Behind the Scenes with the Musicians on the Poetry in Motion Set

Wonderful… Soul-refreshing…”—Kathryn Juneau, Viola

This article was first published in May, 2021

When 30 California Symphony musicians came together last month to record the Poetry in Motion season finale series, it was the largest gathering of California Symphony musicians in one place since the February 2020 BRAHMS FEST concerts. We asked how it felt to be playing together again.

Thirty musicians gathered—socially distanced and masked—at Oakland Scottish Rite to record the Poetry in Motion season finale series

Michel Taddei, Assistant Principal Bass—”This was the largest group with which I have had the good fortune to play in person since we went on our pandemic hiatus.  After all of the solo video efforts from home, and projects knit together by audio engineers, using click tracks, it was such a delight to go back to playing acoustic instruments in actual, well, acoustic space!  Simultaneously!  In person, and using the ensemble and orchestral skills that are the mainstay of our careers!”

“It definitely felt good to be back.  I have participated in some other chamber-sized live streams and video concerts with other organizations, but 30 artists making music at the same time in the same space was a big  bump up and a step towards returning to symphonic forces. It was great to see Donato so energized by the program and the circumstances of us returning to work together in person.  That energy was prevalent throughout the room.”

Kathryn Juneau, Viola—”It was wonderful and soul-refreshing to music-make with live colleagues! It was difficult to play socially distanced and masked since music is all about communication and speaking of communication, I still miss the vital part of the listeners and live-audience to complete the magic.”

Sarena Hsu, Assistant Principal Second Violin—”Playing in an ensemble again with my friends and colleagues after over a year was a surreal experience. After shaking off my initial nerves, I truly felt that I was at home again with Donato and California Symphony!”

Sergei Goldman-Hull, Violin—”Beautiful. One of the biggest things in my life I’ve been missing over the past year (other than my wife).”

Patricia Miner, Violin—”It felt like a real appreciated gift to be back playing in an ensemble again and making music with the California Symphony.”

In the Zoom where it happens: Music Director Donato Cabrera consults with virtual Viet

The first episode of the three-part Poetry in Motion series season finale features the world premiere of Next Week’s Trees by Young American Composer-in-Residence Viet Cuong. Announced as the Symphony’s incoming 2020-2023 resident composer in January 2020, his tenure so far has been marked by a series of firsts as the orchestra has worked to adapt to prevailing conditions. Unable to travel from Georgia to California for the recording, Viet was instead present virtually via a giant screen in the corner of the rehearsal.

Taking inspiration from a poem by Mary Oliver, Viet says of this first commission: “In this particular time of great loss, I was deeply inspired by Oliver’s words—words that are a gentle reminder of the uncertainty of the future, the confident hope of the present, and the propulsive force of life that drives us through any doubt that a new day will arrive.”

You can hear a snippet of Viet’s exciting new piece in the trailer (below). Meantime, here’s what our musicians had to say about it.

Kathryn Juneau, Viola—”The piece produced some innovative sounds and rhythms with pizzicato and harmonics.”

Sergei Goldman-Hull, Violin—”Awesome. Loved it! Grooved with every minute of it!”

Sarena Hsu, Assistant Principal Second Violin—”Absolutely loved it!”

Michel Taddei, Assistant Principal Bass—”It has a great feeling of optimism, and a sunny, propulsive energy.”

Patricia Miner, Violin—”I really enjoyed the piece and Viet Cuong’s creative use of the orchestra as a rhythmical instrument.”

CS Cellist—”It turned out to be a fun, jazzy work. I enjoyed playing it.”

Poetry in Motion—Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery

The first episode of Poetry in Motion, a three-part season finale series, premieres FREE online on our website and on Walnut Creek Public Access TV and Contra Costa TV on Saturday, May 8 at 7 PM. Episode Two and Episode Three air the following Saturdays at 7 PM, on May 15 and 22. Filmed at Bay Area landmark the Oakland Scottish Rite Center, each 15- to 45-minute episode features music for string orchestra that uses poetry as a source of inspiration.

As a donor, you make possible incredible new works like the one you’ll hear in Episode One of the Poetry in Motion video series. Give $100 or more during Symphony Gives Week through May 8 and in addition to supporting the future of the orchestra, our acclaimed resident composer program, and music education that boosts the futures of at-risk local students, you’ll also receive a one-of-a-kind poem, typed by hand on an old typewriter, and tailored to the topic of your choice.


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