? Lions Gate Sinfonia presents Beethoven and "The Mozarts," at Centennial Theatre, Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7: 30 p.m., featuring guest artist Sasha Starcevich, piano, and the Lions Gate Youth Orchestra. Pre-show chat at 6: 30 p.m. Tickets: $39/$35/$12, visit centennialtheatre.com. Info: lionsgatesinfonia.com. GROWING up in the late 18th century, famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would travel with his father Leopold, an acclaimed composer, violinist and teacher, on European concert tours along with his talented musician sister Nannerl.
Road weary, they would seek refuge at boarding houses and at the homes of fellow musicians.
"All this cacophony would ensue," says Clyde Mitchell, conductor and music director of Lions Gate Sinfonia. "Down the hall a violinist would be practising. Over in the other room there would be a singer and a piano working . . . and Mozart would hear all these things."
As a teenager, Wolfgang was already composing his own works and he loved gaining ideas from these tours, the interesting mixture of dissonant sounds and suspensions proving to be an integral part of his musical education.
Years later, the story is among those Mitchell passionately shares in the lead-up to the professional chamber orchestra of the North Shore's upcoming concert, entitled Beethoven and "The Mozarts," set for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7: 30 p.m. at Centennial Theatre.
Since Lions Gate Sinfonia's launch 12 seasons ago, musical education has been an important focus, both of rising stars as well as community members at large. The upcoming concert exemplifies that interest, as it's offering a number of mentorship opportunities for young players, including the newly formed Lions Gate Youth Orchestra which will share the stage with Sinfonia, as well as two pre-concert chats offering insight into the evening's repertoire.
"One of the main reasons I wanted to became a conductor was because I wanted to be able to share music more generally and genially," says Mitchell. "I wanted to make sure that it was really a part of people's lives and nobody felt like you had to study in Vienna and have a masters from Juilliard . . . in order to understand music and that starts with kids and I want kids to enjoy music."
Since Sinfonia's launch, the orchestra has presented what they refer to as annual "side-by-side" concerts, seeing players perform with local youths brought together for the occasion, typically drawn from the pool of member's private students. This year is no different, however, the crop of young musicians are members of the North Shore-based Lions Gate Youth Orchestra, founded by Sinfonia.
Following auditions in the summer, the youth orchestra was launched in September 2012 and meets weekly on Thursday nights under Mitchell's baton and with support from Sinfonia players.
"They're all becoming friends, they're all bonding, there's a great camaraderie and there's a fantastic joie de vivre. And we're working hard, we're working on major repertoire - Mozart symphonies, Beethoven concertos and Chopin concertos," says Mitchell.
Apart from technique and ensemble etiquette, membership in the group offers general life lessons, including the importance of teamwork, taking direction and constructive criticism in addition to goal setting and the feeling of a job well done following a concert.
The youth orchestra has had performance opportunities already, though the Jan. 26 event marks its most significant to date. Both orchestras will take the stage, performing works by three generations of the Mozart family: Wolfgang and Leopold, and Wolfgang's son Franz Xavier.
Among the featured works is Wolfgang's Symphony No. 14, which he penned at age 14, a fitting piece for Mitchell's youth orchestra, which is open to youths ages 13 to 18.
"We were rehearsing last night and the kids were saying, 'wow, he was my age when he wrote this?'" says Mitchell.
Apart from the Mozarts, also on the program is a piece by a composer who was considered to be the "the next Mozart," Frederic Chopin, and his Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring rising star Carol Zhang. Adding to the concert's mentorship theme, Zhang has studied under the other featured pianist, Sasha Starcevich, who will perform with Sinfonia on Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2.
"He's a brilliant, very fiery and incredibly expressive performer," says Mitchell. "He's one of those guys who's so technically flashy and brilliant, but he combines that with an absolute sweet disposition and incredible accuracy and clarity and he's what you want as a musician. I put him up there with the best. I've worked with a lot of great pianists and Sasha is truly one of the finest artists I know."
Starcevich was previously based on the North Shore, though currently operates a private studio in Bellevue, Wash., in addition to serving as artistic director of Richmond's Showcase Piano Academy. He has performed in storied music halls around the world, including New York's Carnegie Recital Hall, Moscow's Tchaikovsky Hall, Windsor Castle and in London's Wigmore Hall, and this marks his third performance with Sinfonia.
In addition to the program notes and information shared from the stage by Mitchell during the upcoming concert, community members interested in learning more about the evening's music are invited to a 30-minute pre-concert chat in the Centennial Theatre lobby at 6: 30 p.m. Those looking to delve a little deeper are invited to a 90-minute preview lecture Monday, Jan. 21 at the West Vancouver Seniors' Activity Centre at 1: 30 p.m. Cost: $2.25.
"I find that with classical music, like a lot of art forms as opposed to entertainment, the thing that makes it more art is that the more you invest in it, the more you get out of it. There's always something to enjoy, but there's more and more layers underneath the more you go. . . . ." says Rob Gloor, Lions Gate Sinfonia's general manager. "Then when you hear it, you're just rewarded back for having the interesting insights. That's what makes it possible to hear and enjoy and be affected by this music over and over again."
Starcevich is also presenting a master class through the North Shore Registered Music Teachers Association to interested students Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 6: 30 p.m. at Mulgrave School. Cost: $10.
"It's what we love to do. We love to present music. I think the most important word is share. This is what we do. . . ., " says Mitchell. "We want to bring people in to share the experience."
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