Philharmonic Maestro Celebrates 30 Years Of Music

The Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 50th season with an exciting line-up of shows and the administrators, board members and musicians are excited to get started.

“Since the very beginning, we have been honored to bring you great musical experiences across our community,” said Artistic Director Daniel Meyer. “Whether it’s through our very popular school-time concerts, this year with music of Tchaikovsky and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, our summer concerts outdoors in Greensburg and Ligonier, our annual collaboration with the Laurel Ballet, our treasured Home for the Holidays concert, or our signature symphonic series, we continue to make our mark as a vital arts voice in Western Pennsylvania.”

Joy Carroll, marketing coordinator for the orchestra, said it founded in 1969 by several area musicians and community leaders who wished to have a good local orchestra perform under the direction of an outstanding conductor.

“Dr. Richard Karp, a noted conductor and later general and music director of the Pittsburgh Opera, was selected,” she said. “Amateur musicians were initially used for the four-concert season at Greensburg Salem High School, but under Dr. Karp’s direction, the orchestra grew each year both in size and professionalism.”

In 1974, the orchestra presented the first of its annual outdoor summer concerts, and in 1975, Mr. Thomas Michalak, then Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, took over, remaining through the 1977-78 season.

The 1978-79 season was marked by a conductor search, with the job going to Mr. Kypros Markou, then Associate Conductor of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony. In his first season (1979-80), the orchestra moved to a new hall (the newly renovated Palace Theatre) and presented five subscription concerts. During his 31-year tenure the quality of performance steadily improved, reaching critical acclaim, said Carroll.

During the 2011-12 season, after a search was held for a new conductor, Maestro Daniel Meyer, Music Director of the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and Asheville Symphony, was appointed Artistic Director.

Each December the orchestra, in conjunction with Laurel Ballet, presents three performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at The Palace Theatre and, annually since 1975 has offered Young People’s Concerts, two one-hour daytime concerts for area elementary school students (now held at Greensburg Salem High School).

Maestro Markou founded the Westmoreland Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1981 and conducted the orchestra in its first years. The WSO Academy of Music was founded by Morrie Brand in 2005, creating more than 12 additional music educational programs for youth and adults.

Endicott Reindl, a percussionist and music enthusiast, was named executive director of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra in 2017, replacing Morrie Brand, who had held the post 17 years.

Brand remains director of the orchestra’s Academy of Music and music director of the youth orchestra.

Reindl is the third person to hold the position. Christel Horner, one of the five founders of the orchestra in 1969, did the job until 2000, when Brand stepped in.

“Our symphony formed purely because of a need and want in the community,” Reindl said. “Over the years, we’ve been able to maintain very strong community roots, which is what has pushed us into the 50th anniversary — just remembering who we are and that our roots have grown from a humble local orchestra to a very successful regional orchestra that pulls in nationally and internationally known artists.”

Reindl added that he believes the orchestra’s outreach has helped them continue their relevancy and consistency throughout.

“Looking into the future, it’s paramount to double down on our community outreach,” he said. “There are a lot of ways that we can continue to integrate into the community among a diverse group of organizations so that we can get musicians out there and playing. We want to make our events meaningful and not just another musical experience.”

Opening night on Oct. 13, brings young piano virtuoso Maxim Lando to perform Grieg, fresh on the heels of his historic debut playing in duet with Lang Lang.

“Home for the Holidays” is slated for Dec. 15, and on Feb. 16, the symphony brings the bright, joyous music of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony alongside the virtuoso violinist Chee-Yun playing Tchaikovsky.

March 16 brings Israeli cellist Amit Peled to the area to perform Haydn, and the orchestra will offer the music of Schubert and Falla.

April 27 will be a gala performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana.

“We have invited the WSO Chamber Singers, an expanded chorus, and soloists from the Pittsburgh Opera to participate in this visceral and exciting performance,” said Meyer.

The orchestra’s season ends on May 11 with a special tribute concert to the music of the great American film composer John Williams, including favorites from Harry Potter, E.T., and Star Wars.

“This season we’re also going to bring back one of our signature events, the spring rhapsody, at one of the private country clubs in Ligonier, and on Oct. 5 we were looking at doing an event in Latrobe showcasing the Lincoln Highway,” Reindl said. “We want to help expose all of the different gems and resources that we have here. There are a lot of fantastic things to do in the region, so why not take advantage of it?”

“We hope that this marks the beginning of another fifty wonderful years of bringing classical music to Greensburg and Westmoreland County,” said Meyer. “I am honored to take the podium on this historic season with the WSO. Together we are reaching more and more people who are passionate about great music.”

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at The Palace Theatre located at 21. W. Otterman St. Greensburg. For tickets call 724-837-1850.

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