THE YEAR OF SHADOWS Blog Tour, Day 16: Programming the City Philharmonic’s Last Season

Posted September 6, 2013 by Kara in blog tour, Guest Post, Lyn / 19 Comments

Remember when I gushed over this book? Well, my fangirling attracted the attention of the lovely and talented Claire Legrand! She is stopping by the blog today to promote her new book, The Year of Shadows, which is on sale now! She was even gracious to provide a copy of her new book to give away to one reader! 

I stated that music has a huge role in the novel, so Ms. Legrand discussed the music mentioned, and provided links for the major pieces in her novel.  This post is great to refer back upon when you are reading your own copy!
Title: Year of Shadows
Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Description from Goodreads: Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

Guest Post by Claire Legrand
When The Year of Shadows begins, the City Philharmonic—the orchestra Olivia’s father conducts—is in trouble. The orchestra’s running out of money, attendance is low, morale is poor, and Emerson Hall itself—the symphony hall in which the orchestra performs—is falling apart. Nevertheless, the orchestra continues to perform throughout the year, albeit with a shortened schedule that includes fewer concerts.
I knew that, since the bulk of the story’s action takes place in Emerson Hall, and since Olivia witnesses several concerts throughout the book, I would have to mention the pieces the Philharmonic performs throughout the year. I also knew I wanted to thematically connect these pieces to the story’s action. An appendix near the end of The Year of Shadowslists the year’s concert schedule in its entirety, but for the purposes of this post, I will select a few of the more important pieces, explain why I selected them, and include audio clips of each piece for your listening pleasure!
One of the first pieces on the Philharmonic’s schedule is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4. This is one of my favorite pieces of music, and Tchaikovsky is one of my favorite performers. The sense of raw tragedy and drama in his music cuts me to the quick. Symphony no. 4 is all about the inevitability of fate, and, as Olivia explains in The Year of Shadows, the opening fanfare in the brass instruments serves as the “Fate theme.” Olivia thinks a lot about fate and destiny throughout The Year of Shadows, in that fate brought her and the ghosts together, because only they could help each other. In addition, while this symphony begins in a foreboding and mysterious fashion, the fourth movement ends triumphantly and joyously. The Year of Shadows follows a similar arc from feelings of fear and despair to ones of hope.

Another piece that the Philharmonic performs toward the beginning of the year is Francesca da Rimini, also by Tchaikovsky. This tone poem—a story told with music rather than words—tells the story of lovers doomed to wander Hell as ghosts for all eternity. I thought this fit well with the darker tone at the beginning of The Year of Shadows, as well as with the idea of the ghosts never being able to move on—and getting stuck in Limbo (a kind of purgatory) because of it.

One of the pieces I selected for the Philharmonic’s Halloween concerts is Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. (You might recall this from watching Disney’s Fantasia, specifically the final sequence with the mountaintop demon summoning spirits.) This piece isn’t so much thematically relevant as it is super creepy, and therefore appropriate for Halloween performances.

This next piece is not one that the Philharmonic performs, but rather one that is important to Olivia’s music nerd friend, Henry. It’s a piece he listens to frequently and has special meaning for him. I can’t say much more about that without ruining Henry’s backstory for you. But! I can share with you this gorgeous piece of music, the second movement of Beethoven’s 7thSymphony. Seriously, close your eyes and let this gorgeous, bittersweet music sweep over you, and feel your soul soar. (Cheesy, but true. Seriously.)


