LYO’s musicians finding rehearsal hobbit-forming

Advocate file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWERThe Louisiana Youth Orchestra, led by David Torns, rehearses for a concert last April. Show caption
Advocate file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWERThe Louisiana Youth Orchestra, led by David Torns, rehearses for a concert last April.

There’s no rest stop between the Super Bowl and Middle Earth.

David Torns simply has to go where the music takes him.

“I’ve been busy lately,” he said. “But I enjoy it all.”

Torns is the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor and the Louisiana Youth Orchestra’s music director. He also is a guest conductor for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, which keeps his schedule filled with events.

Which is why Torns found himself in the whirlwind of Super Bowl festivities last weekend. The philharmonic orchestra was asked to perform at a dinner for NFL team owners on the Saturday before game day. The setting was something magical, huge tents set up in the middle of New Orleans’ City Park, each its own palace.

“And the philharmonic performed classical music while the owners ate their dinner,” Torns said. “After the dinner, we performed ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess with a local clarinetist.”

But did the musicians get to eat dinner?

“Oh no,” Torns said, laughing. “But there was food set up on a table for us, mostly snack food. We musicians appreciate anything we can get.”

And from there it was back to Baton Rouge, where Torns rehearsed the Louisiana Youth Orchestra in “The Lord of the Rings Symphonic Suite.” It will be the finale number in the orchestra’s concert on Saturday, Feb. 16. The performance will be the second in the orchestra’s 2012-13 season and will take place at 3 p.m. in Baton Rouge Community College’s Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion.

Now, those familiar with The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy know the story’s hobbit population lives in Middle Earth. Orchestra members are well versed in J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories.

“I left it up to them, and they chose this piece,” Torns said. “We’ll play this in the pop portion of our program, and it’s something fun for them, because they know the movies, so they know all of the scenes that are happening while this music is playing. It’s easy for them to envision, so it makes it fun for them.”

“The Lord of the Rings Symphonic Suite” will be preceded by two piano concertos featuring the two winners of the Baton Rouge Music Teachers Association Piano Concerto Competition. Well, make that the third movement of each concerto to be performed. Concertos have three movements, and all are usually lengthy. One concerto could easily constitute an entire concert.

So, the competition’s Senior Division winner, Anni Zhang, will perform the third movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” and Junior Division winner Jack Cheng will perform the third movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

“The day after the concert, we will go directly into our own concerto competition,” Torns said. “This is where members of our orchestra compete, and the winner will perform at our concert in May.”

Ten musicians are in this field of competition.

“That’s a healthy number, and it’s great experience for them,” Torns said.

The orchestra’s final concert is set for Sunday, May 5. It will be the only Sunday concert of the season.

“Our performances are usually on Sundays, but there were some scheduling conflicts this year,” Torns said. “The Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion was booked on Sundays in the first two months that we usually perform this season, so we had to move the concerts back to Saturday. But we’ll definitely be performing on a Sunday in May.”

Also performing at the concert on Feb. 16 and again in May will be the Louisiana Junior Youth Orchestra, directed by Jennifer Cassin. This group consists of middle school level students. The Louisiana Junior String Ensemble, directed by Lisa McGibney, will be performing. Elementary school level musicians make up this group. And rounding out the program will be the Louisiana Youth Orchestra Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Chris Hoefer.

The Louisiana Youth Orchestra program is an educational component of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra made up of more than 150 musicians between ages 6 and 20 playing string, wind and percussion instruments. It’s also a project of the Baton Rouge Symphony League.

For Torns, it’s simply a joy.

“I love the youth orchestra,” he said. “And I love what I do. And I’m always busy, traveling back and forth between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.”

Next stop: Middle Earth.