When the Chesapeake Youth Symphony opened for business five years ago, it consisted of 35 youngsters playing in a single orchestra.
The organization has grown to three full ensembles of 150 talented young musicians from Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore and the Baltimore and Washington suburbs.
All three -- the CYSO, the intermediate level CYSO Repertory Orchestra and the CYSO String Orchestra -- were on display at Francis Scott Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College in Annapolis Saturday night as the young people's symphony of Anne Arundel County celebrated its fifth anniversary. The occasion provided listeners an opportunity to sit back and enjoy what the CYSO has become in recent years.
CYSO maestro Scott Speck put the senior players through their paces with a brooding "First Essay" of Samuel Barber; an appropriately effervescent "Capriccio Italien" by Tchaikovsky; and a highly proficient account of "Diversions for a Fifth," a musical pleasantry commissioned from Baltimore composer Elam Sprenkle for this occasion.
The String Orchestra under the direction of Teo Tetel was a special delight as the 22 elementary-age musicians and their fiddles, violas, cellos and basses worked their way with diligence and concentration through Telemann's thorny "Don Quixote Suite."
The intermediate level Repertory Orchestra joined the older players under David Choo's baton for a slow but emphatic
Khachaturian "Sabre Dance," a lovely Intermezzo from Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and some shockingly adept selections from Bizet's "L'Arlesienne."
I defy anyone to listen sight unseen to CYSO Rep Orchestra flutist Cara Lane and harpist Jenna LaPenta in the Bizet minuet and tell me those were early teens doing the playing.
The program ended with all three orchestras and their maestros on stage saluting their hometown with -- what else -- "Anchors Aweigh!"
That the CYSO has come so far so fast is a tribute to its extraordinary board, spearheaded by Betty McGinniss, the orchestra's founder.
The highest artistic standards have been instituted and maintained. Only conductors of exceptional quality have been engaged.
Maestro Speck is as energetic as he is talented. He has hustled across the state to engage the best wind players he could find. Imagine: a young people's symphony in which oboes and bassoons not only survive but flourish.
So, happy birthday, CYSO, and thanks for bringing together two forces that have been much maligned in today's world -- children and great music -- and elevating us all in the process.