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Glendale Youth Orchestra bringing ‘Force’ to the stage on Sunday

GYO members play in May 2019
Glendale Youth Orchestra members are pictured performing the last concert with longtime conductor Brad Keimach in May. On Nov. 24, the orchestra will play its season opening performance with new conductor Henry Shin.
(Courtesy of Marc Marriott)

The Glendale Youth Orchestra’s upcoming season-opening concert slated for Sunday will feature an unexpected — and unexpectedly modern — special guest: the “Force.”

During the program, titled “New Adventures,” the orchestra will play part of a 2015 “Star Wars” score by noted film composer John Williams — along with compositions by 19th-century classical heavyweights Verdi and Dvorak.

If it seems like a departure from the youth orchestra’s previous musical focus, it is. And it’s by design.

The concert, slated for 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Alex Theatre, marks Henry Shin’s debut as the orchestra’s conductor and musical director.

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“I wanted to expose [the musicians] to a different repertoire, a new style and, in a way, start over,” Los Angeles native Shin said.

Orchestra members, who range from sixth- through 12th-graders, come from schools across Los Angeles County.

It’s a way to quickly nip in the bud any comparisons to the orchestra’s former conductor Brad Keimach, who stepped down in May after 19 seasons at the helm, said Shin, who is concurrently serving as director of orchestras at Pasadena City College.

Keimach favored work by classical icons like Mozart and Beethoven, he added.

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Henry Shin Headshot 1.jpeg
Henry Shin, an L.A. native, is Glendale Youth Orchestra’s new conductor and musical director.
(Courtesy of GYO)

Shin also happens to be a self-described “‘Star Wars’ nut.”

He picked music “he enjoys and that we, in turn, enjoy playing because he’s so passionate about it,” said Cole Davis, GYO’s first violinist.

The program will feature Verdi’s “Overture to Nabucco”; Williams’ “Jedi Steps and Finale” from “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens”; and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, “From the New World.”

Beyond picking music that resonates with his personal taste, Shin said he wants to expand the conception of what qualifies as “real classical music.” That includes film scores.

Under Shin’s direction, “[It’s been] really fun getting a new perspective,” said Davis, a junior at Crescenta Valley High who has been playing with the orchestra for four seasons.

Armed with advanced music degrees and several professional apprenticeships, Shin said he consciously made youth his focus, in part to ensure that they have access to arts, music and education — in light of existential threats posed by budget cuts.

“It’s a calling in me that I have to keep this going somehow,” Shin said. “It’s almost my duty to be there for them.”

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For tickets and more information, visit alextheatre.org.

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