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Classical series makes home at South Shore

Tim Parsons

Normalcy won’t return to South Shore for a very long time, but there are activities people can do to help begin to bring it back.

Jay Newburgh’s house is just one of three on Pyramid Circle that survived the Angora fire. On Sunday night she was happy to get together with her musical ensemble.

“I went to a rehearsal last night,” she said. “Singing is what I do. It made me feel better. It was the first normal thing I’ve done (since the fire).”

A 30-year member of the Tahoe Choir, Newburgh is in her first season with Toccata, The Orchestra and Community Choral Artists of the Tahoe Area.

The second MahyormenteMozart MusicFest Summer Concert Series has expanded to make South Shore as much its home as Toccota’s site of origin, Incline Village. The first concert of the season, Red, White & Toccata-Tahoe Blue, is Saturday, July 7 at Valhalla’s Boathouse Theatre.

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Newburgh said the timing of the performance is good for the community.

“We need it right now,” she said. “We’re getting together and supporting each other. It’s ugly out my front window. It’s really ugly and very depressing but I would not live anywhere else. People in this town are just the greatest people in the world.”

James Rawie, the artistic director and conductor, is hoping to bring a similar success to Tahoe that he delivered the past 25 years with the Puerto Rico Symphonic Orchestra.

A year ago, there were nine concerts in the summer series. This year there will be 16, with seven at South Shore, three each at Valhalla and St. Theresa Church. There will be five performances at Incline Village with the rest being, for the first time, in Reno.

A January performance of Basically Barocco in St. Theresa Church was a great success and inspired Rawie to bring a cultural opportunity to more-populated, less affluent South Shore.

“I thought, why not get the opener on your side of the lake?” Rawie said. “Let’s make this a South Shore equality and see where this thing goes. Even though I live, and Toccata was born, in Incline, I have a strong feeling South Shore will grab onto this.”

Violinist Candace Robinson, who teaches stringed instruments for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said she now can more easily bring her students to concerts. She is also happy to cut down on her driving time.

“To play in a group like that I would usually have to go to a place like Reno and with a job and a family that’s not very feasible,” Robinson said. “Having it up here is just fabulous. Kudos to James Rawie for being able to put it all together because that’s not an easy task.”

A special guest who will perform at Saturday’s opening Valhalla concert knows about Rawie’s capabilities.

“He’s a man with a vision,” said Josue Casillas, the principal flutist of the Puerto Rico Symphony. “He founded and held the Mozart Festival here for 25 years. It’s one of the only organizations that was almost totally privately funded. That’s a feat in itself. Everybody who meets James Rawie should know they have a friend in Puerto Rico.”

Casillas will make visits to Tahoe, New Mexico and New York during his short, two-month off season from the Puerto Rico Symphonic Orchestra.

He said the music translated to any language, “no matter if you are Japanese, Puerto Rican or Italian. That’s a basic appeal to the human heart.”

Saturday’s performance will be a patriotic celebration of “All American Composers.”

“It’s almost like a potpourri of our best artists in a talent show,” Rawie said. “Some of them will be with me for the next 10 weeks. They will get to play what they want to play from American artists. It’s a treat for the artists for get to pick the pieces they want to do.”

On July 16 at St. Theresa Tocatta will plays “Tutti Flutie,” flute, violin, chorus and orchestra performing Mozart and Handel.

“We are building this around Josue and we plan to make it an annual event,” Rawie said.

“Mozart wrote music that still speaks to us in the modern day,” Casillas said. “It still speaks to our hearts and to our minds. The same phenomena occurs with Vivaldi and the Baroque period. It’s something that appeals to the essence of the human spirit.”

Robinson is looking forward to the show. “Acoustically it is a wonderful place to play,” she said. “It’s very easy to hear the entire ensemble.”

Another summer highlight will be the 26th annual John Lennon Memorial Concert, a tradition which began in Puerto Rico and will continue July 21 at Reno’s Hawkins Amphitheater. Some of the Beatles’ lyrics may have been too controversial for the folks at Sand Harbor, where the show was presented in 2006, Rawie said.

Saturday’s show will have an Independence Day theme that will include an organ version of “Stars and Stripes” and will close with a rousing rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“It’s a classic version of Americana,” Rawie said. “Next to the John Lennon concert it’s probably the happiest concert we have. There are American spirituals and some fine choral pieces and a couple songs from the John Lennon concert because they fit so well.”

Newburgh wanted to join Toccata after seeing the January concert at St. Theresa. “I like his motivation,” she said. “With all of the war and violence in the world, music brings people together from all walks of life. Sharing music is such a healing experience.”

Saturday will be an opportunity for people to forget about the fire for a couple of hours.

“The acoustics are excellent in the boathouse,” Rawie said. “I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a full house because everybody is ready to go do something nice after a week of misery. We’ll get local people who want to be here, not just tourists.”


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