Big crowd for Yo-Yo Ma is expected

Free Warren concert is part of all-day culture event

WARREN — How many people will show up for Yo-Yo Ma?

That’s the question no one knows how to answer, because there’s never been an event at the Warren Community Amphitheatre quite like the one planned for Monday.

Ma, the most renowned cellist of his generation and arguably the best known classical musician in the world today, will play a free concert at the downtown Warren venue. There’s no ticket required and no RSVP necessary, which means there’s no tangible way to predict how many will attend the event, beyond the growing buzz in the community.

“It would be wonderful to have a huge crowd and send a positive message,” said Ken Haidaris of Sunrise Entertainment, which is presenting the event in conjunction with the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

A 50-member orchestra featuring members from both orchestras will play with Ma in a program created by WPO Music Director and Conductor Susan Davenny Wyner and featuring YSO Music Director and Conductor Randall Craig Fleischer.

It is part of a day of activities orchestrated by Arts Across America, a campaign by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., that celebrates communities committed to using the arts to promote connection, a strong creative economy and increased cultural citizenship; the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in D.C.; and Ma’s Bach Project.

As part of his 36-city tour performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites, Ma is spending a day in nearby communities to encourage a conversation about how culture can help communities work toward a better future.

Warren / Youngstown is only the second stop on The Bach Project, so there isn’t a track record to help gauge attendance, and the first event in the Denver area did not include a performance on the same scale as the amphitheater concert.

According to a representative from Ma’s team, the purpose is to work with the community to determine what best fits its needs rather than create a one-size-fits-all program that he takes to each city.

Other activities during the day on Monday include live entertainment, hands-on art projects and other events at Warren’s Quinby Park from 10 a.m. to noon, an invitation-only luncheon at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown and a dialogue / strategy session with arts professionals; and a tour of the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center in Youngstown.

The amphitheater event will include performances by Howard Howell & the Point Five Band, Darrius Simmons and Arielle T. Green before the concert and a community forum and dance party with DJ Kickdrum following the performance.

Since there is no ticket required, concertgoers can show up as early as they want on Monday for the 6 p.m. concert. Haidaris said some of the food vendors will open early / mid afternoon to accommodate the expected crowd, and water, soft drinks and beer will be available for purchase.

Those who show up early will be able to watch the orchestra do its soundcheck and rehearsal from 2 to 4:30 p.m. While some conductors might object to letting the audience peek behind the curtain, Wyner is looking forward to it.

“I’ve always been a proponent of drawing people into the process of music making, and that’s what a rehearsal is,” she said. “There’s a thrilling difference between what happens in rehearsal and where the pieces go in performance.”

Sunrise Entertainment presents the River Rock at the Amp concerts at the amphitheater. Haidaris said the style of music may be different, but the logistics are the same. The Chagin Falls Studio Orchestra accompanied the Chicago tribute act Time Traveller in 2013, so Sunrise has experience working with an orchestra at the venue. Satin Sound, the sound company Sunrise Entertainment uses, handles sound for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, so it has plenty of experience with this kind of concert.

“People will be very, very impressed,” Haidaris said. “They have the equipment to pick up all of the nuances of the symphony.”

The concert will be moved to Packard Music Hall in the event of rain, but all involved are hoping the show will remain at the outdoor venue.

While the concert will be free to attend, the cost to stage it will be at least $10,000, Haidaris said. Those contributing to make the event possible are: Sunrise Entertainment, Paige and Byrnes Insurance, Rosemary and Michael W. Rosenberg, Servicemaster Lewis Construction, Foundation Medici, Sam and Caryn Covelli, Hill Barth and King, Generations Insurance, T.W. Foundation, Lewis Landers Insurance, the Ross Griffin Memorial Foundation and Trumbull County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Steve Lewis, a principal with Lewis Landers Insurance, said they recently purchased the Huntington Building in downtown Warren because they believe in the economic revitalization of the city.

“We believe in what’s going on downtown, and to bring in world-renowned talent of this caliber and to do it for free says a lot about what is possible,” he said.

Carter Lewis, CEO of Lewis Construction said, “I thought it was spectacular to have that level of world class talent come to our area … We’ve been very fortunate in the community over the years and this gives us a chance to do our part to bring something really special to the area and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”