Michael Massey speaks softly and flicks a small orchestral baton. The senior conductor with a shock of white hair has no trouble getting the attention and respect from musicians within the Edmonton Youth Orchestra.
And that’s no small matter especially since he conducts 150 elite musicians – 60 in the Intermediate Orchestra and 90 in the Senior Orchestra.
Revered among the school age musicians, the British-born Massey encourages his charges to do more than play notes. He motivates them to feel music and play from the heart.
The two top-tier ensembles are gearing up for their first season concert at the Winspear Centre tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, Nov. 29 with works from Benjamin Britten, Joseph Haydn and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
In addition, Shumayela and Kikimasu Choirs from the Kokopelli umbrella are also featured as special guests.
“In our orchestra we have cross-over singers in the Kokopelli choirs and we worked out a collaboration,” Massey said.
The Intermediate Orchestra launches the concert with Britten’s Welcome Ode written for young people’s choruses and orchestra. Composed in 1976, it borrows heavily from 17th and 18th century texts.
“It was the last piece Britten wrote. He had written it for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, but he didn’t get to hear it performed. He’d always had a weak heart and passed away. It’s a really lovely work,” said Massey.
He also included excepts from Britten’s Friday Afternoons, a collection of 12 songs composed in a two year period spanning 1933 to 1935.
Massey is a huge admirer of Britten’s music and describes the deceased British composer “as a cornerstone of British music and a huge influence. He brought about the rebirth of English opera with Peter Grimes. He wrote for choirs and for children which he loved to do. His Ceremony of Carols is done in every city of the world.”
The Intermediates close their performance with the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 “Surprise.”
After intermission the Senior Band applies its skills to Rimsky-Korsakov’s challenging Scheherazade, a landmark tone poem based on literary imagery.
“It’s Rimsky-Korsakov’s greatest work. It’s the most colourful, most beautifully written piece. It’s concise and things flow so well from one to the other.”
The level of musicianship is very high at EYO, but this concert is more than extra-ordinary talent.
“It’s wonderful choral stuff. There are four great groups and this will be an afternoon of great art.”
Edmonton Youth Orchestra Concert
Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15/adults; $10/seniors, students.
Call 780-420-1757 or online at tixonthesquare.ca