A fortunate event: Nittany Valley Symphony pairs with Lemony Snicket for ‘whodunit’ family concert

A fun, mystery story from the mind of Lemony Snicket will join with the sounds of Nittany Valley Symphony on Jan. 20 for a performance aimed at music lovers of any age.

The symphony’s annual family concert is set for 4 p.m. at the State College Area High School South Building auditorium. The orchestra will perform “The Composer is Dead,” which tells a humorous “whodunit” story while also introducing the audience to various instruments in the orchestra.

Snicket, author of the popular “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books, wrote the text for the show. The music is by Nathaniel Stookey.

“It’s for kids of all ages, although it was written for children,” Nittany Valley Symphony executive director Roberta Strubel said.

Mark Ballora, a Penn State faculty member in music and theater, will narrate the show, portraying different characters as the “investigation” into the composer’s demise moves across the stage.

“The narrator is very good at playing different characters in the story,” said maestro Michael Jinbo, the orchestra’s music director and conductor.

“For our family concerts especially, we try to consistently put on a narrative piece,” Jinbo said. “That works well for younger audiences. And they can learn about the orchestra.”

In addition to “The Composer Is Dead,” the orchestra will perform various selections including the finale from “William Tell Overture” and a movement from Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor.”

The show also will feature a performance by cellist Charis Lin, a State College Area High School student and this season’s winner of the Ann Keller Young Soloist Competition. Lin will perform the second movement of Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85,” Strubel said.