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Making music for Newtown

Money raised at Placer High School concert will aid Connecticut school rocked by tragedy
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Benefit Concert for Newtown, Conn.
Who: Placer High School Wind Ensemble, Colla Voce and the Sierra Nevada Wind Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24
Where: Placer High School Auditorium
Admission: $10 donation
Why: All proceeds will be donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund through a partnership between United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank
Info: (530) 745-5842

When David Lawrenson heard the news out of Newtown, Conn., he, like many of us, sat in a state of stunned disbelief.
“I have been to all of those places,” Lawrenson said. “I drove by that school on a daily basis. I felt like I knew every tree there.”
Lawrenson, who is the musical director at Placer High School, lived in Newtown from the time he was 4 years old until he went off to college. The tragedy there hit him as a parent, as a teacher and as a former resident.
“As soon as it happened I knew I had to do something for my own soul,” he said.
He found willing companions in Janine Dexter and Dr. Robert Halseth, musical directors of Colla Voce and the Sierra Nevada Wind Orchestra, respectively.
“They were both extremely receptive and I am extremely thankful to them and their organizations,” Lawrenson said.
The three groups will perform at a concert Thursday in the Placer High School Auditorium. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund through a partnership between United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank.
“I would love to have a packed house,” Lawrenson said. “If we sell out all 500 seats we can send them $5,000 and I would feel really great about that.”
As well as conducting the high school ensemble, Lawrenson also plays clarinet for the Sierra Nevada Wind Orchestra. The two groups will team up for “American Elegy,” a work originally composed for the memory of the victims of Colombine.
The program also includes, among others, “Amazing Grace,” Brahms’ “Blessed Are They,” “America the Beautiful” and “Joy Revisited,” the most upbeat song of the night, according to bassoon player Evelyn Yee, 17.
“We are praising their lives, rejoicing in the short time they had here,” said the Placer High School senior.
Yee, like many of her fellow band mates, is glad to be able to help out.
“It’s good to be able to give back to a community, even one that’s not our own,” she said. “Even though it happened on the other side of the country, we felt it here.”
Yee’s favorite piece in the program is “Our Yesterdays Lengthen Like Shadows” by Samuel Hazo.
“There is an E-flat pitch that runs throughout the song that represents our lives,” she said. “All of these melodies and harmonies that come and go represent what influences us, events and experiences. But the E-flat is there throughout. It means we are constant.”