TRUMBULL, Conn. — Ask Julian Shively why he plays the cello and his answer is a simple one: It speaks to him.
“I like how it’s so close to the human voice,” said the 15-year-old Trumbull resident. “It sounds natural to me.”
Shively, winner of the 2016 Greater Bridgeport Symphony Young Instrumentalists’ Competition, will let his cello do the talking Dec 17, when he plays a solo rendition of “What Child Is This?” at the symphony’s much-anticipated annual holiday concert “Christmas Eve in Paris.”
The beloved piece was originally for orchestra and solo voice, but Shively’s mom, a violinist and pianist herself, arranged it for her talented son to share with concertgoers.
Shively began playing cello at the Suzuki Music School in Westport when he was just 5, picking up piano along the way as well. Since then, he has blossomed into a gifted and dedicated musician, winning prizes on both instruments and playing with both the Greater Bridgeport Youth Symphony and the Danbury Symphony.
“He just has such a beautiful tone,” said GBS Conductor Eric Jacobsen, himself a cellist. “Ideally, you want to be ‘singing’ on whatever you can. You want the instrument to kind of disappear. And he’s well on his way to that.”
Shively’s solo will be a small part of the ambitious one-night-only performance, which will center around a special concert version of Puccini’s La Bohéme. Six world-class soloists — Ariadne Greif, Laquita Mitchell, David Blalock, Alexander Elliott, Benjamin Bloomfield, and Thomas Woodman — will sing the lead roles, including Rodolfo, Mimi, Marcello and Musetta.
Much of the action of La Bohéme takes place on Christmas Eve, so it’s a perfect choice for the holiday concert, Jacobsen said.
The evening will be sprinkled with Christmas and Hanukkah classics, including Shively’s solo, he said. The principal orchestra of the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra, the best of local youth musicians, will join the GBS for Acts III and IV of La Bohéme, bringing the number on stage to a staggering 130.
“We’re so excited to bring this Christmas classic to Bridgeport,” said GBS Executive Director Mark Halstead. “Having GBYO join us, and being able to showcase the amazing talents of local youth, makes the evening even more special. How better to spend the holidays than with a great big family of musicians?”
As in other years, GBS will be collecting nonperishable food items for the Bridgeport Rescue mission before the concert. Donations will be collected in the lobby of The Klein before the concert.
The concert begins at 8 p.m. at The Klein, 910 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. Tickets are available through www.GBSO.org or by calling 203-576-0263.