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Holiday Play-Along shows talents of young and old musicians alike

By Staff | Dec 13, 2019

Max Clark, of Hedgesville, plays the double bass with the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra in Town Run Tap House and Community Pub on Dec. 5. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Every Christmas season, music lovers gather inside of Town Run Tap House and Community Pub, for the annual Holiday Play-Along of Christmas carols and tunes by the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s concert, which was held on Dec. 5, once again featured the conducting of Shepherd University adjunct professor Camilo Prez-Meja and instrumental talents of both professional and amateur community members. Some of the instrumentalists playing in the orchestra have been members since its founding.

“My husband is the french horn player — he’s one of the original board members of the orchestra,” said Sylvia Ellsworth, of Shepherdstown, as she and her son ate dinner while listening to the concert. “Our son, Mason, he loves music. We are big supporters of the orchestra, we think it’s wonderful.”

According to Ellsworth, the music is just one of the reasons the orchestra is important to the Eastern Panhandle.

“It’s wonderful for the children — you have youngsters and older, seasoned musicians playing side-by-side. Involving the children in the orchestra is the best way to learn teamwork and responsibility,” Ellsworth said. “It’s always been part of the orchestra’s mission, to encourage children to learn. Music is so important to childhood development, cognitively and socially, and it helps them to learn how to get along and pull their weight.”

Camilo Pérez-Mejía conducts the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra in playing a mix of Christmas carols and tunes in Town Run Tap House and Community Pub on Dec. 5. Tabitha Johnston

One of the young musicians playing in the orchestra was 13-year-old Max Clark.

“I’ve probably been playing the double bass for maybe four years now. I’ve also been playing with the Shepherd Community Orchestra for maybe two or three years,” Max said. “I wanted to be in the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra, just to play more and have more experiences with other instrumentalists.”

According to Max’s father, this is the first year Max and his 11-year-old sister, Erie, who plays the second violin, have been in the CWSO.

“It’s great for their discipline, it builds their confidence and gives them that sense of identity that many kids are looking for,” Ryan Clark, of Hedgesville, said. “I think it’s also good for the adults — it shows them that some children are also interested in classical music.

“Probably a year-and-a-half ago we started talking with Camilo about them joining, and he thought they were ready this year,” Ryan said. “They’ve been looking forward to joining this for years, because we’ve been coming to this Christmas concert for a while.”