Robbie Short

This Saturday, the Yale Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its 50th-anniversary season with an Alumni Weekend concert featuring John Mauceri ’67 GRD ’72, one of the group’s founding members, and more than 100 YSO alumni.

Conducted by Mauceri, who is also the orchestra’s former music director, the show — preceded by an alumni showcase — will include pieces by many well-known composers, including Bach, Wagner and Strauss. Additionally, the orchestra will welcome former members on stage to perform the concert’s final number. Mauceri said that the performance, which will take place in Woolsey Hall, celebrates symphonic music as well as the intersection between the “human” and the “hero” — a theme brought to life by one of the orchestra’s featured pieces, Strauss’ famous “Ein Heldenleben,” which translates to “a hero’s life.” He added that the concert, in its focus on this theme, also pays homage to the idea of composers and musicians as “human heroes.”

“The Strauss is a magnificent tone poem about what it means to be both a human and a hero,” Mauceri explained. “I think every person who has ever played in the YSO and those who play in it now are heroes, so I am dedicating it to all of them.”

Jennifer Gersten ’16, a YSO member and former editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine, said the orchestra has been rehearsing for this weekend’s show under the guidance of its current music director, Toshiyuki Shimada, since the beginning of the spring semester. Gersten added that rehearsals with Mauceri began this Monday, noting that the orchestra will have four rehearsals with the conductor before Saturday’s performance, one of which may include the alumni musicians who will perform with the orchestra in this weekend’s concert.

Ken Yanagisawa ’16, president and assistant conductor of YSO and former photography editor for the News, said he thinks the event, which brings together “past and present” in the form of alumni and current members, will allow for growth of the orchestra’s current musicians.

“It is not just about the alumni, but it is about the thing that we share: the YSO,” Yanagisawa explained. “Hopefully through this we might get even more support from alumni.”

Yanagisawa added that the concert’s hero theme is reflected in both the musical selections that musicians will play during the concert as well as on a broader scale in the idea of the YSO as a “hero” that plays for the audience and manages to bring together people from a variety of backgrounds around a common interest: music.

“The orchestra brings a lot of people together from different backgrounds, being a testament that they love what they’re doing and showcasing that,” Yanagisawa noted.

In line with Mauceri’s intention to use the concert as a celebration of music, Gersten said that she believes Saturday’s performance will give both performers and listeners a chance to take a more reflective approach to the music.

The concert will also serve as a moment for alumni and current members to reflect on their own experiences in the YSO. Mauceri, who became founding conductor of the orchestra in his senior year at Yale, said that “not much has changed” since his time in the orchestra, adding that he was delighted to see how “vital and vibrant” the group remains today.

“It feels as if nothing has changed in a half century,” Mauceri said. “I can’t wait until Saturday night. It should be quite memorable.”