Merced Symphony

Back On Stage

The Merced Symphony Broadcasts Its “Back On Stage” Concert From the Merced Theatre Stage on September 11, 2020 In Collaboration With the Merced County Office of Education and the Merced Theatre Foundation

Concert May Be Viewed For Free By the Entire Merced County Community

Re-connect with your Merced Symphony on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 at 7 p.m. as the Merced Theatre comes alive for a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, and other classics spiced with an electric violin under the direction of Maestro Ming Luke. The Merced Symphony’s return will be closed to the public as our community battles COVID-19, but can be streamed live thanks to the Merced County Office of Education in collaboration with the Merced Theatre Foundation.

Please view Back On Stage on demand at

The evening begins with a String Quartet powered by Concertmaster Illana Thomas and our Merced Symphony players. Dvorak’s “American” Quartet; Haydn’s G Major Quartet Op. 77 No. 1; and Salut D’Amour by Elgar highlight this opening set.

Next we turn to two selections from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons composed in 1723. Hear our strings-only orchestra back the improvisational style of Matthew Szemela’s electric violin as he interprets Autumn, a lilting dance through crackling leaves and the cool air of an autumnal countryside. Then Winter’s chill winds and raindrops pursue the concerto’s protagonist before he reaches the warmth of a fireplace safe from the elements.

We then experience Bach’s Arioso and Meditation from Thais by French composer Jules Massenet as performed by Merced’s string quartet. And Matthew Szemela returns for a solo turn on his electric violin!

Merced’s first-ever live-streamed symphony concludes with an all-strings reproduction of the Second and Third Movements of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and the First Movement of Grieg Holburg’s Suite.

Praised by the New York Times for his “outrageous fiddling,” Matthew Szemela is a violinist who crosses musical genres with ease. He has performed as soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician in several renowned concert halls including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Matthew frequently collaborates with luminary artists such as Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Sting, Garth Brooks, Placido Domingo, Bob Weir, Olivia Newton John, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He has performed as the assistant concertmaster of the Opera San Jose Orchestra since 2017, and played with the Berkeley Symphony since 2011. Matthew maintains a busy domestic and international touring schedule with Rupa & The April Fishes and Tango Del Cielo.

Following her debut with the San Francisco Symphony, violinist Ilana Blumberg Thomas is in demand as a chamber musician, collaborating with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Earplay, and Ensemble for these Times. Ilana recently worked with Philip Glass and Opera Paralelle, has recorded for film and television, including in Wynton Marsalis’ award-winning educational series Marsalis on Music, and performs and tours with bands on five-string electric violin. She has supported an array of musicians from Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti to electronic duo ODESZA, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, Warren Haynes, and countless others.

This special live broadcast is made possible through the generous support of the Merced County Office of Education under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Steve Tietjen; and the Merced Educational Television (METV) team of Media & Communications Manager Nathan Quevedo, camera operators Dylan McMullen, Nate Gomes, and Hector Ramirez along with Merced County Education Foundation Executive Director Stacie Arancibia.

The Merced Symphony Association also recognizes the collaboration of Heather Holt, Managing Director of The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre, as well as the entire Merced Theatre Foundation Board.

Special thanks to the Merced County Department of Public Health. Funding for the “Back On Stage” concert has been provided, in part, under the federal CARES Act in addition to generous contributions from Symphony patrons and sponsors.

To learn more about safety protocols in effect during this performance visit

The Merced Symphony Association provides the Central Valley with performances by world class musicians from across California. We coordinate special educational concerts with Merced County school districts so that every child can experience live symphonic music.

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Media Contact: Shane Smith, (209) 580-4240,