Pines of Romeby Ottorino Respighi is one of my favorite pieces, along with its less famous and less often performed companion pieces, Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals. The third movement of Pines, “Pines of the Janiculum,” is an absolutely gorgeous piece of music. I often listen to it with my eyes closed and let myself get swept away on its sumptuous melodic lines. (You might recognize some of this movement from the flying whales sequence of Fantasia 2000.) The Philharmonic performs this piece in January, and during one of the rehearsals, Olivia and Henry sit in the audience listening, Olivia with her sketchbook and Henry with his homework. As the music washes over them, Olivia imagines herself flying through “a dark, cool forest of pines, drifting lazily through the branches like a bird, like the wind, like a ghost . . . ” It is then that Olivia has an epiphany and figures out an important piece of information regarding the ghosts Tillie and Jax. Of course, you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!
In February, the Philharmonic performs pieces appropriate for Valentine’s Day (and also appropriate, tragically, given the failed marriage of Olivia’s parents and the lovelorn state of the Maestro). One of those Valentine’s Day pieces is Tchaikovsky’s (can you tell I like him?) Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture, which tells the story of Romeo and Juliet in gloriously romantic fashion. The Philharmonic performs Romeo and Juliet during one of the first concerts during which the ghosts begin haunting the audience, creating a sensation Olivia hopes will save the orchestra. As Olivia, Henry, and their friend Joan watch the ghosts carry out their rehearsed haunting strategy, Olivia and Joan, on the catwalk, look down and see the audience being swept away by the music. It’s a moment during which Olivia starts to rediscover her love of music and of the orchestra, something she never thought she could find again. She describes it thusly:
            Have you ever watched people when they don’t know you’re watching them? Like in a movie theater or a concert. When people get caught up in watching something, their faces change. The lines on their faces get softer, because whatever they’re watching has made them forget how they think they’re supposed to be looking. Instead they just are—just sitting there, listening and watching and being real.
            Goosebumps broke out on my skin. It was about four minutes into Romeo and Juliet, when those spooky notes start out low in the strings and then drift up high, and the harp floats right on top of it.
I love this piece. It’s one of my favorites, and when I was in the University of North Texas Symphoy Orchestra during music school, I got to perform it! It was one of the most magical performances of my musical career. Just listen to this gorgeousness:
The final piece of the Philharmonic’s performance year was not a part of their original schedule, but the orchestra ends up performing it because of . . . reasons I cannot divulge here. Spoiler alert, mwahaha! Mahler’s Symphony no. 2, known as “The Resurrection,” is a powerhouse of a symphony, requiring a huge orchestra and choir, and requiring tremendous stamina from its musicians, as it is about an hour and a half long. This is perhaps my absolute favorite piece of orchestral music. It’s just so epic, a mammoth meditation on death and the afterlife, at once frightening and reassuring, despairing and jubilant—quite appropriate for The Year of Shadows, both literally (ghosts) and thematically (the death and rebirth of Olivia’s hope and relationship with her father). The fifth movement is especially incredible, typically lasting over half an hour. If you want to get a taste of the symphony but don’t have time to sit through the entire 90-minute recording, I suggest starting to listen at about 54:25, or if you don’t have that much time either, start at about 1:20:00. Oh, and turn your speakers way, way up. Trust me. It’ll be worth it.
I hope you enjoyed learning about and listening to some of the orchestral music featured in The Year of Shadows! Don’t forget to check out the appendix at the back of the book for a complete list of the Philharmonic’s concert schedule so you can discover even more wonderful pieces of music!
And, of course, don’t forget to fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a copy of the book! Thank you for stopping by!
About the Author:

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, releases August 27, 2013, with her third novel, WINTERSPELL, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at and at

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The author has one hardcover book to give away to one lucky reader! Use the Rafflecopter form below! The giveaway is U.S./Canada only, and starts on September 6th, 2013 and ends September 16th, 2013. Good luck!

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19 responses to “THE YEAR OF SHADOWS Blog Tour, Day 16: Programming the City Philharmonic’s Last Season

  1. I really love he content for today’s tour stop! I’m a big music fan and I just love it when there’s music to listen to while I read. It really makes things extra clearer. And whenever you listen to that certain song in the future it will forever remind you of that book that it was tied to. Sigh.

  2. Ah, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony would be my fave. I’ve just always been a Beethoven fan. And like Claire said, it’s gorgeous and bittersweet and just evokes such emotion when you listen to it. It gives me chills.

  3. That’s a wonderful collection of classical music. If I could only have one I’d have to pick the Beethoven. I’ve been a big fan for many years and I just feel an affinity for him and his music. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. Oh this is such a wonderful post. I listen to a lot of classical music (mostly just solo piano stuff) while I’m reading and aside from band concerts that I go to at my kids school I’ve never actually listened to a true orchestra concert. These were beautiful examples. Will definitely be coming back and listening to these videos again, especially Beethoven’s 7th. Mesmerizing.

  5. Amy

    What a great post. I love the music!! I am always so taken back by the beauty of all the instruments complementing each other. They sound lovely alone, but together are so amazing!

  6. I’m very excited to read this book. I’ve seen quite a few promising reviews. I’ve got a soft spot for great middle grade reads. This one seems like it aligns with my taste buds.

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