Conductor Brad Keimach aims to keep the programs fresh for the audience and musicians of the Glendale Youth Orchestra.
Last season, one concert was devoted to selections from Handel's "Messiah." Instead of using vocal soloists for the arias, Keimach said he used instrumental soloists, but a chorus for the choruses. The year before that, the orchestra members did a similar thing for the Bach B Minor Mass.
Last year, the orchestra, which consists of sixth through 12th graders from all over Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, collaborated on a program with the group Brasil Brazil.
"They wrote orchestrations for Brazilian jazz and we did premieres of about seven or eight of their songs," Keimach said.
This is the youth orchestra's 25th anniversary season, and for this Sunday's concert, Keimach has another surprise planned. He will conduct the orchestra as it performs the Carl Davis score for Charlie Chaplin's "The Rink" while the silent film is played on the screen at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
"These are all new experiences to celebrate the kids," he said. "My feeling was the 25th year is a great milestone, but the other years should not be without a highlight or something special or unusual, expansive. We need something special every year because then, what on our 26th year, splat? That would never do. So we keep exploring, trying something new and taking risks."
Carl Davis, who was born in New York and now lives in London, wrote the score specifically for this film 10 years ago. He has been writing film scores for years, so he studies each film he composes music for and writes music for each scene, and especially in this case — almost each moment — because there are events in this film that have to coincide exactly.
"The music for the Chaplin film is not only dramatically illustrative but it's a fun score. It's just jolly to listen to and for the kids to play," Keimach said. "There's a tango, there's a minuet, Spanish music — something different in every movement just about. The kids are having a ball doing it and I think the audience will have a great time with it as well."
Keimach had some questions about the score early on, and the music publisher arranged for him to call Davis in London. During the conversation, Keimach learned that Davis had performed some of his music at the Alex Theatre several years ago.
"So he knows the venue and he wished us well," he said.
This is the first time the youth orchestra will accompany a silent film, and the challenge for the musicians is to not watch the movie when they are playing, and the challenge for the conductor is to make sure the music fits what is going on in the film. So Keimach must watch the film and look at the visual cues Davis has placed throughout the sheet music, while conducting the orchestra.
"I'll have my hands full," he said.
Also on the program are Bellini's Overture to "Norma" and the second and third movements of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 61. Concertmaster Sarah Worden, 18, a senior at Crescenta Valley High School and Glendale resident, is the soloist for the Beethoven piece.
"She is amazing," Keimach said. "The Beethoven Concerto isn't something that young violinists generally go to because the musical challenges are enormous. There are some very subtle and beautiful playing that has to take place and often that kind of subtlety and delicacy comes in the later years."
Last year, Worden performed a solo that was more a show piece but didn't test her musically, he added. This piece does.
Worden began the violin at age 7 under the instruction of Gherman Markosian at the Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale. For the past five years she has also been studying via Skype with his brother, Boris Markosian, who lives in Moscow, Russia.
She placed first in the intermediate level of the 2010 Callie McGrath Competition, was a finalist in the 2011 LA Phil Young Musicians Competition and was chosen as an alternate to the inaugural National Youth Orchestra of the United States in 2013.
Worden started practicing and learned the whole Beethoven Concerto when she was in ninth grade, she said, then she put it away to learn other pieces. She took it out again at the end of last summer and continued to practice it throughout the fall because she was also preparing her pieces for college auditions. She has been pulling it out more the last couple of months.
"I'm really starting to hone into it now," she said.
Cellist Maya Paredes, of Burbank, has been chosen co-principal cellist with her first stand partner, Ryan Choi, of La Crescenta, for Sunday's concert following an audition in February.
They will split principal duties and share solos on "The Rink" score.
"She is another one of those double threats as a musician," Keimach said. "She was a piano soloist with us last year and her cello playing has blossomed this year. And she's just 13 years old!"
"The Rink" is Maya's favorite piece in the concert because it is fun to play, it is outside of the regular classical repertoire and it has a lot of chromatic scales for the cello, she said.
It is the first time she has accompanied a film and performing it live is a challenge.
"It would be different if it was a recording because you can edit it but it has to be perfect for the film," she said.
One of the benefits of being in the youth orchestra is musicians enhance their skills on their instruments, Maya said.
"My bowing has gotten a lot better because I have been exposed to new music and I have learned little tricks from the other kids," she said.
Keimach has conducted the youth orchestra for 14 years and credits its ability to thrive for 25 years to support by school music teachers, private music teachers, parents and the youth orchestra's board of directors.
"And especially orchestra manager Ellie Lloyd — she does everything but conduct and I am very grateful to her," he said.
Where: Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, March 9
More info: (818) 243-ALEX, alextheatre.org
JOYCE RUDOLPH is a columnist for Times Community News.