New Jersey Youth Symphony celebrates 40th anniversary

Viraj Lal is the choir master for the Carmina Burana project. The one-hour piece will be performed at a concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center by members of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. The concert is in honor of the symphony’s 40th anniversary.

“While we’re celebrating an anniversary, it’s also making sure that we showcase that New Jersey music education is alive and well and this is proof of it,” Lal said.

Included in the orchestra is a very important woman: Helen Cha-Pyo. She has the responsibility of conducting both instrumentalists and vocalists in what she says will be an “epic event”.

“I thought about celebrating just with New Jersey Youth Symphony families which we have 500 students involved in 14 different ensembles, however I thought it would be more meaningful to collaborate with wider community. So there is Newark Boys chorus, they will serve as the children’s chorus that Carmina Burana score requires. And also we have JP Stevens, Ridge High School, Somerville and New Providence High School choruses all joining. So we have over, close to 300 chorus members up on the stage with 105-piece orchestra all made of high school students,” she said.

Students spent months practicing the choral piece that is sung in both Latin and in German.

“It’s special pronunciations, there’s a special way to sing it. It’s a lot of things we had to teach,” Jack Bender, Newark Academy accompanist said.

Besides assisting students with the language barrier, Bender also composed music to accompany three poems of Langston Hughes, which will premiere before the performance of Carmina Burana.

“I think the message in the three poems I chose are really nice for the kids about catching dreams and holding on to dreams,” Bender said.

In addition to performing with high school students from 13 different counties, students will also have the opportunity to perform alongside three professional opera singers.

“I was like, ‘can I watch them’ but then you’re in the orchestra. It’s kind of like you have to be the backup for someone who is a professional. Almost like they trust you that much to be that person. And also you get to be in them and making music with someone who is that skilled and at that high of a level,” said Amit Kundra, a vocalist from Newark Academy.

“This is going to be an amazing opportunity, once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m really glad that I get to do it alongside my friends and alongside other students who are interested and just so proud of the choral arts, of the instrumental arts,” said Samantha Powell, another vocalist from Newark Academy.

“You’re not use to playing with these instrumentalists every single day, as I am with one of my other trumpet players, that plays here. You’ve got to mesh with their sound. You’ve got to be comfortable around them,” said Ryan Branco, a trumpet player with the NJ Youth Symphony and a student at Watchung Hills Regional High School.

The 40th anniversary concert will be performed Sunday and all proceeds from the tickets will go to helping fund the New Jersey Youth Symphony.

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight