A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

On Sunday evening, the Glendale Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Music Director Henry Shin, performed a concert titled “Exploring the Cosmos” in the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale. The program included works by Richard Strauss, Franz Joseph Haydn and Gustav Holst and a selection of works from the films E.T., Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Wars

The mission of the GYO, founded in 1989, is “to provide qualified young musicians an environment in which to explore, comprehend, appreciate and develop a lasting interest in music in a quality setting.” The GYO provides young musicians from all over Los Angeles County in grades 6 to 12 “with the unique opportunity to play classical music.”

If the concert on Sunday was any indication, I’d say the GYO has succeeded in that mission.

The concert opened with the first section of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise). Of course, this is the famous section that Stanley Kubrick used so powerfully in the opening scene of his classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t see an organ, which both opens and closes the section, but I heard one and I wondered if it was backstage or recorded. Either way, it was an impressive way to start the concert.

The first half concluded with two pieces that were not space themed, but that showcased the two 2023 concerto winners. The first winner was Nathan Scherer who performed the Andante movement of the Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra by the contemporary American composer Eric Ewasen. Scherer showed why he was a concerto winner with his excellent performance of this concerto. His playing demonstrated not only his finesse with the instrument, but an understanding of the music and the role of a soloist playing with an orchestra.

The second concerto winner was Jason Chen, the concertmaster of the GYO, who dazzled the audience with his performance of the Andante of the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31 by the Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. Chen had to wait several minutes while the orchestra played the introduction to the movement before he played, but when he did — wow! His control and intonation were top notch. And he wonderfully conveyed the music to the audience.

In both concerto movements, Shin and the orchestra did a fine job supporting the soloists. It seems as if both these concerto winners have cemented their futures in music. 

In keeping with the space theme of the evening, the second half of the concert began with the Overture to Haydn’s opera Il mondo della luna (The world of the moon) Hob. XXVII:7. This piece gave the audience a chance to really hear the strings and woodwinds absent the louder brass in this smaller classical orchestra and, boy, did they deliver. They deftly conveyed the classical writing in this sparkling short Haydn overture.

The Haydn was followed by two movements from Holt’s The Planets: Mars, the Bringer of War, and Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. These were programmed by Shin to show how composers of the space-themed films that followed were influenced by Holst’s masterpiece. The GYO pulled off Mars better than Jupiter, but to be fair, Jupiter is extremely difficult to play. That’s not to say that both weren’t played well, and Shin knows his orchestra and how to get the best out of the extraordinarily talented young musicians. 

The concert concluded with the Flying Theme from E.T. by John Williams and selections from Star Trek Into Darkness by Michael Giacchino and Star Wars by Williams. It was clear that the young musicians had fun with these pieces, especially, as I would imagine, most of them had heard the music when watching the films. And they played them superbly!

Glendale is called the Jewel City, but within the city is another jewel: The Glendale Youth Orchestra. These musicians, under the direction of Shin, put on a very professional concert and played with poise and aplomb. I imagine that many in the Alex Theatre were friends and family of the musicians, but I would recommend that everyone attend their concerts. You will not only have fun, but you will witness some fine music played by a very professional orchestra consisting of some terrific young musicians.

The next concert by the GYO is scheduled for May 21, 2023, at the Alex Theatre, and their 35th Season Opening Concert is scheduled for Nov. 5, 2023, also at the Alex Theatre. For more information and to listen to selections from previous performances, visit: https://www.glendaleyouthorchestra.com/concerts.

—Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA

Photo of Henry Shin courtesy of Glendale Youth Orchestra