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Sunday, March 11, 2018

EYSO and The Things You Learn from "Water"

Getting sixty kids and teens together in a room to sit still for five minutes would be a challenge. Getting them to play a movement from Handel's Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 1 — without a conductor — defies belief. It happened on the Blizzard Theatre stage Sunday as the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra presented "Water," the latest installment in its 2017-2018 season titled "Elemental: What Natures Tells Us About the Orchestra."

That's just the beginning of what is possible when the dedicated artist-educators of EYSO entrust students with a performance they have thoroughly contemplated and rehearsed. Then, the first and second violin sections stand up and trade places for Deep River, the African American spiritual arranged with complex harmonies and expressive phrasings, followed by a dance movement from Ginastera's ballet Estancia, during which they stand and play directly to the audience. The depth of cooperation and concentration add a sincerity that elevates the music from a recital to a statement about the expressive potential of a sensitive group of (young) people.

Most music students are never asked to consider the creative possibilities within a single sustained chord, or the artistic challenges of one slowly played note, but those questions were abundant in Eric Whitacre's Water Night. The power of careful listening, emphasized in remarks by conductor Andrew Masters, was tested in Anton Arensky's Dream on the Volga Overture, Op. 16 which explored the full sonic capabilities of the orchestra. This season marks the first time some of these students have ever played with winds and strings together; for others it's a communication breakthrough when they see and hear the audience respond to their playing.

For generations, organized youth sports have been considered the best place to learn teamwork and loyalty, and to develop excellence from a little bit of natural skill and an honest work ethic. Perhaps a better place is youth orchestra, where all of those values are modeled in an art form that touches upon every part of human conscience and culture. 

The EYSO offers opportunities for young musicians of all abilities. Placement auditions for the 2018-2019 season will be held May 31-June 3, 2018. Find out more at www.eyso.org.

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