CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – About five years ago, a group of local musicians met for dinner and wondered why a city the size of Clarksville didn’t have a professional orchestra. That gathering of friends marked the beginning of the Gateway Chamber Orchestra (GCO), and in the years that followed, the ensemble has brought world-class musical performances to the area, recorded two albums and earned considerable Grammy consideration.
The word is now out, with a 300 percent increase in ticket sales so far for the upcoming 2013-14 season, and the orchestra plans to celebrate its fifth anniversary season with an ambitious schedule of concerts in both Clarksville and Nashville.
“We’re very excited about our ‘Get to know the GCO’ campaign this year,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, conductor and GCO music director, said. “We have been featuring individual musicians online and in community events to help people get to know the interesting people and artists that make up our ensemble. After starting the season with a large orchestra, we will deconstruct things a little bit to better familiarize our audience with our string players, and then our wind players. The final program of the subscription series will bring everyone back together in our largest orchestra to date. We’ve been going for five years, and we’re featuring works and/or composers that have been important to our first five years.”
The season begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, with “Grand Openings,” in the Austin Peay State University Mabry Concert Hall. The concert 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 include Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn’s overture to his opera, “La Vera Costanza.” The work is often overlooked because the composer’s operas are rarely performed for modern audiences.
“They don’t translate to huge modern opera houses because they were written for a much more intimate space, not unlike our wonderful concert hall,” Wolynec said. “But I’m always looking for things off the beaten path. I recently discovered a collection of nothing but Haydn overtures, and was really quite taken by this overture to ‘La Vera Costanza.’”
The American piece on the program will be composer Troy Peters’ “Between the Hills Briefly Green” – a work commissioned by the Vermont Symphony that pays tribute to that state. Wolynec, a Vermont-native, spent several mornings this summer in Vermont, reading over the music and making conductor’s notes in the margins.
“It was inspiring to be there with the music,” he said. “The piece is very Copeland-eqsue, where it sort of evokes a sunrise in a slow introduction, which is followed by a fast section based on folk music.”
The evening will also feature a second work by Haydn. The orchestra will open the concert with his Symphony No. 63 in C. The first movement of that piece is a reworking of another Haydn overture.
“Probably no composer has been more important to our growth as an ensemble then Haydn,” Wolynec said. “We’ve done early symphonies, middle symphonies, late symphonies. They’re great for the orchestra, and the audience loves them. So much of orchestral music traces its root to the classical period and the work of Haydn, it just makes us better as an ensemble.”
The evening will conclude with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterwork, Symphony No. 33 in B-flat. That composition is one of the most popular symphonies by Mozart.
“It’s absolutely charming, really beautiful, and so tuneful. Really, really lovely,” Wolynec said.
That concert, like all concerts this season, will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, but the orchestra will travel to Nashville for an encore performance each Monday night at a different venue. Some of the highlights of the upcoming season include clarinetist Mingzhe Wang’s solo in Copeland’s “Clarinet Concerto,” written for jazz great Benny Goodman; a special performance of the work that put the GCO on the international map – Mozart’s “Gran Partita” serenade for winds; and a rousing Beethoven symphony to end the season.
The GCO is also hosting two special events this season – the second annual “Winter Baroque” concert, featuring the Gateway Chamber Choir, in December, and “The Carnival of the Animals – a Family Adventure” in November. “The Carnival of the Animals” concert will again bring together the orchestra and local visual artists Kell Black and Barry Jones. Like last year’s popular “Frankenstein!!” concert, this performance will feature the orchestra playing music while Black and Jones project movie clips, live images and real-time drawings onto a screen.
For more information on the “Grand Openings” concert, the GCO 2013-14 season or to purchase tickets, visit the orchestra’s website, www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com.