CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The Gateway Chamber Orchestra, which kicks off its third subscription season at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, can’t be accused of lacking ambition.
“Our goal is to be one of the world’s great chamber orchestras,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, the ensemble’s conductor, said recently. “There is a great symphony orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, 45 minutes down the road. We offer something different. The energy and spirt of this group has been just magical.”
In a bid to become one of the world’s pre-eminent chamber orchestras, the group is taking a bold step this year by moving out from under the umbrella of Austin Peay State University, where it was founded, and creating its own identity as a not-for-profit 501c3 organization.
“Our hope is that this will become a stand alone cultural institution within the Clarksville community,” Wolynec said. “If you look around the country at cities our size, there are many cities that are significantly smaller than us that have symphony orchestras that perform as often as we do. It seems that this is the right time. We have the right players in place for us to head off on our own.”
The orchestra is beginning a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds to sustain the ensemble, as well as seeking corporate and community donors. Wolynec said it shouldn’t be a hard sell, given the national notoriety the ensemble has received in the last few years. The orchestra’s debut CD, “Wind Serenades,” was recognized with a producer of the year Grammy nomination in 2010. Fanfare magazine called the group “a top-notch performing ensemble,” and the nationally-recognized American Record Guide praised the “beautiful oboe and clarinet solos” on the “Wind Serenades” CD.
The orchestra’s second CD, “Chamber Orchestras,” was just released in May, and it’s already garnering critical praise. The album will be reviewed in an upcoming issue of Fanfare, and the record label has placed it in four categories for Grammy consideration for this year.
Still, Wolynec and the other Gateway musicians don’t want to take any chances, so they’re presenting their most ambitious season to date.
“The majority of the concerts, people will see an orchestra of about 30 onstage, and we’re planning some bigger concerts,” Wolynec said.
The Aug. 30 concert, “Opening Night,” follows the orchestra’s now famous “three-legged stool” approach to programming, with the performance featuring an established masterwork, an overlooked masterwork and a piece by a contemporary American composer.
The concert will open at the APSU Music/Mass Communication Concert Hall with German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “The Fair Melusine Overture.” The work puts to music a popular children’s tale of a freshwater mermaid.
“Mendelssohn was profoundly influenced by music that came before him – Bach, Haydn, Mozart – but he was also known as a composer of the Romantic Era, which was really fascinated with nature and the realm of fantasy,” Wolynec said.
The second piece on the program will be American Composer Michael Torke’s “Ashe” – one of the series of “color” pieces he wrote in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“It’s a great pairing with Mendelssohn because it sounds like the music of Mendelssohn and the music of Bach sort of met up with some sort of ‘70s or ‘80s dance mix,” Wolynec said. “It even involves a synthesizer part. It makes more sense than it would sound like. It’s constant energy.”
The “Opening Night” concert will close with the orchestra’s first ever performance of a Beethoven Symphony – Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, Op. 60.
“The fourth is a little bit more melodic, but it still has the heroism and drive that Beethoven is known for,” Wolynec said.
The rest of the season will include several innovative new concerts, including a performance of HK Gruber’s “Frankenstein!!” that will be accompanied by a live visual arts display by artists and APSU professors Kel Black and Barry Jones, a “Winter Baroque” classics concert in December at Madison Street United Methodist Church and a two-day performance of works by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.
“This is the most difficult season for us to make happen,” Wolynec said. “We’re leaving the nest, so to speak. Funding for the next year is the most difficult to put together.”
The ensemble is launching a new website on Aug. 20, www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com, which will allow patrons to buy tickets online and also provide information on how to offer financial support to the group. For additional information on the ensemble, check with that website after Aug. 20.