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The Red Velvet Violin Suite (2015)

for orchestra

ca. 25'




1 piccolo

2 flutes

2 oboes

2 bassoons


4 horns

2 Bb trumpets

2 trombone

1 bass trombone

1 tuba


4 percussionists


strings (+ solo violin)



I. Overture

II. Saverio and his Magical Dream

III. Saverio makes the Violin

IV. First Tune on the Violin and the Curse

V. The Dungeon and the Lifting of the Curse

VI. One Last Chance

VII. Maria Elena and Saverio



The Red Velvet Violin in its original form is a forty-minute symphonic puppet show for children, a collaborative work commissioned by the Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association. The project was part of an annual outreach concert to inspire young children to take an interest in music. In February 2014 the work was premiered in Davis, California for over 2,000 elementary school children in four concerts, as well as a fifth open to the public. The performance was given by the Davis High Symphony-Orchestra under the baton of Angelo Moreno, with its story writer Anna Moreno (Angelo's mother) narrating. Art Gruenberger and the Puppet Art Theater Co. directed and performed the puppetry. It was really a joy and a privilege to collaborate with all of them.

Set in Italy, The Red Velvet Violin is a story about a young shop assistant named Saverio who, with the help of his friend Maria Elena, discovers a magical piece of wood that helps him achieve his dream of becoming a violin virtuoso. However, when tries to use his magic violin for the purpose gaining fame and fortune, the violin has other plans. It's a playful story about the power of love and music.

Here I have rearranged materials from the original production and increased the orchestration for this concert suite, about twenty-five minutes in length. The movements and their relation to the original story are as follows:


I. Overture

The curtain rises.


II. Saverio and his Magical Dream 

A young Italian shop assistant, Saverio, daydreams of becoming a virtuoso violin player and getting married to the love of his life, the beautiful Maria Elena. His theme is introduced by the clarinet. That night, he falls into a fantastical dream about a magical piece of wood.


With the help of Maria Elena, Saverio discovers that the magical wood exists in a nearby forest where an old hermit (not featured in this scene) guards the wood, waiting for its destined owner to claim it. The hermit, upon meeting Saverio, discovers that Saverio is the destined owner of the magical wood and agrees to give it to him to make a magic violin. He warns Saverio that if he ever plays this violin to obtain riches, its magic will disappear.


III. Saverio Makes the Violin

Saverio sets to work on building the magic violin. It is slow-going at first, but as inspiration strikes, sparks and chips of wood fly about in a frenzy as he works through the night.


IV. First Tune on the Violin and the Curse

Upon finishing the violin, Saverio goes into the streets to perform. His fingers fly and he plays an enchanting tune, knowing that it is the magic of the wood and not his skill creating the music. The towns people adore him and throw gold coins at his feet. Caught up in his moment of fame and thinking that he will impress Maria Elena, he takes the money, and the magic of the violin fades away.


V. The Dungeon and the Lifting of the Curse 

When the king hears of Saverio's performance, he demands Saverio come and play for him in his palace, but the violin only produces screeches (not in featured in this scene). Insulted, the king locks him in the dungeon. While in the dungeon, Saverio is visited by Maria Elena. He asks her to take his money and distribute it to the poor and needy. As she distributes the money, the magic of the violin is restored.


VI. One Last Chance

Remembering the insult of Saverio's horrible playing, the king huffs and puffs about the palace. Growing angrier, he decides the dungeon is too lenient a punishment, and that only an execution will suffice. However, he allows Saverio one final opportunity to redeem himself. He performs for the king again, this time with the magic restored to the violin. The king, satisfied, allows Saverio to go free.


VII. Maria Elena and Saverio

Maria Elena (her theme in the strings) and Saverio (his in the clarinets) are reunited. Asked why he broke his promise, Saverio tells her he wanted to impress her with the riches so that she would marry him. Maria Elena, surprised, tells him that the only riches in the whole kingdom she needs is Saverio's love. Celebration, a final kiss, and the magical violin's tune softly sings above a rich chord as the story comes to an end.


Many thanks to director Leo Eylar and the players of the Sacramento State Symphony-Orchestra (who don't have magic violins) for their hard work in the premiere of this suite.

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