Program set for Yo-Yo Ma free concert

Yo-Yo Ma will be a soloist and just one of the members of the orchestra when he comes to Warren next week.

The cellist will perform Monday at the Warren Community Amphitheatre with about 50 members of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor and music director for the Warren orchestra, has been working with the cellist’s people and YSO conductor and music director Randall Craig Fleischer to create the program for the free outdoor concert.

“Yo-Yo was very excited about the program I proposed,” she said.

Ma will start the 45-minute concert with a solo work to be announced.

“It will be a surprise,” Wyner said. “I thought it would capture the informal, friends-gather-on-a-summer-evening feeling if he started as a solo voice and then welcomed the rest of the musicians. It would capture the beauty of what the event is doing.”

Ma also will be the featured soloist on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile for solo cello and strings, a work he suggested for the program.

“It felt so perfect because of the intimate nature of its joining together of the soloist with the incredible sonority of the strings, which is what makes an orchestra an orchestra,” Wyner said.

Unlike most soloists, who leave the stage when they are not front and center, Ma will sit in as a member of the cello section for the rest of the concert, which will be conducted by both Wyner and Fleischer and include Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” overture, Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and Gioachino Rossini’s fanfare finale from the William Tell Overture.

Youngstown Symphony Society President Patricia Syak said, “He’ll just join members of the cello section and play. I think that’s really kind of cool. Most of us concertgoers don’t have the opportunity to see a guest artist do that kind of thing.”

Ma is the most acclaimed cellist of his generation and arguably the most recognizable musician in the classical world today. He has performed for eight presidents (starting at age 7 for John F. Kennedy) and one fictional president (Jed Bartlett in a memorable episode of “The West Wing”).

He’s won numerous honors — including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011) and the J. Paul Getty Medal Award (2016) — and appeared on “Frasier,” “The Simpsons” “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Ma is scheduling culture in action events in conjunction with his current solo tour to bring communities together to address social issues. He will be performing Bach’s Cello Suites on Sunday at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

Both Wyner and Syak said they hope Monday’s concert will draw attention to the Mahoning Valley’s classical ensembles.

“I’m hoping the fact that Yo-Yo Ma is coming out to engage with our community, with our orchestra, that he felt strongly enough to come here that it will help donors and community members realize what an extraordinary institution this is and how important keeping it alive is,” Wyner said.

Youngstown Symphony Orchestra made a couple of changes to accommodate Monday’s event. Sunday’s Picnic at the Park, which would have featured an outdoor concert by the orchestra outside the DeYor Performing Arts Center, has been postponed to concentrate on the performance with Ma.

“We have put all our energies toward making this happen and be the best possible event,” Syak said.

Fleischer also was supposed to take part in auditions Monday for a collaboration with Easy Street Productions on a concert version of the musical “Guys and Dolls” as part of the orchestra’s 2018-19 season. Those auditions now are scheduled for Sept. 24 at Ford Family Recital Hall.


If you go …

WHAT: Yo-Yo Ma, cello, with conductors Susan Davenny Wyner and Randall Craig Fleischer, and members of the Warren Philharmonic and Youngstown Symphony orchestras

WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Warren Community Amphitheatre, 321 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren

HOW MUCH: Admission is free, and the concert will be preceded by a performance featuring local acts at 5:30 p.m. Monday and followed by a forum on “How Can the Arts — and All of Culture — Serve Our Community” that will be moderated by Deborah F. Rutter, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with panelists the Rev. Lewis Macklin II, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church; Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator; and William Mullane, an educator and member of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County Board of Directors.


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