Young people show up for a night of symphony music

On another of these delightfully mild winter evenings we’ve been enjoying in Southern California, the nearly full January moon shone on an almost full-house crowd.

What brought the attendance for the Downey Symphony Orchestra’s winter concert? The young people. Students and family and followers of the new Downey Foundation for Educational Outreach (DFEO) came to hear Lars Clutterham who conducts the newly formed middle school string ensemble. Lars’s new piece, Arc of My Life, premiered.

And a busload of youngsters and families came all the way from Arroyo High School in San Bernardino, to see the art show in the lobby, sponsored by the Downey Arts Coalition (DAC) and curated by President Pat Gil. Pat was seen standing by a magnificent winged dragon sculpture which twinkled with lights. Carolina del Toro’s color photos, enlargement of minutia, were featured as were husband Jorge’s ceramic whorls.

Most of the young audience sat in the balcony. Emma and Meghan from Griffiths Middle School and Jenna from Doty all participate in DFEO, and were looking forward to Mozart’s “Great” Symphony #40 in G minor. They play the violin. Then they and the others patiently waited till after intermission, for Lars’s piece, after which he was called up to the stage by Conductor Sharon Lavery to take the audience’s enthusiastic applause.

Middler schoolers Emma, Meghan and Jenna at Saturday’s Downey Symphony concert. Photo by Lorine Parks

Middler schoolers Emma, Meghan and Jenna at Saturday’s Downey Symphony concert. Photo by Lorine Parks

Anesssa Lee, director for the violin program for DFEO, and her husband Eric were seated in the balcony too. Anessa is responsible for writing the program and the instrumentation, and for liasing with the Downey Unified School District to find a place to classes and to give concerts for the growing program. The rapport between Anessa and the kids was apparent in everyone’s smiles.

Aa Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf began, everyone greeted Antony Moreno’s narrative with cheers as each instrument was introduced. Then they settled back to enjoy the lively story in song. Anthony replied to the audience’s appreciation by giving us an encore, Donezetti’s tenor aria from his opera buffe Don Pasquale.

During intermission we saw music patrons Ruth Hillecke and Nancy Ramage. Nan was the winner of a bid at the Symphonic Society’s September Garden Party Gala, to an event at the Segerstom Center for the Performing Arts, and she chose tickets to Itzhak Perlman, who appeared just two nights before. “Fabulous,” said Nan.

Also enjoying the respite from the rains was Chad Berlingheiri. Fresh from his successful show, “It’s Christmas in Downey,” Chad is producing Love Songs, a Valentine’s evening cabaret and dinner show on the Queen Mary on February 9. Bette Teagarden, and Jorge and Maru Monero, were there, as well as poet Frank and essayist-blogger Carol Kearns, Dorothy Pemberton and Bernice Mancebo Stumps.

Bill Hare. Photo

Bill Hare. Photo

Bill Hare, Symphonic Society Board member is also a member of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevins, celebrators of Burgundy with its emphasis on its gastronomy and great wines. “The Orchestra sounded great, especially with a good audience,” said Bill.

Music enthusiast Ryan Keene was helping at the reception for season ticket holders, attended by regular patrons Jim and Judy Reynolds, and Anna and Harold Tseklenis. Harold is a supporter of Art in Public Places in Downey for DAC, and has been a welcome gadfly in Downey civic affairs.

Mozart’s Great D Minor Symphony showed off Artistic Director Sharon’s gifts as a conductor. In spite of the minor key, Mozart cannot resist breaking into a sunny minute in the third movement. Sharon gave a Mozartian balance to the tempestuous score.

Enthusiasts of great music are looking forward to the Downey Symphony’s April 6 performance, Gershwin! That’s the night the conductor’s baton is up for auction too. Twice winner Pris Winslow was seen here, chatting with well know local painter Roy Anthony Shabla, whose next Green Salon will be January 26. Pris came down to Downey, her former home, from Berkeley, just for this concert.

Dan Lorenzetti, son of well-loved Sal Lorenzetti who for many years operated Sal’s Italian Market, joined the audience on the patio for intermission refreshments. He’s the father of singer Rachel, who will perform some George Gershwin favorites at the April concert.

April’s Gershwin! Concert is being offered as a tribute to Dr. Jacquelin Perry. Dr. Jackie worked as a pioneer orthopedic surgeon and then gait studies expert, at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehab Center here in Downey.

Concert versions of excerpts from Porgy and Bess, with book and words by Dorothy and du Bose Heyward, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, will be featured. This work has been considered the crowning achievement in the stellar careers of all of the authors. Appropriately for Downey audiences, Porgy is a crippled street beggar, disabled by the loss of use of his legs.

An American in Paris and then the Rhapsody in Blue will climax the evening, with a champagne reception for all to follow. Tickets are available now: early birds will ask for keyboard-side, the better to enjoy virtuoso soloist Bernadine Blaha. Go to the Downey Theatre Box Office, or downeysymphony.org.