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Photo by Petr Dyrc
Photo by Petr Dyrc

Golden State Youth Orchestra

Golden State Youth Orchestra (GSYO) is distinguished by its unusually large and diverse number of ensembles, and a creative structure that enables GSYO teachers to offer an enriching musical education to the widest possible range of youth. The young musicians of GSYO are culturally diverse and range from those at the beginning of their musical training to those ready to establish creative careers as performing artists. All receive high-quality learning, performance, and leadership opportunities.

*Programming and artists subject to change, please refer to the participating organization’s calendar listing for the most up-to-date program.

Performance Times

Sunday November 5th, 7:00PM

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California Festival: Harmonious Beginnings

Harmonious Beginnings' is Golden State Youth Orchestra Senior Symphony's 2023/24 Season Opener Concert, which features captivating recent works written by award-winning living composers Valerie Coleman and Jonathan Shin.


Jonathan SHIN





Program Notes

The title of the concert is a wordplay on Valerie Coleman’s Umoja – Anthem of Unity, the conservative tonal undertone to the entire concert program, and the fact that this is the first concert of the year for our new roster of young musicians!

The concert begins with Jonathan Shin’s The Night Bazaar. Singaporean composer Jonathan Shin is a multi-faceted musician who has won awards both as a pianist and composer. He was also the book-writer, lyricist, and composer for the musical Viva! La Singapura. In The Night Bazaar, he is inspired by his childhood memories:

Childhood was tedium and bore, so whenever a pasar malam rolled into our estate, unfurling its train of colors, smells, and sounds, I would be whipped into a delirious, arm-pulling, muah-chee frenzy. While listening to this overture, I invite you to conjure a cinematic sequence: on a hot tropical night, beneath a blood moon, a bazaar shimmers into existence. A young boy darts through the crowd, consuming the market in all its glory, before having his breath taken away by the sight of a beautiful girl (represented by the melody of P. Ramlee’s Getaran Jiwa). However, their new friendship is threatened by an ominous turn that might tear them asunder. A familiar tune—at least to all conscripted Singaporeans— arises. Will darkness take root, or will their friendship triumph? Welcome to The Night Bazaar! – Jonathan Shin

Umoja – Anthem of Unity for Orchestra is originally written for women’s choir by composer and Grammy-nominated flautist Valerie Coleman. “Umoja” is the Swahili word for “unity” and the first principle of the African Diaspora holiday Kwanzaa. The piece embodies a sense of tribal unity through the feel of a drum circle, the sharing of history through traditional call and response form and the repetition of a memorable sing-song melody. The orchestral version brings an expansion and sophistication to the short and sweet melody from the original choral work. Beginning with sustained ethereal passages that float and shift from a bowed vibraphone, supporting the introduction of the melody by solo violin. Here the melody is sweetly singing in its simplest form with an earnest reminiscent of Appalachian style music. From there, the melody dances and weaves throughout the instrument families, interrupted by dissonant viewpoints led by the brass and percussion sections, which represent the clash of injustices, racism and hate that threatens to gain a foothold in the world today. Spiky textures turn into an aggressive exchange between upper woodwinds and percussion before a return to the melody as a gentle reminder of kindness and humanity. Through the brass-led ensemble tutti, the journey ends with a bold call that harkens back to the original anthem.

This (orchestral) version honors the simple melody that ever was, but is now a full exploration into the meaning of freedom and unity. Now more than ever, Umoja has to ring as a strong and beautiful anthem for the world we live in today. – Valerie Coleman