By Philippa Kiraly
This Friday at the Moore Theatre, audience members will be able to hear a performance of Broadway favorites by Lenonard Bernstein, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and more. Let alone these are always a delight to hear, the twist is that they are being performed by a new generation of performers.
Broadway Bound Childrens Theatre and Seattle Youth Symphony are joining together in a semi-staged concert with a group of young singers aged 15-25 and 100 of the SYS as an on-stage orchestra.
This kind of collaboration is a new venture for the youth symphony and is the first of several planned to take place this year and in the future. The idea was hatched by Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, the orchestra’s music director, who will conduct the performances. Known to Seattle as a consummate musical educator of the young, Radcliffe’s credentials include time as assistant conductor of Boston Opera Company and work with Connecticut Ballet Theatre. He was also a student under Bernstein, and is looking forward with enthusiasm to this expansion of the orchestra’s mission.
Later this spring the orchestra joins with Seattle Choral Company to perform Mahler’s immense Symphony No. 2 at Benaroya Hall, and in June it will provide the pit orchestra for Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s pre-professional dancers in their annual presentation at McCaw Hall. Radcliffe is also talking with Seattle Opera, Seattle Chamber Music Society and Seattle International Film Festival with a view to working with them later on.
“It really enriches the educational opportunity for our players,” he says. “A lot of our musicians go on to professional careers in music. It’s part of their education to play diverse styles of music, part of the whole broad curriculum. Pit work is some of the bread and butter for musicians, and a lot of friends I was a student with are now doing that in New York.” He also thinks it is a great opportunity for young musicians to be exposed in a hands-on fashion to different art forms, and that Seattle is the perfect place for this sort of cross-fertilization to take place.
Radcliffe is excited for the kids to work together. “You get a 17-year-old dancer working with a 17-year-old bassoonist. They’re all so isolated from the other disciplines, and this way we get our musicians to think what a dancer thinks about rubato or accelerando, for instance.”
He considers these collaborations to be audience-building for the future of the arts. “No data shows that exposure to concerts provides any lifelong trend to appreciation of music, but 75-80% of kids in school music will buy a concert ticket later on, so tuck a fiddle under a kid’s chin now.” These will also, for instance, make dance and theater audiences aware of the youth symphony and vice versa and build audience for all of them.
Where is the money coming from? For now, it will be through ticket sales, but for long range collaborations the youth symphony is aggressively looking for support from foundations concerned with youth education.
”I think they’ll be really interested in this form of collaboration and resource sharing,” says Radcliffe. “I don’t think there’s a youth orchestra in the country that has done this. Very few cities have such strong training programs in opera, ballet, film studios, theater, and Broadway as Seattle.There’s no reason there should be canned music for some of these programs. It’s a win-win prospect all round.”
A Broadway Symphonic Spectacular: Friday January 15 at the Moore Theatre, 7.30 p.m. Tickets: $15 and $50 VIP at STG Presents at the Paramount Box Office, online at http://www.stgpresents.org or at 877-STG-4TIX.