This weekend, area residents have two opportunities to hear the work of the Chautauqua Regional Youth Symphony.
CRYS will open its 26th season with two free chamber performances by string players. The first performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday at Chautauqua Mall, and the second is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ss. Peter and Paul Church, 508 Cherry St. in Jamestown.
According to Bryan Eckenrode, music director, the concerts will feature the string players of the CRYS and a few selections of holiday music.
The string players of the Chautauqua Regional Youth Symphony will perform at Chautauqua Mall on Friday at 7 p.m. On Saturday they will present their full concert at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in downtown Jamestown, also at 7 p.m. Some of the musicians are seen here with their conductor and music director Bryan Eckenrode.
"It's a small chamber concert, in which some of the students will be switching bows," said Eckenrode. "What I mean by switching bows is for the music that is from the Baroque to Early Classical period the students will use Baroque bows. We're one of the few youth orchestras in the country that actually uses Baroque bows. It's completely different sounding than a modern bow and is a very stylized approach to playing."
In addition to classical pieces by Claude Debussy, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the show will include a wide selection of songs which range from Baroque to contemporary and jazz.
"It's a variety of music," said Eckenrode. "There is a piece called 'Jazz Pizzicato' by Leroy Anderson, an American composer, in which the students will hold their violin like a guitar and pluck the strings instead of using a bow."
The performance at the Chautauqua Mall will be the first time CRYS has played there, and in addition to providing atmosphere for patrons it will also act as a rehearsal for the students, said Eckenrode.
"We're doing it as a community outreach project, and this is going to be the first time, so I'm not quite sure what it's going to be like," said Eckenrode. "But, it's holiday season, so with all the hustle and bustle it could be an interesting situation."
The show at Ss. Peter and Paul Church will include a full performance that is complete with magnificent atmosphere and acoustics, said Eckenrode.
"It's a great venue for a season concert, and Baroque music works really well in that space," said Eckenrode. "It's just strings, no brass or percussion, so it offers an acoustic that is very forgiving. You stop playing, and 10 seconds later the sound is still reverberating. It's really nice that they've allowed us to use the space; we really do appreciate it."
Eckenrode, who will conduct the performances, was born and raised in southcentral Pennsylvania. He studied cello performance at SUNY Stony Brook and completed a Master of Music degree at SUNY Buffalo. Eckenrode plays cello with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra and the Southern Tier Symphony. He also conducts the Warren Philharmonic, teaches orchestra at Nichols Middle School in Buffalo and is on the faculty of Canisius and Villa Maria colleges.
"Music has taken me all over the world," said Eckenrode. "I've done some soundtracks for Turner Classic Movies, performed twice at the Lincoln Center and I have had a variety of cello music written for me. I have recorded with contemporary artist Ani Difranco on both cello and bagpipes, which I also play, and with the group Sixpence None the Richer."
Eckenrode got involved with the CRYS when he was asked to be a substitute conductor. Now, he's been in the program long enough that he has seen children go from the prelude program all the way up through the college level.
"It was sort of by happenstance, but the board really liked the results that I was getting from the kids," said Eckenrode. "It's a very artsy community, the kids are great and some of them are incredibly talented. I have students ranging from middle school up to college-level students from JCC. There are three divisions to our youth orchestra program in Jamestown. There is Prelude Strings, which is beginning strings; they are adorable little kids and some of them haven't learned to read music or worked with a conductor yet. Then there is our Young Artists Orchestra, which are middle and high school kids in a full orchestra. Then we have the Chautauqua Regional Youth Symphony, which is high school and college level students."
It's important that Jamestown recognizes the youth orchestra program, and showcasing the students' talent is a way of letting other youth know about the program, said Eckenrode.
"If a student is very serious about the possibility of going into music for a living, then (CRYS) is what they should be doing," said Eckenrode.
CRYS is still accepting students for the 2013 season. For more information call 664-2465, ext. 202, or visit CRYouthSymphony.com.