Seattle Youth Symphony Musicians Try Their Little Hands at Verdi’s Requim
Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, music director of the Seattle Youth Symphony, has an educator’s vision as well as a musician’s one for his young instrumentalists. It’s to give them the experience of working musically in other ways than only as a symphony. To that end, he has pursued partnerships with other organizations, so that his kids can work in a pit with dancers or for a musical and, on Sunday afternoon, with a big chorus.
The Tacoma Symphony Chorus and the University of Washington Chamber Singers, both trained by conductor Geoffrey Boers, joined the SYSO on the stage at Benaroya Hall for Verdi’s Requiem, as did four soloists. The young musicians played with their usual well-trained enthusiasm, halfway through swapping off some of the principal players to give others a chance. The large brass section, comprised of french horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas, was particularly fine, as was the percussion. The chorus also did a fine job. The soloists, however, were mismatched.
Bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin (who gave a stellar vocal performance in Bluebeard’s Castle with the Seattle Symphony last week) sang with his usual beautiful rich sound. The other three are all recent graduates of Seattle Opera Young Artists program. Jason Slayden has a clear Italian-style tenor which should take him far, but on this occasion he was at times a hair under the note.
I have admired the singing of both soprano Marcy Stonikas and mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak in their Young Artist appearances, but was sad to hear Sunday that Stonikas has acquired an uncontrolled, possibly uncontrollable vibrato which made it difficult to hear clearly what note she was on. She also screamed a little on her top notes, though her lower register was solid and sturdy. Gawrysiak also had more vibrato than seemed necessary: not extreme, but not shaded to the needs of the music. Her warm lower register is a pleasure to hear.
Because of these vibratos, choral harmonies in the quartet singing of the four soloists sounded muddy. In general the orchestra stayed closely with the the choral forces. Only in the Offertorio did they seem to be not quite together, but for a very first effort in a large choral work, the musicians did well.
June 16th, the players (or as many as can fit in the McCaw Hall pit) will join Pacific Northwest Ballet to play for the PNB school performances and also for the emerging choreographers’ program, Next Step, in an auspicious collaboration for the polished young dancers, young musicians, and young choreographers.