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Worcester Youth Orchestras Celebrates 70 Years with Commissions and Alumni

Worcester Youth Orchestras' anniversary season under the direction of Jonathan Edward Brennand continues on May 20 at Mechanics Hall with a 70th Anniversary Alumni Concert. The evening will feature the Worcester Youth Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra's Alumni Orchestra, as well as the Worcester Chorus, Nashoba Valley Chorale and Auburn High School Choirs. Alumni of the WYO's prestigious programs from as far back as 1947 will join the ensembles and be in the audience. The concert will include the world premiere of two works commissioned by WYO to commemorate this anniversary: "Fanfare" by Hansani Archibald and "Spiral Labyrinth" by composer, arranger and performer Josh Oxford. The program will also include Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy" and works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will be in attendance to present the inaugural Robert Kennedy Community Service Award to Robert Kennedy, executive director of Mechanics Hall. Tickets are on sale now at

The Robert Kennedy Community Service Award recognizes individuals who provide outstanding opportunities and support for young people in Central Massachusetts," said Brennand. "Bob Kennedy's unwavering support and mentorship has enabled WYO to flourish. It is the perfect time, as our 70th Anniversary coincides with his year of retirement, that we honor him and his service to the Greater Worcester community. We will present this award annually to an individual in the community that upholds these values."

Performing 30 concerts each season to audiences over 8,000 strong, the WYO has become a cherished institution in Massachusetts. It has been and continues to be a source of hope and inspiration to the nearly 4,500 student musicians who have performed in the various ensembles over the decades.

Born and raised in England, Brennand is in his sixth season with WYO and serves as both the artistic director and conductor of the 70-member Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra. He also directs the elite chamber Baroque Orchestra and oversees the Preparatory Division and Orchestras and Honors Chamber Music Program. In six years he has grown the WYO from one ensemble to ten: Worcester Youth Orchestra, Worcester Youth Sinfonia, Worcester Youth Preparatory Orchestra, Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra, Worcester Youth Junior Philharmonic, Baroque Orchestra, Clarinet & Flute Choirs, Honors Chamber Music (String Quartet & Woodwind Quinet) and the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Program.

"It's fitting for us to perform 'Ode to Joy' from Beethoven's Ninth because joy is what this concert brings to us," said Brennand. "Having so many alumni artists back on our stage and in our audience really brings home how many lives WYO has touched over the years, and with the expansion of our ensembles, how many more we will be able to impact in the future."

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Dance of the Tumblers
Jack Corbett, Conductor
Symphony, Philharmonic & Alumni/ae Orchestras

TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo & Juliet Fantasy
Bradford Chase, Guest Conductor
Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra & Alumni/ae

SIBELIUS Finlandia
Jack Corbett, Conductor
Worcester Youth Philharmonic

OXFORD Spiral Labyrinth (World Premiere)
Commissioned by the WY Philharmonic for the 70th Anniversary
Jack Corbett, Conductor
Worcester Youth Philharmonic

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy"
Mvt. IV: Choral Finale
Jonathan Edward Brennand, Conductor

Dana Varga, soprano
Emily Harmon, mezzo-soprano
Omar Najmi, tenor
Ryne Cherry, bass

Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra
The Worcester Chorus, Chris Shepherd, Artistic Director
Nashoba Valley Chorale, Anne Watson Born, Artistic Director
Auburn High School Concert Choir, Nick LaPete, Director

About the Worcester Youth Orchestra

Founded in 1947, the WYO have maintained a presence in Central Massachusetts for more than 60 years, offering musical training, orchestral experiences and fostering life-long friendships for aspiring young musicians.

The orchestras' membership draws from over 60 towns and 72 schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, representing the finest talent from public, private and community music school programs. WYO is the third-oldest youth orchestra in the country and has a long history of masterful performances at Mechanics Hall, The Aud, The DCU, Tuckerman Hall, Alden Hall, The Hanover Theatre, Anna Maria College, Warner Theatre (Worcester Academy) and Holy Cross. They have appeared as guest performers at The Academy of Music in Northampton, Boston University's Tsai Center, Pickman Hall at Longy Conservatory, The Paramount Theatre in Boston, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at Drew University, home of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Notre Dame Bassillica in Montreal, Franklin Opera House and will travel to the Czech Republic in February 2019 for a 9-day tour .

All its students are actively involved in their school music programs as well as all-state and regional district music festivals. Under the artistic direction of Brennand for the past six seasons, WYO has grown to four orchestras, a wind ensemble, their Jazz Program, honors chamber music program, and a flute and clarinet choir. It serves more than 200 students and draws an annual audience of more than 8,000 concertgoers each season. Brennand founded the popular and beloved "Annual Family Holiday Concert," which draws more than a 1,000 families each year to celebrate the festive season. WYO presents a number of community outreach concerts each year at various places throughout greater Worcester, bringing music and joy to all. Recent appearances include St. Vincent's Hospital and Briarwood Retirement Community.

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