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Young People's Symphony Orchestra continues its 79th season with Candide Overture and Carmina Bu

YPSO SPRING CONCERT. The oldest youth orchestra in California and second oldest in the country continues to celebrate its 79th season with Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana this month. Berkeley’s Young People’s Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) features 95 young musicians who range in age from 12 to 18, representing 38 schools, and hailing from 32 Bay Area cities and counties.

Founded in 1936, YPSO is under the direction of David Ramadanoff who is celebrating his 27th season as music director and conductor. The YPSO Spring Concert is slated for Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 1 at 6 p.m. at the Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church. Ramadanoff last conducted Carmina Burana on YPSO’s 2008 summer tour of Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Opera House, and selected it again so the orchestra can perform it with the University of Warwick Chorus during its June 2016 performance tour of the United Kingdom.

The concert opens with the Candide Overture which was composed for the opera Candide in 1956. It was an instant success with its mix of bubbly spirit and skepticism that captured the personality of the opera’s title character. The following year, Bernstein expanded and adapted the piece for full orchestra and debuted it with the New York Philharmonic. Within two years it became his most played symphonic work. “It’s got so many musical ideas,” says Ramadanoff of the score.

In addition to Bernstein’s composing and conducting accolades, he was an important conducting teacher for several generations of young conductors including San Francisco Symphony’s music director Michael Tilson Thomas, and Ramadanoff, a former Assistant and Associate Conductor of the S.F. Symphony from 1975-1981. Ramadanoff worked with him in 1975 at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony.

“The orchestra wasn’t getting the tempo in transition from one movement to the next,” says Ramandoff. “He suggested doing it faster, which I didn’t agree with. He was comfortable with changing tempi and emphasis in the music sometimes.”

The dramatic cantata Carmina Burana will be the featured piece on the program. Debuted in 1937, it’s one of the most frequently performed works of the choral repertoire. Translated from the Latin, its name means “songs of Beuern,” the German town where the collection of 254 medieval poems was hidden away in a Bavarian Monastery until their rediscovery in the early 19th century. The original text is in Medieval Latin, vernacular Middle High German along with Old Provencal and mixtures of German and French. It was written by clerical students (goliards) who enjoyed writing bawdy and satirical verse in praise of earthly delights.

Ramadanoff says the piece is a challenge for the orchestra. “Orff constructed something that has a lot of motion. The harmonies aren’t complicated on purpose,” he added. “It needs to be played with style and with excitement.”

Baritone Zachary Gordin brings his experience of nine performances in the role to YPSO having performed with such companies as the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the UC Berkeley Choruses, YOSA Philharmonic and San Antonio Choral Society, among others. “I’ve gone from being intimidated by it as a young singer, to really loving and enjoying the rehearsal and performance process,” shares Gordin. “There are lots of shades of character and vocal color, which makes it an exciting and rewarding assignment.”

Soprano Shawnette Sulker will sing the soprano role which she has also performed with the UC Davis Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, the Mendocino Music Festival, and the Livermore Valley Chorale. A native of Guyana, Sulker has sung with many companies in the U.S. and Europe, including San Francisco Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Mark Morris Dance Group, and West Bay Opera, to name a few.

The Solano Choral Society under the musical direction of Kristy Juliano as well as the Concert Choir of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir under the direction of Andrew Brown joins YPSO for these performances of Carmina Burana.

Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church is located at 1801 Lacassie Avenue in Walnut Creek. Free admission with suggested donation of $15 available at For more information, call 510-849-YPSO (9776) or visit

WEEKEND SCENE: Jane Monheit Friday, Lakeside Saturday, Johnny Clegg Sunday at Yoshi’s Jack London Square Oakland … Kathy Kallick Band Friday, Nellie McKay Saturday, In Harmony’s Way Sunday at Freight & Salvage Berkeley … Jim Cordiss, Friday, Saturday at Zio Fraedo’s Pleasant Hill … Opaluna Friday, Laurie Antonioli Band featuring Matt Clark, Sheldon Brown, Jason Lewis, John Shifflett Saturday, Steve Erquiaga and Frank Martin (4pm), Vocal Jam Session (7pm) Sunday at California Jazz Conservatory Berkeley … Laura Benitez and The Heartache Friday, The Steve Freund Blues Trio Saturday at Armando’s Martinez.

COMEDY SCENE: Comedian, actress, TV host, and author Loni Love brings her new Loni Love & Chill “A Funny Kind of Love” comedy tour to Tommy T’s Comedy Club in Pleasanton through Saturday. Love will also co-star in Garry Marshall’s upcoming film “Mother’s Day” opening April 29 with Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Jason Sudeikis. Love co-hosts Fox TV’s daytime Emmy-nominated show “The Real” as well as Café Mocha radio show with rapper MC Lyte … Maz Jobrani Friday, Saturday, Jimmy Carr Sunday, Monday at Cobb’s Comedy Club San Francisco … Greg Fitzsimmons Friday, Saturday, SF Comedy Showcase Sunday at the Punch Line San Francisco.

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