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Forte: The symphony's golden season

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forte brochure

The Yakima Symphony Orchestra's 2020-21 season brochure cover art: "Palm Springs #1" by Cheryl Hahn; graphite and color pencil with acrylic on paper, 2019.

In April 1971, a group of enthusiastic, music-minded Yakima citizens banded together to form a nonprofit corporation around their volunteer community-based orchestra, and the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s first concert season kicked off in autumn of that year. What has grown from those seeds — one of the finest regional professional orchestras in the country — will be front and center throughout the coming year, as we all embark on the YSO’s 50th season, titled “In Full Bloom.”

Details of the upcoming season have been released, and subscriptions are on sale online and by phone.

The premier highlight of the season will be a special gala concert in May featuring one of the biggest stars anywhere in the classical music world, violinist Joshua Bell. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the YSO, the program will include Bruch’s famous violin concerto as well as the most iconic piece of orchestral music ever written: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Tickets for this momentous event will be available only to YSO subscribers at special prices until Nov. 2.

The subscription concert programs also feature plenty of highlights. The Classical Series opens with a program featuring another landmark Fifth Symphony, that of Tchaikovsky; the season will conclude with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Second Symphony with the Yakima Symphony Chorus, a program that will lead to a YSO first: a commercially released recording on Albany Records.

Along the way, the YSO will celebrate parallels with the Yakima Valley growing season, beginning with some of the”seeds” of orchestral music: Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti. The “roots” of the modern orchestra are represented by Mozart on a program that also features a series of works by Mexican composers, stunningly choreographed as “visual concertos” by photographer Nicholas Bardonnay.

For a concert on the first day of spring, the program includes Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Schumann’s “Spring” symphony, as well as the principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, Efe Baltacıgil, as soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. In April, the orchestra will perform Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony — one of the most beautiful and epic pieces in the repertoire. In the words of Maestro Lawrence Golan, “If ever there was a piece of music to demonstrate that an orchestra has come of age and is in full bloom, this is it.”

The YSO’s Pops Series opens in September with the return, by popular demand, of Cirque de la Symphonie, a thrilling program of spectacular cirque acts performed to famous orchestral favorites. In February, “Bohemian Rhapsody: The Music of Queen” will feature the greatest hits of one of the most legendary rock bands of all time, accompanied by full orchestra and chorus.

Guest conductor Robert Moody will host a concert of classic film music through the ages, and our community’s own Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA) will join the orchestra and chorus for the traditional Holiday Pops Spectacular in December. The Pops Series concludes with “violin rock star” Lindsay Deutsch, who brings an eclectic repertoire from The Beatles and George Gershwin to Vivaldi and “Game of Thrones.”

The YSO has long highlighted the work of area artists on posters, programs and other publications. Featured on the cover of the 2020-21 season brochure is a recent work by Cheryl H. Hahn that will appear in the upcoming “Divergent Voices — Common Ground” exhibition at the Yakima Valley Museum.

The Yakima Symphony Orchestra has come a long way in 50 years, and the upcoming Golden Season will highlight the fruits of that journey in many ways. While the stage may be dark for a spell, the YSO is busily at work to provide music in the ways we can, and there is still much to look forward to in the months to come.

• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Learn more at

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