A taste of France

For the opening performance of its 2010-11 concert season, the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon will highlight a series of works by "compositeurs Français."

The symphony, which includes three ensembles — the Youth Symphony, the Youth Orchestra and the Youth Strings — features more than 160 talented instrumentalists from local communities.

YSSO will present its French-themed concert this weekend with performances set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

As winners of the 2010 YSSO Concerto Competition, violinist Ashley Hoe, 17, and cellist Chas Barnard, 16, selected and will solo in the featured piece "Le Muse et le Poéte, Op. 132" by Camille Saint-Saëns.

The two Ashland High School students had stumbled upon the rather obscure piece online and presented it as a duet in the January competition.

Hoe, a student of noted Rogue Valley violinist Faina Podolnaya, says she especially appreciated the piece's lyrical, slow sections and showy, fast sections.

However, the tempo changes, as well as learning to play as a duet, brought challenges.

"It's hard in the respect that you have to put together the ensemble stuff — match bowings, match articulation, match expressions and styles," says Barnard.

The French composition opened the door for Cynthia Hutton, conductor of the Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra, to introduce the ensembles to the colorful and impressionistic French repertoire. She says YSSO tends to play more Russian, American and German music.

"It allowed us the opportunity to program French composers, which is a type of music we don't often do with the symphony, as the music tends to be very challenging," says Hutton.

In addition to accompanying Hoe and Barnard in "Le Muse et le Poéte," the 75-member advanced Youth Symphony also will perform César-Auguste Franck's "Le Chasseur Maudit." Members of the Youth Orchestra will perform Jean Baptiste Lully's "The King's Musicians," Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" and André-Earnest-Modeste Grétry's "Overture to Lucile." The Youth Strings, directed by YSSO Associate Conductor Podolnaya, will perform works by Henry Purcell and Sheila M. Nelson.

Hoe, the Youth Symphony co-concertmaster, has been a member of YSSO since 2004. She also plays in the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Siskiyou Violins.

Barnard, who plays principal cello in the Youth Symphony, joined YSSO last season and plays in the AHS Chamber Orchestra and the Rogue Valley Symphony. He studies under Thomas Stauffer.

Tickets cost $10, $5 for students and are available at Paddington Station in Ashland and Larry's Music in Medford. Tickets to the Craterian performance also are available by calling 541-779-3000.

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