Saturday, November 8, 2014

A brand-new orchestra: what news!

Michael Butterman, orchestra conductor, with the Boulder, Colo., Philharmonic. Photo by Glenn Ross.
Pennsylvania Philharmonic's conductor, Michael Butterman
In this day and age when everyone is panicking about classical music’s downfall and orchestras everywhere are declaring bankruptcy, I thought it might be nice to share some actually good news on the classical music scene. A brand new orchestra has actually managed to form in Pennsylvania State, and they have aptly named themselves the Pennsylvania Philharmonic. The tri-county area including Chester, Montgomery, and Berks was once home to the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra, which officially shut down in 2008. Since then, there has been a cultural void in the area. The Pennsylvania Philharmonic is nearly a metaphorical phoenix rising from the ashes of its predecessor. The Philharmonic, however, is not your typical orchestra. It appears to be thoroughly nomadic, having no "home" hall. Additionally, their primary performance venues are public schools around the area. This is reminiscent of the scheme of training orchestras popping up around the US, which are very much community-oriented, endeavoring to train young musicians to take their music out to the people. The conductor, Michael Butterman, works carefully not to schedule concerts in conflict with those of other major orchestras around the area so he can hire musicians who play in multiple orchestras, and maintain personnel of the best possible quality. In addition to its several performances in school auditoriums aimed towards the education of the masses, the orchestra will visit area concert halls including the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, and the Asplundh Concert Hall in West Chester. The Philharmonic debuted on October 25th at Pottstown Performing Arts. Its programming for the first season is intentionally audience friendly, featuring Ravel, Gerschwin, and a live performance of the pieces that make up the soundtrack of Disney’s Fantasia, complete with a projected showing of the movie (live movie music is trendy these days; Longy's SeptemberFest concert series included a program of movie soundtracks played by the Longy Conservatory Orchestra). For more information, please see Let's all wish these musicians well in their quest to bring music to communities who need it.

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