When 70-some students from the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra take off for Europe on Tuesday, they will be accompanied by several professionals who have written works for them to premiere on their 10-day tour, including Trumpet Principal Doug Morton of the Santa Rosa Symphony and guitarist Jason Eckl of Dirty Cello.
The young adults will also have the honor of meeting American composer Gloria Coates, who lives in Germany and wrote a special piece for the ensemble after learning about how their community came together to help each other after the wildfires last October.
“I was already working on a concept for the piece when the fire disaster struck,” Coates explained in an e-mail. “I decided to create a positive music by taking a simple five-tone scale and transforming it into a new sound complex of many scales and microtones. This echoes ... the people joining together and creating a new and vibrant community.”
Behind the young musicians — ranging from ages 10 to 23 — stand a raft of supportive parents, who spent countless hours driving them to lessons and rehearsals, supplying food for Sunday night practices, volunteering for concerts and working with the Santa Rosa Symphony League to help create “A Night in Vienna,” the major fund-raiser for the tour.
Some of those parents will be going along as chaperones while others — too excited to stay home while their kids go to Europe — have planned itineraries that follow the students as they perform in historic halls from Salzburg and Vienna to Budapest. These shadow parents, however, are only allowed to attend concerts. Otherwise, the kids will be operating independently.
“I’m excited for them to have their own experience,” said Julie Forrest of Windsor, who will follow her two children — bass player Isaac, 16, and violinist Pippa, 13. “They will feel confident and independent, and I’m so excited for them. It’s so magical to feel that way, like you’re experiencing another world for the very first time.”
To launch the 10-day tour, the youth orchestra under Conductor Richard Loheyde will give a Bon Voyage concert at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall showcasing the repertoire they will perform in Europe. Loheyde’s programming goal was to create a strong connection between the music and the composers of the various cities they are going to visit.
“In Vienna you have to play Strauss, so we’re doing the ‘Thunder and Lightning Polka,” Loheyde said. “And we also have to do Brahms as well, so that’s why we programmed the Academic Festival Overture ... and Lizst is closely associated with Hungary and Budapest in particular, so we’re doing his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” “I’m super excited about the Lizst, and probably my favorite piece is the Academic Festival Overture,” said Isaac Forrest. “It’s so fun to play. It’s a big German college drinking song.”
As a nod to Mozart, who was born in Salzburg, Morton wrote a piece for the youth orchestra based on the composer’s timeless “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” melody and will join the tour as well. His work, “Variations on a French Folk Song,” is an homage to Beethoven, Mozart and American composers Copland and Gershwin.
Also joining the tour will be Dirty Cello, a blues and bluegrass band led by Santa Rosa Symphony cellist Rebecca Roudman. The band has collaborated with the youth orchestra before — they performed a Blues Concerto together in November — and the band’s guitarist, Jason Eckl, wrote a Klezmer Heritage Concerto for the tour featuring the cello as the lead instrument.