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Middletown Life

Newark Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 50th anniversary season

Sep 27, 2016 02:14PM ● By Steven Hoffman

There are numerous exciting events planned to celebrate the Newark Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season, but don’t ask Concertmaster Serban Petrescu to select just one as a favorite. To Petrescu, the upcoming season will be filled with high notes.

I think they are all special,” he explained during an interview in September.

Petrescu is entering his 11th season with the symphony. He said that each music director he has worked with has pushed the boundaries for the music further. Maestro Simeone Tartaglione, the current music director, has brought lots of enthusiasm and new ideas, Petrescu said.

He’s expanded the orchestra’s reach by doing concerts with different choirs,” Petrescu explained.

The Newark Symphony Orchestra has built its reputation for excellence since it debuted in 1966 under music director Harley Hastings. The orchestra performs at least eight concerts each season, including four concerts that are in the Symphony Series, which features a themed program that mixes familiar repertoire with exciting new orchestral gems.

The 50th anniversary season will present an extended opportunity for even more new ideas, collaborations, and inventiveness. The season-opening concert takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30 at The Independence School in Newark. The performance features the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with Petrescu on violin, and Philipe Chao on viola as soloists. That will be followed with a performance of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” The Newark Symphony Orchestra will be joined by the Delaware Music School Women’s Chorus, with Joanne Ward as director and the University Singers, with Duane Cottell as director. The show's stunning visual effects will be the work of Giovanni Ciranni.

Next, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, a chamber concert featuring music by women composers, including Fanny Mendelssohn, Jennifer Campbell, Tai Sakamoto, is scheduled to take place at the Newark United Methodist Church. The performance will be a celebration of women's genius, and features guest conductor Rebekah O'Brien.

Love for and dedication to the music have been constants in the organization's history. The Newark Symphony Orchestra currently includes about 80 performing musicians who have a wide variety of musical experiences and backgrounds who are united by their shared love of classical music.

Mikki Senn, a French horn player who is serving as the co-chair of the 50th anniversary celebration, noted that the symphony has been around since 1966, but has only had three different conductors in its history. Harley Hastings, the first conductor, served from 1966 to 1982. Professional conductor Roman Pawlowski is credited with raising the Newark Symphony's musical horizons to levels not usually achieved by a volunteer orchestra during his tenure from 1982 to 2009.

There are no auditions,” Senn explained. “We self-sort by the challenging nature of the music. Many sections rotate who takes the lead—we are very democratic that way. Our current maestro, Simeone Tartaglione, believes we have the heart of a community orchestra, but the skills of a minor professional group.”

Two of the longtime members are Phil and Carolyn Fuhrman, who have been involved for more than four decades. Phil, who plays the violin, started performing with the Newark Symphony in the spring of 1974. Carolyn, who plays the cello, joined the orchestra in the fall of 1976 when she and Phil were first dating. They've both been very involved with the symphony through the years, including stints as the president of the board of directors.

I served on the board from 1982 to 1992, eight of those years as recording secretary,” Carolyn explained. “Phil then served on the board for two years before becoming the president of the board in July of 2012. He served for two years, and I was the vice president during his term. I then became president in July of 2014 and served for two years.”

Carolyn talked about the close connection that her family has for the orchestra, including the rehearsals that take place on Tuesday nights.

Tuesday nights have been sacred—our night out—from the very start,” she explained. “I missed one concert for the birth of each of our sons. One of the best things has been watching our youngest son (Mordecai Samuel Fuhrman) develop, and surpass us, as a musician. He started playing in the percussion section of the orchestra when he was 10, and played with us through high school and after. He now has a degree in percussion performance and a master's degree and artist diploma in orchestral conducting. He also does some arranging. He will be guest-conducting a piece he arranged during our December concert.”

That concert takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11 at The Independence School. Mordecai Samuel Fuhrman will orchestrate and guest-conduct the performance of Shostakovich Prelude & Fugue in D minor. This program also includes Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Christmas Carols with the Symphony Festival Chorus.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary season continues into 2017. On February 11, a chamber concert is slated to take place that will honor Black History Month.

Two winners of the NSO Youth Concerto Competition will perform at a symphony concert on March 5. The concert concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Suite from Swan Lake Ballet featuring the Delaware Dance Company. The Newark Symphony supports music education and outreach in northern Delaware in a variety of ways, including annual youth concerto competitions. The winners in both the college and high school divisions perform with the orchestra.

On March 11, the symphony orchestra celebrates its 50th anniversary with a gala event held at the Newark Country Club. The night will include live music, dancing, food, and a silent auction.

Senn said that the gala is the one event that she is looking forward to the most during the season.

If pressed, I would point to our 50th anniversary gala,” she explained. “I choose that many of our celebrations are protracted and will go on into the future, while this is a one-shot event full of fun, glitter, food, music, and dancing. What's not to love there?”

Indeed, the gala, which takes place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., will feature a live waltz orchestra, hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar, a silent auction, and more. It is open to the public.

The main goal is an evening of elegant fun,” Senn explained. “The silent auction component is for fundraising to support the orchestra in general, and our celebration of the 50th year in particular. We are, after all, a non-profit.”

Newark Symphony Orchestra members said that they are appreciative of all the support the organization has received through the years. As a non-profit organization, the Newark Symphony depends on support from local residents, Delaware arts foundations and corporations, and other sponsors.

The Friends of the Newark Symphony Orchestra provides additional volunteer and fundraising support. The board of directors of the organization is comprised of local citizens, business leaders, arts advocates, and orchestra musicians.

The first important post-gala event will take place when the symphony orchestra celebrates Music in the Schools Month with a chamber concert on at the First Presbyterian Church of Newark on March 25. Admission will be $5 per family.

On May 14, the All Beethoven Symphony Concert, featuring Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus, followed by Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 , will take place. Soloists for this performance are Sharon Christman, soprano; Suzanne DuPlant, mezzo-soprano; Rick Christman, tenor, and Jeffrey Martin, bass.

Senn said that everyone involved with the orchestra is excited about the upcoming season because it will be “full of fantastic music and learning events we have never tried before.”

The 50th anniversary season is not only an opportunity for the Newark Symphony Orchestra to celebrates its milestone, but it is also an opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the symphony's efforts since 1966.

Emily Tan, who plays the violin and also serves as a co-chair of the 50th anniversary celebration, said that she is looking forward to the gala and the final concert of the season in May of 2017 the most, even though there are many interesting events happening at the concerts throughout the entire season.

I'm excited about the last concert of the season because it will be a culmination of the 50th year when we play Beethoven's 9th Symphony and present the ultimate show of community engagement and camaraderie through music,” she said.

Roxie Rust, the business manager for the Newark Symphony Orchestra, said that tickets for any of the events coming up during the special anniversary season can be purchased by calling 302-369-3466 or visiting Tickets are also usually also available at the door on the day of the concert.

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