Center's 10th Anniversary Gala in the Jin Mao Tower.

The orchestra is seeking members and aspiring musicians for an audition that includes performing a prepared piece, playing scales and reading music. The audition date has not been set.

"I am still looking for kids that will fit into the group but it gets harder and harder because we get better and better," says Matthews.

His goal is a full symphony orchestra including wind and brass sections.

The Shanghai International Youth Orchestra is a nonprofit organization and ticket prices cover the costs of putting on the concert.

Date: December 6, 2pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 120 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234

For more information, please check


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