Lara Downes, Davis High orchestra team up for family treat by Dr. Seuss

By From page A11 | May 14, 2013


What: Family concert featuring “Gertrude McFuzz,” performed by pianist Lara Downes and the Davis High School Symphony Orchestra

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis

Tickets: $15-$35 general, $7.50-$17.50 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

Mondavi Center audiences enjoyed last year’s family concert by pianist Lara Downes and others, featuring a musical version of “Green Eggs and Ham,” the classic book for children by Dr. Seuss.

So this year, Downes and a team of other musicians are doing another Dr. Seuss project — “Gertrude McFuzz,” with music by Robert Kapilow (who also wrote the music for “Green Eggs and Ham”) — to be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall. There also will be a school matinee performance at 11 a.m. Monday.

“It’s quirky and funny,” said Downes, whose family concerts are an annual feature on the Mondavi Center calendar. “What I love is the way Kapilow treats the Dr. Seuss stories. Musically, it is sophisticated, there is a lot of humor for the adults, but the kids enjoy it, too. The music is hilarious, so clever and layered,” drawing on jazzy, pop-rock and classical styles. The story describes “a girl-bird who learns to like herself just as she is.”

Downes will be performing “Gertude McFuzz” with the Davis High School Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Angelo Moreno.

“Angelo has been working with his orchestra for a couple of months,” Downes said.

She’s been working with the singers — girl soprano Lily Linaweaver, and soprano Anush Avetisyan, winner of the Mondavi Center Young Artists Compeition in 2011. Mindy Cooper will direct, assisted by Christopher McCoy.

Also on the program will be the longtime classical favorite for children, “The Carnival of the Animals,” by Camille Saint-Saëns, performed by members of the Davis High orchestra, with a guest appearance by 11-year-old Alex Zhou, another winner from the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition, who appeared in a concert/recording session of the public radio series “From The Top” at the Mondavi Center some months back.

Tickets for the “Gertrude McFuzz” program are $15-$35 general, $7.50-$17.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787. Tickets for the weekday matinee are $12 for teachers and $8 for students.

In addition to preparing “Gertrude McFuzz,” Downes also has taken to the road recently, touring in support of her recently released album “Exiles’ Cafe” (on the Steinway label).

“The concerts have been going well, and playing the music for different audiences in different cities has been rewarding,” she said.

The album features music by composers who left home and went into exile, either in a literal sense, or because their music took a direction that left the composer living on the outside in some personal sense.

Downes said her next recording project will get underway in September, when she will go into the studio with cellist Zuill Bailey to record an album of American music by Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber.

Jeff Hudson

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