Local high school string quartet to join touring Beatles musical

By Brian Soergel | Nov 10, 2017
Photo by: Karen Halseth Edmonds-Woodway students performing on stage during “In My Life” are, from left, Andrew Tjandra, Helen Nguyen, Elaina Johnson and James Gamboa.
“In My Life – A Musical Theatre Tribute to The Beatles”

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12
Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N, Edmonds
Tickets: $35/$45/$55
Information: www.edmondscenterforthearts.org, 425-275-9595


When the touring show "In My Life – A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles" returns to the Edmonds Center for the Arts, there will be two quartets – not just one.

The Edmonds-Woodway High School String Quartet, which has already performed twice with the show, will join the professional actors on stage to add an element of orchestral texture to the evening.

"In My Life" – always popular in Edmonds – is the musical retelling of the Beatles story through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein and features the live music of renowned tribute band Abbey Road.

The band features Chris Paul Overall ("Paul"), Nathaniel Bott ("John"), Zak Schaffer ("George") and Axel Clarke ("Ringo"). Murphy Martin plays Brian Epstein.

The Warriors’ string quartet includes seniors Helen Nguyen and Elaina Johnson and juniors James Gamboa and Andrew Tjandra. They will join the band for the songs "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "A Day in the Life," "Hello Goodbye," and "Hey Jude."

In a special touch, "Yesterday" is played as a scene in which the Paul McCartney character plays the song for the first-time for Beatles producer George Martin, with the songwriter explaining that he envisioned a string-quartet accompaniment.

How was the "Beatles" connection started?

The producers of "In My Life" approached E-W orchestra director Karen Helseth looking for a talented ensemble which could hold their own with a rock band in front of an audience. The show hired an EWHS string quartet in 2014 and 2015 to accompany when the production performed at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

“The students already enjoy the music of the Beatles, but they will gain a better historical perspective about the music through participating in the show,” Helseth said. “They have gotten together after school several times to practice the music. Each musician is also practicing at home along with the original Beatles recordings.

“I held auditions the last time my students performed the show, but this year I had a pretty tight deadline to identify the players, so I appointed the section leaders of the top orchestra to perform the show. The students are very excited to play the show.”

Added “In My Life” co-producer Tom Maher: “Edmonds-Woodway has one of the strongest music programs in the country, and we try to hire them whenever we return to the region."

In addition to being principals in the Edmonds-Woodway Philharmonic Orchestra and Camerata, the most advanced ensemble, quartet members perform with prestigious ensembles including the All-State Orchestra.

All members regularly receive superior ratings at Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) solo and ensemble competitions.

Fab Four fans

All quartet members are Beatles fans.

At the age of 8, Nguyen, now 17, began taking violin lessons from her father, a professional viola player who performs with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra. She is the concertmaster of Edmonds-Woodway Philharmonic Orchestra and is a member of Camerata. She has received superior ratings at WMEA solo and ensemble festivals as a soloist and with ensembles.

She performed with the "In My Life" show two years ago with the string quartet and became a Beatles fan.

“I enjoyed watching the show from backstage," she said. "It was a great experience performing with singers and guitars in front of a large audience. My favorite Beatles song is ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ and I'm very excited that we get to perform this song in the show."

The senior plans to pursue a career in medicine.

Gamboa, 16, was a violinist and switched to the viola three years ago. He is a member of the EWHS Philharmonic Symphony and Camerata. He has has received superior ratings at solo and ensemble festivals.

“It is enjoyable in orchestra to hear the different parts and how each one fits in," he said.

The junior is the ASB vice-president at E-W and plans to attend a four-year university after graduation.

He is a lifelong Beatles fan.

“My dad had an old stereo and we used to listen to Beatles albums when I was young," said Gamboa. "I love the beautiful harmonies of "Yesterday."

Johnson, 17, has been playing the violin for 12 years. She plays with the EWHS Philharmonic Symphony, Camerata and the All-State Orchestra. She has been awarded superior ratings at solo and ensemble competitions.

“Playing in orchestra is fun because you use team building skills and you have more of a connection with other people," she said. The senior plans to attend a four-year university after high school, and her favorite Fab Four tune is "Mother Nature's Son."

Tjandra, 17, has been playing the cello since the sixth grade. He has also played the piano for ten years. Tjandra plays with the school's Philharmonic Symphony and Camerata. He has performed with solo and ensemble festivals and received high ratings.

“I like playing with people in orchestra who enjoy music in the same way that I do. I love the intricate harmonies that can bring people to tears."

The junior enjoys arts and crafts and plans to attend a four-year university after high school.

The director

Edmonds-Woodway Orchestra director Helseth teaches orchestra and IB music. She is a graduate of University of Washington, and holds a master’s degree in music education from University of Massachusetts.

She has served on the executive board of the Washington Music Educators Association as orchestra curriculum officer from 2008-2010, and vice president from 2012-2016.

Helseth is part of a long tradition of excellence at E-W.

E-W is part of a school district recognized as one of the top 100 communities for music education in the United States. The Warrior music program offers three concert bands, three orchestras, two jazz bands, a concert choir and a jazz choir, as well as IB Music and guitar class.

The top jazz band has been featured multiple times in the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival in New York, most recently in 2017. In 2018, the EWHS Philharmonic orchestra will be a featured performing group at the Washington Music Educators Association state conference in Yakima.

The orchestra program participates in festivals throughout western Washington every year.

The EWHS String Quartet performs at community events and weddings. They may be contacted by calling Karen Helseth at 425-431-6230.





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