300 musicians, ages 7 to 80, join for annual concert

COURTESY: PYP - Musical Director David Hattner leads Portland Youth Philharmonic in their Concert-at-Christmas, which is 'not another concert of just holiday music.' In fact, a composition in the performance will be 'Adventures on Earth' from the movie 'E.T.'It might have Christmas in the name, but Portland Youth Philharmonic’s annual Concert-at-Christmas, which takes place 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, is “not necessarily a holiday program,” according to Musical Director David Hattner.

He calls it more of a day-after-the-holiday event, for “when the whole family needs something to do and it’s not another concert of just holiday music.”

With only one holiday-related work to be featured in the Concert-at-Christmas, a Portland tradition for more than 50 years, it will offer instead a variety of eclectic compositions, including a performance of “Adventures on Earth” from the science fiction film favorite, “E.T.”, which will be performed by the organization’s beloved Alumni Orchestra. The entire concert includes musicians who have participated in Portland Youth Philharmonic from every decade from the 1950s on.

“It’s a tradition that allows people who’ve recently graduated to come back and remember why we’re in Portland Youth Philharmonic in the first place,” Hattner says. “Also it’s a chance for people who have been gone a long time to reconnect and share stories about the conductors they’ve played for. It’s both a social and musical event.”

The Portland Youth Philharmonic association is Portland’s prestigious youth orchestra organization, founded in 1924. It supports two full symphony orchestras, a chamber orchestra, wind ensemble and string orchestra. Members range in age from 7 to 23, while alumni return for the holiday concert.

The Concert-at-Christmas will feature 300 musicians all together, ranging from as young as 7 years old to close to 80 years old, if not older, Hattner says.

He says about 100 people come back to rehearse on Dec. 23 each year, and then a short rehearsal on stage on the 26th — the day of the concert.

“It’s a great display for the orchestra because despite the fact that (the Alumni Orchestra) only rehearses one day of the year, it’s quite skilled actually and gives a quite impressive performance,” he says, adding that he thought the “Adventures on Earth” performance would be “a little different from the orchestral works we usually play.”

With this being Hattner’s ninth Concert-at-Christmas, and him having seen eight graduating classes go through the program, he says he enjoys “more than ever” the rehearsal for the Alumni Orchestra “because they’re the products of our training.”

He says a very small percentage of students who go through the program actually pursue music in a professional way when they leave. Alumni, he says, will return from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other prestigious music programs.

“It’s great to talk to them and see how they’re doing, and see how they grow and hear them reflect on their experience in the organization since they left it,” he says.

While some are returning to familiarity on the stage, for many of the younger performers, it’s their first time walking on the stage at the concert hall, which Hattner says causes them to become a little nervous.

“But you can see it as a challenge or an opportunity. And when they get through one of these, they usually look forward to it and see how exciting it is to play in this concert,” he says. “It’s a chance to see some of the truly outstanding musicians in this area ... and how excellent their training is.”


What: Portland Youth Philharmonic's annual Concert-at-Christmas

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26

Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway


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