Review: PYP’s Cushion Concert


There was a moment during this weekend’s performance by the young string ensemble members of the Portland Youth Philharmonic when all of the kids in the audience sat up a little straighter, craned their necks for a better view of the stage and listened just a little more¬†closely.

No, it wasn’t during the ensemble’s performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, though that was lovely and rousing, on a rainy, windy Saturday when even the trees outside the World Forestry Center looked as though they were bending in time to the ensemble’s music.

And it wasn’t during the performance of a Beethoven selection by four of the ensemble’s principals, Hanami Ann Froom on violin, Elijah Zacharia on viola, Christine Youn on cello and Aaron Woodruff on bass, though the four made beautiful, gentle music together.

And it wasn’t even during the brief portion of the show when each of the different instruments was highlighted with a brief solo, though everyone liked the violin section’s take on Frozen‘s famous “Let it Go,” the viola group’s performance of the theme from Harry Potter and the cello section’s selection from Star Wars. (Woodruff on bass chimed in with the classic theme music from The Pink Panther, which got the parents in the audience nodding knowingly.)

No, it was the part of the show when the musicians answered questions from their audience, cozily tucked up on pillows and blankets brought from home especially for the show. How old, a member of the audience wanted to know, were the performers, exactly?

The answer is that they range in age, from 7-year-olds to 13-year-olds. And in case you are wondering, they practice their instruments for an hour or two a night, on average.

You could see the kids in the audience doing the math, realizing that they too could join such an ensemble, or were perhaps old enough already to do so. And knowing that the musicians were also kids made the concert especially inspiring and moving to everyone in the room.

I know I wasn’t the only parent who was particularly impressed by the fourth piece of music performed, a sprightly Christmas carol composed by Koharu Sakiyama, a young violin player who also serves as the ensemble’s assistant concertmaster.

Another special feature of the concert is that all the kids in the audience got to try out the various string instruments afterwards, thanks to an “instrument petting zoo” sponsored by Kennedy Violins. It’s fun to watch your kids realize that they too can make music, even if they’d have a long way to go to make it sound as good as the musicians on stage.

A final word about those talented musicians. One moment, we were listening to them playing the finale, Handel’s “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” from “Solomon,” with all its pomp and circumstance. A few minutes later, while my kids were happily engaged at the petting zoo, I peeked outside and saw a group of the musicians letting off steam after the show, playing a quick and raucous game of tag outside of the amphitheater.

It was a sweet reminder that kids can be serious and talented musicians while still being children too, through and through.

Julia Silverman

Julia Silverman

Julia is a former Associated Press Oregon education and politics reporter, who has also worked as a web editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting. She likes reading, cooking, hiking, swimming, and being left alone at the end of the day to watch some pretty bad TV. Her twins, Ben and Elly, like making trouble.
Julia Silverman

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