The architecture and decor harken to a time when musicians and poets performed in the parlor, a time when art and education were synonymous with a child’s well being, and a time when entertainment was live and social.

When Martha Feeley, president of the Woman’s Literary Union, heard the Youth Orchestra of Lewiston-Auburn (YOLA) perform last year, she knew that the organization’s home, the Horatio G. Foss Mansion, would be the perfect setting for the young chamber orchestra. Feeley promptly invited YOLA to perform its next spring concert at the Elm Street mansion, and YOLA promptly accepted.

“I thought it was wonderful that there was a group of young musicians in the area,” said Feeley. “When I heard them, I could just see them performing here. I’m so excited that they will be here, and I’m really looking forward to the concert.”

YOLA, now in its third year, will perform a classical music concert at the Foss Mansion on Friday. The concert is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and the concert will begin at 7 p.m. with a reception to follow.

Feeley noted that the Woman’s Literary Union wanted to connect more with the public and thought that inviting YOLA seemed in perfect keeping with its mission. As early as 1898, the women’s group has advocated for children by starting a successful movement to add kindergarten to the public school systems in Lewiston and Auburn. It has continued over the decades to show interest in education and cultural advancements.

Feeley, who currently teaches piano and violin lessons, recalls being a young girl and having her parents drive her to Portland every week for a chance to play in a group because there was no opportunity locally.

YOLA, a nonprofit organization, started as an informal group of middle and high school students who wanted a local outlet for their musical talents and passion. The youth orchestra dedicates itself to enriching young people’s lives by allowing them to develop their talents, by introducing them to a repertoire of classical music, and by providing a forum to share their interests and to perform as a serious, but fun, ensemble.

Earlier this week, YOLA members rehearsed at the house, which is more than a century old. Pendant chandeliers, textured wallpaper, and hand-painted portraits provided a harmonious ambiance for the young musicians. The imagination didn’t have to stretch far to recreate a similar scene in a bygone age. As the young string players of YOLA rehearsed, they seemed perfectly at home.

“Classical music is a lot about tradition and an appreciation for things older than us,” said Jon Tuttle of Minot, who plays double bass for YOLA in addition to playing in his school orchestra at Hebron Academy. “Being in the Foss mansion has a similar effect. You can see all the original features and craftsmanship. The acoustics in there are great, and the interior has an elegant feel to it.”

The young musicians rehearse weekly in space generously provided by Saints Peter and Paul Basilica and they have performed concerts in space provided at no cost by supportive organizations like the Auburn Public Library and The Pathway Vineyard Church in Lewiston. Under the direction of Linda Vaillancourt, who also directs the orchestra and band at North Yarmouth Academy and plays viola in the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, past YOLA concert program selections have ranged from Beethoven to Copland, from truly classical to classically inspired pop music, from Vivaldi’s nature themes to modern movie themes. This year’s spring concert program will feature works by Mozart, Grainger, Stanley and Holst.

“Several players have been in the group all three years, and have created a solid core ensemble,” said Vaillancourt. “For this spring semester, I really wanted this year to have the group play one of the major works for string orchestra. I spent some time perusing scores of many pieces, and finally settled on the St. Paul Suite. This is a fantastic part of the string orchestra repertoire and specifically composed for chamber orchestra.”

Go and do

What: Youth Orchestra of Lewiston-Auburn (YOLA) Spring Concert

When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 9

Where: Foss Mansion, home of the Woman’s Literary Union, 19 Elm St., Auburn

Admission: Free to the public


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