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Swarthmore College to present new symphony from Play On, Philly!

Play On, Philly! musician
Ilene Miller

Swarthmore College will present Orchestra 2001 with the students of Play On, Philly! in a program of new works on January 26 at 3 p.m. The students of Play On, Philly! (POP) will play their own composition, Symphony in the Key of Unity, in a side-by-side performance with members of O2001.

The symphony was composed under a program called POP Creates, part of the POP music education initiative. POP Creates was started in September of 2013 at St. Francis de Sales School to teach students the art of composition. It aims to balance instrumental study with a creative approach that includes world dance classes and improvisation.

Twelve year old French horn player, Sebleh Alfa, says her composition was not influenced by other composers.

‘We’re supposed to make up something original, not off anyone else,’ she said.

However, violinist Matthew Tarekegn, 10, says he is influenced by classical music: ‘I like Mozart.’

The symphony is a modern sounding work with complex rhythms, showcasing different sections of the ensemble, including passages for brass, pizzicato in the strings, and a clarinet solo played by student Jessica Camara.

In addition, the POP Wind Ensemble will perform Sheridan Seyfried’s Fanfare for Winds, conducted by Joshua Popejoy, followed by the POP Youth Orchestra’s performance of Spiritual Medley, an arrangement by Joseph Hart with clarinet soloist Anthony McGill of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The “Amazing Grace” interlude particularly showcases the POP strings, woven through with McGill’s soulful, bluesy solo.

The Swarthmore College concert is an encore performance following the premiere at the Kimmel Center last weekend. The music honors the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and includes a new clarinet concerto by Richard Danielpour, “From the Mountaintop.” O200l will open the concert with Jennifer Higdon’s Celebration Fanfare and conclude with an inspirational performance of A Voice Cries Out: Dare to Love, composed by Jay Fluellen and sung by the Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

Play On, Philly! (POP) is an education initiative that provides students with musical instruction in communities that may not otherwise have access to music education. Sites include both St. Francis de Sales School and Freire Charter Middle School. One aim of the program is to use music for social change and help students develop life skills.

‘Playing music makes you work harder at other stuff,’ Sebleh says. ‘Music has taught me the value of hard work.’

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