By Vasilis Papoutsis
MISSION VIEJO, CA – A Feast of Lights is a traditional Christmas concert offered by the Saddleback College Choirs and Symphony department in Mission Viejo, CA for more than 25 years. The concert is a community institution and regularly sells out its performances as it features old and new Christmas classics for chorus and orchestra.
Dr. Yorgos Kouritas and Dr. Scott Farthing were the two conductors who led the more than 100 members of the orchestra and chorus. The result was an inspiring and uplifting Christmas concert that ended with a sing-along that included some crowd favorites such as Here Comes Santa Claus, Twelve Days of Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock. Kouritas joined Saddleback College in 2012, bringing a wealth of experience in having conducted both in Europe and Canada.
He hails from Volos and talking about his decision to follow a path in classical music at a time when classical music was not very accessible to most kids in Greece in the 1990’s. He told TNH that ”when the new music academy opened in Volos my parents signed me up for violin lessons there. Shortly afterward, I decided that I wanted to become a conductor.” He continued his studies with the Russian pedagogue Rimma Sushanskaya at the Birmingham Conservatoire in England. As a conducting fellow at the Castleton festival he received great reviews by the Washington Times and the Washington Post. He has since conducted various orchestras among them the Richmond Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony and the Manhattan School of Music Symphony.
Prior to arriving here, Kouritas was the Assistant Conductor of the Boise Philharmonic and the Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. His impressive credentials were undoubtedly the deciding factor when he applied for the position of Director of Instrumental Studies at the Saddleback College, as he had to compete against 300 other applicants for the position! Speaking about the college the conductor said that ”it is a great honor to be part of an institution with such fine musical tradition.” The college is proud to call some of the finest musicians of the Pacific Symphony as its instructors and some distinguished violinists such as Eric Silberger and Martin Beaver have hosted master classes.
Kouritas teaches violin and viola and performs violin recitals. Saddleback College is also one of the few colleges in the state that offers the students the opportunity to perform in operas and opera scenes each semester. The complete list of concerts is available at www.saddleback.edu.