First International Youth Music Festival of San Francisco
Launched by Youth Music International,
the 1st International Youth Music Festival of San Francisco
in 2006 was originally founded as a partnership of Youth Music
International, The National Youth Strings Academy in England
and SFSU's School of Music and Dance and was sponsored by
Grace Cathedral, Mission Dolores and St. Mary's Cathedral.
The festival brought together gifted
young musicians from different countries as well as an international
faculty. By engaging their differing cultural and artistic
perspectives, ideas and insights the young people were able
to arrive at an unprecedented level of creative inspiration
and musical imagination. In this enriching aesthetic environment
(and with additional artistic guidance from a stellar and
eminent faculty from the US and UK) these talented young musicians
prepared four unforgettable and diverse programs of chamber
music and chamber orchestra at the most beautiful landmarks
in San Francisco: Grace Cathedral, Mission Dolores and St.
Mary's Cathedral as well as Knuth Hall at San Francisco State
University. It proved to be a powerful and unrivaled experience
for both the British and American students and faculty as
well as the audiences who experienced them.
The festival began with the British
organization, the National Youth Strings Academy arriving
from the UK and coming together with the Americans students
on July 31st. The first few days were spent with the American
students preparing for the first chamber music concert later
that week and the British students recovering from jet-lag,
seeing some of the sights of San Francisco and rehearsing
their own orchestral program.
Opening Concert of the Festival
at St. Mary's Cathedral (National Youth Strings Academy)...
On August 2nd the Festival opened
with tremendous excitement and anticipation in the grandiose
setting of St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco with a concert
by the National Youth Strings Academy. Organist and Music
Director, Chris Tietze welcomed the audience to this marvelous
experience and launched the Festival. Once the concert began
we were all completely taken by the high levels of musicianship
and professional demeanor of these disciplined young musicians
from England. It was an enchanting evening with a wonderful
repertoire which included: Divertimento in D Major by Mozart,
The Bartok Divertimento and the Shostakovich Octet arranged
for chamber orchestra. The whole audience was abuzz with the
excitement of this inspiring evening.
American Chamber Music Concert
at Knuth Hall, SFSU School of Music and Dance...
On August 3rd, the American students
now followed with a noon-concert in Knuth Hall where they
performed an incredible array of movements from well-loved
quartets, quintets and sextets. The spectrum of works involved
the Beethoven Quartet, op.18, no.6; Mozart Quartet K 158;
Dvorak American Quartet, Brahms Sextet in G Major; Shostakovich
Quartet No. 8; and the Bartok Quartet No. 1. It was very exciting
to hear these young musicians (some as young as 12!) confidently
performing such massive works after only three days of preparation!
It was also inspirational to see how much they banded together
in such a short time creating such a strong bond even within
such different ages.
The Americans and British
August 4th brought the British and
American students together in new chamber ensembles and two
chamber orchestras. Each ensemble was made up of both British
and American Students who were very excited to have the opportunity
to work together. The extraordinary and dedicated faculty
included Victor Romasevich, violinist and Don Ehrlich, Assistant
Principal Violist, both from the San Francisco Symphony as
well as Deirdre Cooper, cellist from the Smith Quartet and
Philharmonia in London as well as Erika Miranda, violinist
and Principal with Sacramento Opera. The British Faculty included
Viviane Ronchetti, violinist from the Royal Guildhall (and
founder of NYSA); Roger Garland , former violinist with the
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Levon Parikian, who
conducted both Festival orchestras.
Masterclass with the Alexander
After one afternoon's rehearsal,
we were joined by the marvelous and renowned Alexander String
Quartet who held a Masterclass in which all these newly combined
ensembles participated. Zak Graffilo, Fred Lifsitz, Paul Yarbrough
and Sandy Walsh-Wilson entertained, educated and drew these
gifted young musicians to new heights. Everyone watching and
participating were left with the inspiration of new insights
into these diverse works. The evening finished with a big
faculty-student dinner sponsored by the Moss family.
August 5th and 6th were spent in
intensive rehearsals preparing for the next two concerts.
It was incredible to see the rich and dynamic exchange of
so much creativity as these students and coaches from different
cultures shared and exchanged ideas and perceptions (both
musically and socially) during the course of chamber music,
orchestra rehearsals, sectionals and some impromptu sight-reading
sessions (and the occasional antics!).
Chamber Music Gala at Mission
August 7th brought the debut of the
"Chamber Music Gala" at the renowned and historic
Mission Dolores of San Francisco. Juan Pedro Gaffney, music
director at the Mission and Basilica welcomed and encouraged
us to experience the "community spirit of the people"
which personified the oldest building left in San Francisco
from California's earliest settlers, the Spanish missionaries.
The rustic charm and elegance of this unique venue really
added a special flavor to the incredible chamber works performed
by the students. It was also a fitting place to stage this
collaboration of cultures and demonstrate the power of diversity
Masterpieces Finale at Grace
In the atmosphere of this Spanish
mission, the audience fell deeply under the spell of their
playing and of this extraordinary music which included: The
Dvorak Bass Quintet, a String Quartet by Russian-born composer,
Iosif Andriasov, Shostakovich Octet, Brahms Quartet in a minor
and the Dvorak American Quartet as well as several other gems
of the rich string chamber music repertoire.
The Masterpieces Finale of the 1st
International Youth Music Festival took place on August 8th
at the most hallowed and well-known landmark of Nob Hill,
San Francisco: Grace Cathedral. Bruce Bearden, Canon of Grace
Cathedral, warmly welcomed the audience and introduced Erika
Miranda, Festival Director, who opened the concert and described
the mission of the Festival.
The grace and beauty of the Cathedral
arches and mosaiques as well as the famed Labyrinth were truly
an extraordinary setting for the final concert of the Festival.
This unique atmosphere ignited an even more inspiring creative
vision in these remarkable young musicians. A united, imaginative
and compelling musical force swept through each work leaving
the whole audience in a reverie of musical inspiration. We
were regaled with the richness of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto
No. 3, the emotional devastation of the Shostakovich Quartet
No.8 and the vibrant Hungarian reminiscence of the Bartok
Quartet No. 1. British conductor, Levon Parikian skillfully
steered both orchestras through the mystical Albinoni Adagio,
the Mozart Divertimento in F Major and the Mendelsohn Sinfonia
X. The unique architectural beauty of this magnificent edifice
helped create an unforgettable musical experience for everyone
and brought the Festival to a fitting and magnificent close
with both orchestras coming together for the haunting Vaughan-Williams
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for double-stringed orchestra.
And finally, the closing
After the closing concert of the
1st International Youth Music Festival of San Francisco, both
the British and American students, families and staff all
came together at a reception hosted by the Ng and Welsh family's
at their home in Nob Hill just up from Grace Cathedral. It
was a chance to for all the kids to enjoy each other for the
last time at the Festival and to say their "good-byes".
After working so closely and intensely and sharing so much
together there was definitely sadness at the experience coming
to a close and some tears as well as contact information were
exchanged. Although there was some sadness at leaving new
friends, everyone carried away a tremendous artistic satisfaction
and awe at having been through such an extraordinary experience.