Young musicians fill orchestra's ranksSt. Patrick's Day brings a family concert to the Playhouse.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:41 PM
"Audiences at the Bainbridge Orchestra concerts March 17-18 may not recognize the musical ensemble.The orchestra has 12 new members, all under the age of 18. We now have unprecedented numbers of young musicians playing, Jim Quitslund, coordinator of Bainbridge Performing Arts Classical Music Program said. This is a wonderful trend.Now, the orchestra's age range is from junior high to the late 80s, director Kathleen Macferran said.Macferran - one of the few professional female conductors in the northwest, founder and director of the Rainier Chamber Winds -- is another recent orchestra addition; the St. Patrick's Day concert marks her second appearance as conductor.When Macferran joined the orchestra, Quitslund helped take the instrumentalists through the transition, leading round table discussions as they met with her to redefine the group and identify values and goals. Ultimately, Macferran and the musicians agreed that it was most crucial to respect the music by striving for excellence. We have to hold ourselves accountable, to show up with parts learned, for instance, Macferran said. Another value is personal growth. Every time we rehearse, we ratchet up a notch.There will be more young people in evidence. The concert features performances by three young soloists - pianists Donna Horning and Theodora Carson, joined by violinist Sam McAllister - playing works by Antonio Vivaldi, Friedrich Kulau, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Nicolo Paganini and Edvard Grieg.In a tribute to St. Patrick's Day, the orchestra plays Percy Grainger's arrangement of Irish Tune from County Derry, popularly know as O Danny Boy.Not an eye will be dry, said Quitslund dryly.Two of the three soloists will have parents making music alongside them. McAllister's father, Richard McAllister, plays double bass and Carson's father, Rob Carson, plays cello in the orchestra.Carson's mother also plays an instrument, the violin.We make my father practice in the basement, the youngest Carson said. I'm the one who gets my own music room. You should hear it when we're all making music at once.The basement may be a step up; Rob Carson used to practice in a closet.He has played cello for six years, inspired to begin taking lessons by the fun his daughter had on piano.It's a big thrill playing with her, the elder Carson said. I can't imagine anything better than being her back-up band. The 15-year old Carson has grown up with the orchestra, first performing with them when she was only seven. She began taking lessons when she was four, under teacher Peggy Swingle (also Horning's instructor) with the Suzuki method that teaches by ear. I learned to read music when I learned to read, she said. Now, at 15, Carson has already competed and studied chamber music in England.My friends all hate classical music, she said, but that's OK because I love it.For Carson, the March 17 concert is more of a good thing. For Horning and McAllister the performance with the orchestra has all the thrill of first time.For the young performers who have joined the orchestra, making music collectively makes it fun.And for Macferran and the mature musicians, coming together to shape a new vision for this island institution, is a musically and personally gratifying venture. The Bainbridge Orchestra, conducted by Kathleen Macferran, with soloists Donna Horning, Sam McAllister and Theodora Carson, performs 7:30 p.m. March 17 and 4 p.m. March 18 at the Playhouse. Tickets are $12/adults and $9/seniors and students, at The Playhouse or call 842-8569. "