Mariposa Symphony Orchestra’s Spring Concerts

Mariposa offers classical music performed by a community orchestra in one of America’s smallest towns. This is the 12th season for the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra. These musicians continue to impress audiences with their increasing skill.

At this weekend’s concerts, two Central California musicians will perform solos with the orchestra: Laura Porter and Sandra Stocking.

Porter is an award-winning harpist, and principal harp with the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, where she has been a member for more than 25 years. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Fresno Pacific University. In addition to teaching private lessons, she regularly performs with orchestras and chamber music groups across California. She is the founder of the Fresno Area Harp Circle, a group comprised of adult harpists who perform locally.

Stocking holds both baccalaureate and master’s degrees in music. She has played flute for more than 35 years, and has served as the orchestra’s principal flutist for a number of years. She is also a member of the Sierra Chamber Players.

At Merced’s Cruikshank Middle School, Stocking teaches social studies and language arts. She is on the faculty of Merced Community College, and gives private lessons on several instruments. She also teaches/directs hand-bell choirs at Central Presbyterian Church.

The two women will be featured in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s lively and beautiful Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra. This will be the first time the orchestra has included a concert grand harp in a performance.

Also on the program is Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, sometimes called the “Unfinished Symphony.” Emphasizing expressive melody, striking harmony and creative orchestral tone combinations, this piece is considered the first romantic symphony. The work was unfinished when Schubert died at age 31. It is one of his most famous compositions.

Mariposa Symphony founder and conductor Les Marsden will present his second of five original symphonic poems honoring Yosemite-related anniversaries. These significant dates will occur from 2014 through 2016. More information can be found at

The first, entitled “Wilderness – Our Necessary Refuge” was composed in honor of the American Wilderness Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Mariposa Symphony musicians performed this piece last year at the fall concert.

The next title to be presented is “Hope in a Time of Tragedy,” celebrating 150 years of the Yosemite Grant. In the mid-1800s, America was torn in two by the Civil War. With his signature, President Abraham Lincoln established the preservation of the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias and Yosemite Valley for public recreation and enjoyment. This law gave birth to the national park idea, and provided hope for a growing nation.

With Yosemite’s beauty as inspiration, Marsden’s concert notes describe the piece:

“After a short introduction, there’s a bombastic patriotic march representing the North, a melancholic and wistful section connoting the South, and then a lengthy development in which the (musical) material of North and South are set against each other in a deepening, ever-darker conflict, until eventually the Yosemite motif arises from the depths of this literal, musical war between North and South. Initially simple, that ‘Yosemite’ motif builds into a fuller, heroic melody – an outdoors sound, a majestic anthem-like celebration of Yosemite – before the piece ends with an all-out joyous peal of chimes.”

The symphony will perform Saturday at 7 p.m. in Fiester Auditorium at Mariposa County High School. Tickets are $6 for adults; $4 for students. They may be purchased at the Mariposa County Arts Council, (209) 966-3155, upstairs from Chocolate Soup on the south end of town; or at the Mariposa County Visitors Center, (209) 966-7081, located on the southeast corner of the intersection of California state highways 140 and 49 North. Doors open half an hour before the concert.

The same program will also be performed at the Ahwahnee Hotel on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee. This concert is offered free of charge, although park entrance fees do apply. Full concert information is available on the MCAC website,