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Crozet Community Orchestra Performs Debut Concert

From left: Front Row: Cathy Dalton, Lianne Campbell, Nancy Handley, Michelle Nevarr, Hannah Adam, Ray Varona, Donna Buchanan, Monica Olivarez. Back row: Bob Hoffman, Les Bares, Steve Rosenfield, Jodi Roper, Ann Benner, Allen Hard. Not pictured are Lee Showalter and Maggie Bourgeois. Orchestra organizer Denise Murray is obscured directly behind director Philip Clark in the center.

From left: Front Row: Cathy Dalton, Lianne Campbell, Nancy Handley, Michelle Nevarr, Hannah Adam, Ray Varona, Donna Buchanan, Monica Olivarez. Back row: Bob Hoffman, Les Bares, Steve Rosenfield, Jodi Roper, Ann Benner, Allen Hard. Not pictured are Lee Showalter and Maggie Bourgeois. Orchestra organizer Denise Murray is obscured directly behind director Philip Clark in the center.

The new Crozet Community Orchestra performed its first concert Dec. 10 at Tabor Presbyterian’s Pickford-Chiles Fellowship Hall. Orchestra director Philip Clark of Ivy conducted and also played the violin.

Organizers scurried to add seats as classical music-loving Crozetians turned out to show their support for the 16-member orchestra and in the end there was only standing room at the back. The headcount reached 90. The hall had been set up with tables and water bottles, snack foods and candy had been put out. The orchestra had not expected such a strong turnout, and as Clark explained, the idea was to make the concert a less formal occasion.

“A community orchestra is really terrific people,” he said. “Our goal is to make classical music accessible and less elitist. The only country where classical music is growing is China,” Clark said, “and there people eat at the concerts.”

The evening’s program included works by Handel, Dvorak, Vivaldi and Francis Poulenc.

The orchestra is the creation of Crozet’s Denise Murray, a violinist.

“Philip was the person I had in mind for musical director,” she said later. “He has started orchestras in the area and I participated in one 10 years ago. He’s tremendously talented and has done amazing things in his career. He arranges music for the Latham Music website,” she said, “and he has several books of arrangements.”

Clark plays viola and violin and teaches violin. His orchestras often include his students, Murray said.

“Some people in the Crozet Community Orchestra played in their youth and are coming back to it,” said Murray, who is also in a string ensemble and learned the violin as an adult. She is a former ICU nurse and now does case management for the U.Va. Hospital.

“I found out he was starting an orchestra and I signed up. Then he said he would come to Crozet and start an orchestra.”

An orchestra is not exclusively stringed instruments and Murray said the group is expecting to add wind instruments (they want two flutists) and possibly, eventually, brass instruments if there are enough strings to balance them. “It will be quite a while,” she predicted.

The orchestra is losing a cellist and a violinist. “We would like more strings immediately. There’s always a need. We don’t want to turn any one away. Philip can do the arrangements depending on what the group of musicians is. We want inexperienced players to feel comfortable because they have strong players next to them.

“He said yes in the fall and I emailed all my music contacts. I got a great response. People want to play. I approached Tabor and they said yes. We fit just fine there.” She said the orchestra is grateful to Tabor pastor Jewell-Ann Parton and to Robin McElwee who directs the church’s Crozet Cares outreach program.

Crozet has two ballet schools and great church choirs, so Murray sees the potential for the orchestra to play at more events.

“I do want this to succeed,” she said. “We’re working on getting our nonprofit status.” Every orchestra member pays a fee to play, $94 a year, to pay Clark. A scholarship fund would allow more players to join. The orchestra is accepting donations, but they are not yet tax-deductible.

The orchestra plans to play four concerts a year, essentially one each season, but with a summer break. Their next performance is set for March 11.

“The Crozet community does support local endeavors so it did occur to me that the whole town  might turn out,” Murray said. “The musicians thought the concert was great fun and they were excited so many people came. Everybody says they are coming back. They were surprised by the community support. Philip was happy with the performance and delighted by the turnout. I want people to have fun and provide great music for the community.”

The orchestra practices on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. at the church and will meet again January 21.

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