Concert with Symphonic Orchestra At Private School
By Kimra McPherson, Mercury News
Conductor Imant Kotsinsh wanted his audience to understand one thing from the start: His orchestra wasn't going to be playing pop music.
``Do we look like rock stars?'' he asked the approximately 200 parents and children seated on the lawn in front of him. ``With chains, tattoos, crazy hair?''
The response: Giggles, squeals and several high-pitched cries of ``No!''
Instead, Kotsinsh, the former conductor of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater of Opera and Ballet, set out Sunday to introduce children to classical music -- from waltzes to polkas to Vivaldi's ``Four Seasons.''
``Music is a very important part of our lives,'' Kotsinsh said. ``From the first lullaby to the funeral march, music accompanies us.''
The concert was held at Palo Alto's Stratford School, a private school that also has campuses in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Fremont and Danville.
With the members of the Gloria Symphony behind him, Kotsinsh posed what seemed like a simple question: ``What is music?''
The orchestra played one note. ``Is that music?'' he asked. Some in the crowd yelled back, ``Yes!'' Others were less sure.
The orchestra played another note, then another, then another. And soon they'd played an entire piece -- Carl Maria von Weber's ``Invitation to the Dance'' -- that few could dispute was music.
``Music is a sound organized into meaningful patterns,'' Kotsinsh told the crowd. What's more, he said, those patterns could conjure powerful images: women twirling in colorful, flowing ball gowns, for example, or trees filled with chirping birds during the spring section of Vivaldi's ``Four Seasons.''
``This is a time when everything is blooming,'' Kotsinsh told the audience. ``The birds are singing very festively.''
The orchestra played bits and pieces of the song as Kotsinsh called out what they were meant to sound like: a bird song, a bubbling brook, crashing thunder.
For winter, Kotsinsh instructed the audience to imagine being very cold, stuck inside while rain beat on the windows. Stephen Lee, 3, smiled broadly as he ``conducted'' the orchestra from his father's lap.
``It's good that he's interested in a little more traditional, cultural music,'' David Lee said.
During one particularly vigorous movement, 6-year-old Trip Truman and his mother, Susan Keck-Truman, imitated the orchestra with some fast, fierce air violin. In the end, Trip said, the orchestra members were kind of like rock stars, after all.