Rifftides was at ebb tide most of this week while I jumped in to help the Yakima Symphony Orchestra teach a couple of thousand children about music. The Chicago composer James Stephenson (pictured) was scheduled to be the narrator for his Compose Yourself, a 50-minute tour through instruments of the orchestra, long scheduled for the YSO’s annual children’s concert. An unforeseen development—the need for the orchestra’s musical director and conductor Lawrence Golan to be elsewhere—meant that Stephenson had to conduct. Since he couldn’t lead the band and narrate at the same time, I was called upon to be the speaker.
A year ago, I had the pleasure of narrating Mr. Stephenson’s moving Civil War tone poem Two Brothers, and I was delighted to be involved with another of his works. Rehearsals and the performance occupied a couple of days. The experience was worth every minute of it. There’s nothing like a theater full of enthusiastic fourth-graders to stimulate optimism about the future. They loved the trombone demonstration and the rather more serious bassoon demo, both shown here with other sections from an earlier performance of Compose Yourself with a different narrator. There are slight pauses between the sections. A trombone piece by Louis Seltzer and assorted other Stephenson clips are tacked by YouTube onto the end of the Compose Yourself excerpts as part of the package and can’t be detached, so enjoy as much of it as you have time for.