Our Children

Ghoulishly Good Music Delights Children and Families for Spooky Symphony

Published Monday, November 24, 2014

Spooktacular was the word of the day as pirates and princesses, cowboys and caped marauders, firefighters and ninjas filled the stage – and also the plush red-velvet seats – of the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts for the 2014 rendition of the Spooky Symphony.

These two best friends, students at DASH, creatively designed their gothic costumes.The multimedia Halloween performance, sponsored by The Children's Trust, again this year combined the musical talents of the Alhambra Orchestra, a community orchestra that mixes amateur and professional musicians, and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony (GMYS), which offers four orchestras and three bands for young musicians.

"You're about to hear the most beautiful scary music that you'll hear on any stage," host Laurie Hill, former GMYS president, told the crowd at the beginning of the show.

Gala Arias and Diana Vazquez, both 10th-graders at Design Architecture Senior High (DASH), were among the first of hundreds of costumed guests – both children and parents – who entered for the late October afternoon performance.

Dressed in gothic garb with faces dark-shadowed and somber, the two best friends wore gowns of contrasting black and white. Arias, a student in the Industrial Design tract, said she's fascinated by the Victorian fashion, era. "I wanted an outfit that was dark, yet romantic and still feminine," she said.

Vazquez, a film student, based her black-gowned character on the Swan queen in the movie Black Swan.

Costumed musicians enjoy a few lights moments as they wait to play. The GMYS Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Huifang Chen, opened the music program with Russian Rimsky Korsakov's symphonic poem Scheherazade, the enchanting tale of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Images from classic horror pictures flashed on a huge screen set up behind the stage, adding to the eerie ambiance.

Alhambra's rendition of Danzón No. 2, a composition by prominent Mexican composer Arturo Marquez, set toes tapping and hands clapping. The accented percussive piece, directed by Alhambra's Zoe Zeniodi, celebrates the Latin American tradition of the Day of the Dead.

 After hearing such beautiful music, Luca, Lourdes and London think they might like to learn to play an instrument.  Students from Roxy Theater, also funded by The Children's Trust, dressed in ghoulish outfits and served as ushers. The students helped to coordinate the costume pageant during intermission. Hundreds of costumed children – and a few of their costumed parents – paraded the aisles of the historic theater.

Kerisha Harris, who lives in Weston, saw an announcement about the Spooky Symphony at her workplace in Miami and drove her three children to the show. Luca, 5; Lourdes, 6; and London, 7, dressed as ninja fighters and princesses all paraded in the pageant. Hearing the orchestras play on stage made the children consider wanting to play an instrument.

nl h spooky 3Graciela, 8 and a student at Pinecrest Academy South, attended the show with her mother Vickie Baldiani. Dressed as the bride of Frankenstein, Graciela has been playing violin for the past year and a half. She plays now in one of the more junior GMYS orchestras and hopes to be on stage for a future show with the Symphony Orchestra.

Gusman Center, whose interior design replicates that of the Alhambra, the famous Moorish temple in southern Spain, offered the ideal venue for such a magical event. Children snuggled into the cushioned seats, stared up at the ceiling – decorated as a night sky with twinkling stars – as they munched popcorn and listened to the enchanting music played by their peers and friends in the two orchestras.

Maestros Huifang Chen and Zoe Zeniodi, respectively. Milton Laufer, newly named executive director of GMYS, admitted the logistics of the performance were challenging. "Making sure two orchestras are on stage, the piano's in place, that the kids are all fed is a lot, but well worth the effort to have so many families and children enjoy such a fun musical afternoon."

Draped in a Dracula cape, Charles Auslander, Trust CEO and president, congratulated both orchestras on their performances and introduced the last two musical numbers, haunting excerpts from the movies, The Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings.

As he finished, GMYS music director Chen strode from the stage wings, outfitted as a pirate in knee-length black boots and brandishing her conducting wand. The crowd roared, then silenced quickly to enjoy the rest of the spooky music.