Celena Shafer spills the beans

Celena Shafer is a Utah-born soprano who has wowed audiences with her countless roles with Utah Opera—and most recently with us—on our recording of Mahler No. 8. She will be performing in our upcoming concert Mozart’s Great Mass

You have a long history with the Utah Symphony—what was it like singing with the Utah Symphony for the first time?

I was 17 when I sang with the Utah Symphony for the first time. And, coincidentally, it was Mozart that I sang! I had auditioned through Salute to Youth and was chosen as one of the soloists. Joseph Silverstein was musical director at the time, and he was so gracious to me. I was so nervous and excited! It was a humongous, momentous event for me.

What is it like to sing in Abravanel Hall?

Singing in Abravanel Hall is deceptive. When you step out onto stage, you are overwhelmed by the size of the hall. But, once you start to sing, you can tell that the acoustics are such that you will be heard even on the very back rows.

My favorite thing about singing at Abravanel Hall is that it means I am singing for my home crowd, for people I know and love.

What are your fondest memories of singing in Abravanel Hall?

A concert hall is a place where we experience feelings from the music presented. Those feelings can vary from the deeply religious to the extremely profane, depending on the music and where we are in our life’s journey. I have had some deeply spiritual moments in Abravanel Hall. Most memorable to me was the last minutes of Mahler No. 2 (Resurrection), “Aufersteh’n, ja, aufersteh’n: Wirst du!” (Yes! You will rise again!) I had tears streaming down my face. The easiest thing to do as a singer is to not fight the tears, otherwise the throat seizes up… so I just let the tears stream.

When I sang a New Year’s concert a few years back, Thierry Fischer, just as a gag, had me conduct the orchestra for a bar or two… whew! That’s a biggie—giving a downbeat for the Utah Symphony!

I have so many fond memories of the orchestra players in Abravanel Hall, both onstage and backstage. They have always been so tremendously supportive and kind. That kind of environment helps musicians achieve their best.

What do you find particularly beautiful or moving about Mozart’s Mass in C Minor?

I love the way the credo is set. Mozart moves the text and music of the credo along nicely, but comes to an absolute halt for the text: “God became incarnate through Mary, and was made flesh.”

He gives this line of text a whole aria, emphasizing the absolute wonder that God would I am amazed and awed to think that God would be one of us, to have our human experiences, to feel the pain and beauty of being human. WOW.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

A Russian, a Michiganian and a Salt Lake native

It sounds like the punchline to a joke but Utah Symphony’s three new violins really do hail from vastly different places. Director of Communications Renée Huang (who herself comes from Toronto, Canada) sat down with the newest members of the violin section to learn about the journeys that brought them to Salt Lake City.

Evgenia Zharazhavskaya, Assistant Principal Second Violin

BACKGROUND: I was born and spent most of my life in St. Petersburg, Russia. I started my musical education playing piano at a very early age and then switched to violin when I was 6. I entered the Rimsky-Korsakov School of music the same year and later continued my studies at the St. Petersburg state conservatory where I got my Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. While still at the conservatory I won a position with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. I also took part in numerous music festivals including Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Gustav Mahler Academy in Italy and Miyazaki Festival in Japan. I moved to Florida in 2010 to study with Elmar Oliveira at Lynn University Conservatory of Music. In 2014 I won full-time substitute position with Houston symphony where I played for three full seasons and in April of 2017, I won my Assistant Principal Second position in Utah Symphony. I am currently 34 years old and don’t have any siblings.

WHY UTAH SYMPHONY? I was drawn to the distinguished sound of the orchestra, great community, and beauty of Utah.

HOBBIES: I like nature very much so I am very happy to have an excellent opportunity to explore the unbelievable beauty of Utah. I like baking, biking, hiking, reading, dancing salsa, learning self-defense with Krav Maga and spending time with my dear husband and friends.

Bonnie Terry, Section First Violin

BACKGROUND: I was born and raised here in Salt Lake City. I started violin when I was six and studied with Kris Palmer and Hiroko Primrose. When I was ten, I had the opportunity to solo with the Utah Symphony under the direction of Joseph Silverstein on the annual Salute to Youth Concert. I left home at age 12 to study violin at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City and then attended high school in Michigan where I graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy. I did, however, spend one year of HS here at West High (Go, Panthers!) where I sang in the Chorale and A Capella, and studied violin with Gerald Elias, then associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. I received my Bachelor’s degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY where I studied with William Preucil (concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and a former concertmaster of the Utah Symphony), and Master’s Degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music where I was also a Preucil student. Following grad school, I spent a year as a fellow with the New World Symphony in Florida. From there I moved to Tucson, Arizona for three years where I was the concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and taught violin at the University of Arizona. I also spent a year in Charlottesville, VA teaching at the University of Virginia. For the last ten years, I have lived in San Antonio, TX as the Associate Concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony. I have spent the last fourteen summers in Chicago playing with the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra.

WHY UTAH SYMPHONY? I moved here to be closer to my family and because I grew up watching the Utah Symphony play! I couldn’t be happier to be back in the Motherland! My parents, older brother, and younger sister also live and grew up here. My sister plays the violin and is a dance teacher, and my brother plays piano and trumpet.

HOBBIES: I love to sing, dance (danced as a member of the Children’s Dance Theater from age 4-17), attend SLAC plays, RDT and Ririe Woodbury concerts, hang out with friends and family.

Hannah Linz, Section Second Violin

BACKGROUND: I grew up in a musical family as the youngest of four children in Okemos, Michigan. I began playing the violin at age 3 and the piano at age 5. After having won competitions for solo playing and chamber music, as well as attending summer music programs, I went on to pursue a degree in violin performance at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, studying privately with Ik-Hwan Bae, Jorja Fleezanis, and Alexander Kerr.

WHY UTAH SYMPHONY? I am joining the Utah Symphony after having performed with the Dallas Symphony for two seasons as a Jaap van Zweden Scholar, and as a substitute member of The Philadelphia Orchestra. I am thrilled to join the Utah Symphony not only because it is a great orchestra with a fantastic music director, but I also enjoy the incredible natural beauty that this state has to offer. I am excited to get to know Utah and explore this gorgeous state.

HOBBIES: In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, and watching movies.

The author, Renee Huang is the Director of Public Relations.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone