NEW BRITAIN - Fifth-graders from 20 schools got a taste of musical mastery at Welte Hall at Central Connecticut State University Wednesday during the New Britain Symphony Orchestra’s annual Young People’s Concert.
The concert, which featured a full orchestra of 70 musicians, was led by Maestro Ertan Seyyar Sener and featured the music of composers ranging from Aaron Copland to Leonard Bernstein to John Williams.
The program was attended by students from New Britain, Plainville, Newington and Berlin.
Also on hand was also a guest conductor, the internationally recognized Paul Salerni, who was born in New Britain and attended local schools before going on to a career in classical music.
During his turn conducting the NBSO, after which he was presented a certificate of achievement, Salerni told his young audience that, when he was growing up in the 1950s, New Britain was populated mostly by Italian and Polish immigrants. The first instrument he learned to play, he said, was an accordion. One of his teachers encouraged him to play the piano, for which he remains grateful.
“The role of teachers and educators in music will be important to me for the rest of my life,” said Salerni.
Sylvia O’Reilly, president of the New Britain Symphony Orchestra, said the Young People’s Concert is a 20-year tradition and has given some 35,000 children exposure to a symphonic concert with professional musicians.
“We are so happy to have you here for this wonderful concert,” said O’Reilly. “You will treasure this forever.”
Elaine Pindar and Diane Jankowski came to the concert because Salerni is Pindar’s best friend’s son, Pindar said. Both have attended regular performances of the NBSO and praised the Young People’s Concert.
“His music is very comforting,” remarked Pindar of Salerni’s turn as conductor.
“This is a wonderful thing for children to see,” said Jankowski. “Maybe they will become future conductors themselves.”
Selections included Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Variations on a Shaker Melody,” Bernstein’s overture to “Candide” and the song “Cool” from “West Side Story,” and tunes from the Harry Potter and “Star Wars” films written by John Williams.
After the “Candide” overture, Sener had the strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and French horns perform their portions of the composition individually, then in unison once more so students could appreciate the harmonies.
Sener described Copland’s music as “inspiring a sense of Americana,” evoking the country’s plains, rivers and mountains.
Bernstein, Sener said, combined elements of classical music with jazz. He had performers demonstrate a swing beat before rolling into “Cool.” Sener compared learning different genres of music to learning to express oneself in multiple languages.
Of Williams, Sener said, one cannot think of him without thinking of the “10 most famous words in film.” The audience then recited with with him “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” before the orchestra performed the familiar theme of the opening crawl seen at the start of each “Star Wars” film.
The NBSO also recognized winners of an essay contest and a drawing contest, in which students expressed what music meant to them. The top three winners were presented with trophies.
During the finale, Uncle Sam drew a student’s name - Patrick Clemens Dolan from New Britain’s Vance Elementary School - from a hat. An American flag top hat was placed on his head before he was handed a baton and invited to help Sener lead the orchestra in “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
The audience clapped along and then the musicians rose, tipped their hats and took a bow.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.