Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Richmond Boy's Choir perform at the Carpenter Center tonight at 7 p.m. 

Young Voices, Young Hands

The Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, which features 80 student musicians from the Richmond area, will combine forces with the Richmond Boy's Choir in a concert at The Carpenter Center Sunday, Jan. 23. Conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member Charles West, the Youth Orchestra provides orchestral players ranging in age from 11 to 18 an opportunity to hone their ensemble skills.

West, a well-regarded clarinetist, conducts both the Youth Orchestra and the VCU Student-Faculty Chamber Orchestra. The synergy between these two groups has allowed the Youth Orchestra to perform in venues far beyond their tender years, including recording two pieces for the Kalmus music catalog promotional CD. The orchestra doesn't shrink from the legitimate repertoire — the Sunday evening program will include the first and last movements of Dvorak's Eighth Symphony, a masterwork which, according to West, will be "hugely challenging" for the young musicians.

In addition to giving young players the chance to chew on substantial chunks of the repertoire, West also offers young conductors the exciting if not frightening chance to step in front of the teeming mass of temperament and talent that comprises an orchestra. Governor's School senior Rajiv Bhatnagar, described by West as "just a brilliant kid," will conduct Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slav." When asked about turning over his orchestra to a young, albeit talented student, West insisted that "It's not my orchestra — it's their orchestra."

The Richmond Boy's Choir, under the artistic leadership of Billy Dye, will join the Youth Orchestra in a rendition of "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast" by renowned African- American composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor. The robust Tchaikovsky essay will be offered as a memorial for Nathan Cottrell, a 10-year-old member of the choir who died suddenly in December. It is hard to a imagine a more fitting tribute — young voices, young hearts and young hands crafting music and sending it out into the world.

Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and Richmond Boy's Choir perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23 at the Carpenter Center. Tickets are $5-$10 and are available at

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