Corrections or additions?

This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the October 3, 2001

edition

of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

At Patriots Theater, a Salute to the American

Spirit

When an arts organization embarks on its 80th

anniversary

season, it signals quality, continuity, and community support. This

month’s celebratory opening of the Greater Trenton Symphony

Orchestra’s

80th season was altered, but by no means eradicated, by the terrorist

action of September 11. "Salute to the American Spirit" is

the newly-titled, newly-programed concert that will launch the GTSO

season, Saturday, October 6, at 8 p.m., at the aptly named Patriots

Theater of the Trenton War Memorial.

Reaching out to the community that has long supported the symphony,

GTSO’s concert is free to all. Donations will be accepted for the

American Red Cross Liberty Fund. The program originally scheduled

for the celebratory opening concert, featuring piano soloist Marion

Zarzeczna, is re-scheduled for Sunday, March 10, 2002.

"Salute to the American Spirit" will feature Morton Gould’s

"American Salute," Michael Sammes’ "For the Fallen,"

Samuel Barber’s "Adagio for Strings,"Samuel Barber’s

"Adagio

for Strings," Jean Sibelius’ "Finlandia," Antonin Dvorak’s

"Largo" from the "New World Symphony," and Beethoven’s

Overture to "Fidelio." Also John Philip Sousa’s

"Washington

Post March," and Irving Berlin’s "God Bless America."

"There was no question in our minds when this tragedy unfolded

that we had to help," says Carol Kish, president of GTSO.

"Music

has always been recognized as a powerful healer and motivator in times

of trouble. We therefore have changed our opening concert program

to salute the American spirit. We invite everyone to join us in

saluting

our heroes and helping with this important cause."

Founded in 1921, GTSO gave its inaugural performance at the Crescent

Temple Auditorium in March, 1922, with 39 musicians performing under

the baton of founding director Gustav Hagedorn. The state’s oldest

professional orchestra, it is credited with introducing the experience

of live orchestral music to generations of New Jersey audiences

numbering

in the hundreds of thousands. His daughter Elizabeth Hagedorn, will

attend the opening concert.

GTSO has performed with some 20th-century music luminaries that

include

opera singers Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Eleanor Steber,

and Placido Domingo. Pianists Gary Graffman and Ruth Laredo have

appeared

with the group, as has composer and conductor Maurice Durufle.

In 1932, GTSO moved to the newly-opened, 1,800-seat Trenton War

Memorial

where the orchestra performed for the next six decades. Closed for

a five-year period of renovations in 1994, GTSO made its triumphal

return to the War Memorial in December 1998, led by executive director

John Peter Holly, with a series of special preview concerts —

including one for the building industry laborers and their families

— and played a Rededication Concert in March, 1999. In the fall

of that year, GTSO also presented a Gala Opening Concert at Trenton’s

new, 10,000-seat Sovereign Bank Arena.

Fernando Raucci, an Italian conductor appointed to conduct GTSO’s

anniversary season, says the decision to remake the concert came from

the executive committee, and it was one he was enthusiastic to

implement.

He and Holly will share conducting duties during the nine-concert

anniversary season with a Chamber Music series at Trenton’s Trinity

Cathedral beginning November 4. "We consider this a patriot

concert

but it’s not a July 4 concert. The choice of the program is both

patriot

and as a memorial," he says.

An Italian native beginning his fifth year in the U.S.,

Raucci was as shaken as anyone by the terrorist action. "I

personally

think the attack that occurred on September 11 in this country was

an offense to the entire world," he says. "I feel involved

as an Italian, as a European, and as a conductor here in America.

It was an attack against democracy, against the entire world."

Raucci says the concert program is designed to offer a moment to allow

each individual human being see inside themselves and reflect on the

value, and the triumphs, of human life.

"As an artist, I cannot see a world without art. The world would

have no reason to continue without it. All art moves the feelings

of people. Imagine a world without Da Vinci’s `La Giaconda,’ without

Picasso’s innovation, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or the music of

Stravinsky."

Raucci and Holly pooled their ideas for the new program which Raucci

describes as "a mix of patriotic music and reflective music about

the tragedy." Among the program choices, Raucci says that the

"New World Symphony" by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak came

immediately to mind. "The symphony was dedicated to this county,

and as a European composer who came abroad in the last century, the

message it sends to the audience is one of new hope for this country

— to remember the tragedy and also to move on."

Raucci, 33, is a native of Iserna, a city not far from Princeton’s

smaller sister city, Pettoranello, about 60 miles north of Naples.

In 1995 Raucci was invited to represent Pettoranello in a performance

with the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra and hosted GPYO on its

Italian tour the following year. In 1996 he came back to the U.S.,

appearing as a guest conductor with GTSO and also working with Opera

International. He completed his master’s degree in conducting at the

University of Hartford in 1999.

He and Holly never doubted the orchestra’s ability to prepare a

completely

new program at short notice. "We were not worried," says

Raucci,

"because the orchestra is a major professional ensemble and our

program choices come from the standard repertory."

Another programing choice is Samuel Barber’s "Adagio for

Strings,"

well known both here and in Europe, which Raucci believes will also

create a feeling of a moment of reflection for the audience. It was

composed by American composer Barber, a graduate of the Curtis

Institute

in Philadelphia, in 1937, another period of international anxiety.

"The adagio is from a transcription of a quartet for string

orchestra,"

says Raucci. "It’s really calm, intimate music, and absolutely

beautiful." He adds that many may recognize it from its use in

the soundtrack for the movies "Elephant Man" and

"Platoon."

As music director of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra, Raucci

is also helping that group celebrate its 40th anniversary season.

"I’m honored to have important years with both orchestras,"

he says. "I don’t understand why me, but I’m glad about it.

"I feel especially honored, as an Italian and as a European, to

be able to participate in something that is defining human history.

One day I will be able to say, `Yes, I was there, I was conducting,

I was doing my part for the tragedy.’ That is the beauty of the art

of music. We don’t have any borders."

— Nicole Plett

Salute to the American Spirit , Greater Trenton Symphony

Orchestra, Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, Trenton,

609-984-8400.

Website: www.trentonsymphony.org. Donations will be accepted

for the American Red Cross Liberty Fund. For free tickets, which are

required, call or stop by the War Memorial box office. Saturday,

October 6, 8 p.m.


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