Despite Financial Woes, Symphony Opens Season With Full House

Holst's “The Planets” Highlights First Concert of 2013-14 Season

Friday, September 27, 2013 - by Andrew Clark

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera (CSO) opened its 2013-14 Masterworks season Thursday, drawing capacity crowds to the historic Tivoli Theater to hear the strains of Copland and Holst.

Chattanooga's CSO, which ceased producing full-scale, staged operas nearly seven years ago, has admittedly floundered financially in recent years.

Indeed, in recent months both the chairman of the board of directors for the organization, Spencer McCallie, and Molly Sasse, the symphony's executive director, have sent letters to longtime subscribers warning of the possibilities of financial catastrophe and ultimate closure.

The expense of renting the Tivoli, a fee that once topped $90,000, coupled with the price tag of paying professional, unionized musicians, has put a strain on the CSO, even after abolishing opera from the organization's curriculum to trim costs.

In addition, the CSO has realized a constriction in normal attendance, forcing the organization to cut its number of Masterworks concerts by half.

On top of this, the non-profit self-governed, fundraising arm of the CSO, the CSO Guild, a group run by volunteer devotees of the CSO, was in recent years disbanded by invitation of the CSO's executive director. Before being disbanded, the CSO Guild conceived, planned and implemented the CSO Gala each spring, an event that at one time netted more than six figures annually for the CSO coffers.

Despite the poor fortune that has befallen the CSO in recent years, an energetic, crowd of nearly 1,600 classical music lovers filled the Tivoli Thursday night in what locals hope will be an upswing year for Chattanooga's Symphony.

Opening with Aaron Copland's “Fanfare for the Common Man” under the baton of conductor and music director Kayoko Dan, the orchestra was strong and seemed comfortable under the executive leadership of new concertmaster, Holly Mulcahy.

According to the CSO's program, “Despite our overexposure to the music (“Fanfare for the Common Man”), on TV and elsewhere in popular culture, its appeal endures.” And, this appeal was evident Thursday night as the large crowd relished every note, while watching a montage of images and video clips on a vast screen which was hung above the Tivoli stage.

Following “Fanfare” was Copland's “Appalachian Spring Suite,” which was also accompanied by images and video clips on the same large screen.”

After intermission, the more-than-ever casually attired symphony-goers returned from the lobby—drinks in hand, as dictated by new city policy—to hear Gustav Holst's “The Planets.” Symphony newcomers applauded after all seven movements, which was a new and enthusiastic addition to the traditional symphony protocol which suggests applause at the end of a selected work.

The same large screen above the orchestra displayed images of the planets as the music swelled: “Mars, the Bringer of War”; “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”; “Mercury, the Winged Messenger”; “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity”; “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age”; “Uranus, the Magician”; and “Neptune, the Mystic.”  

williamandrewclark63@gmail.com


Free Piano Concert By Mary Grace Gellakano Set For Saturday

Set to play piano, Mary Grace Gellakano also will impart a message of perseverance, as the featured artist of Collegedale Seventh-Day Adventist Church's free concert, slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday. The native Filipino, 26, was born with a right forearm ending just below the elbow. But through persistence and dedicated practice, she learned to perform intricate compositions, using ... (click for more)

Auditions Are April 26,27 For Midsummer Night’s Dream

Auditions for the Shakespeare Chattanooga’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, at the Ripple Theater in Brainerd. This show will officially reopen the Ripple space, dark for nearly four years, and kick off the partnership between Shakespeare Chattanooga and Ripple Productions. Performances will be June 20-22 and 27-29 and ... (click for more)

UAW Abruptly Drops Appeal Of Vote At Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant

The United Auto Workers announced Monday morning that it was withdrawing objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding February's vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, effectively terminating the NLRB review process. UAW President Bob King said the decision was made "in the best interests of Volkswagen employees, the automaker, and economic ... (click for more)

Child Playing With Cigarette Lighter Starts $25,000 Mobile Home Fire

A child playing with a cigarette lighter started a mobile home fire on Saturday morning. At 9 a.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire at 6561 Cassie Lane. It took four fire companies about 10 minutes to get the fire under control. The fire was contained to one bedroom. No injuries were reported. Damage to the home is around $25,000. (click for more)

When The City Was Silent - And Response

I don't know how to say this without getting my head handed back to me on a platter as is often the usual case. But at least I no longer receive the hateful (even threatening) emails and insults I became accustomed to. So I'll just bite and say it: I honestly don't see anything expressed by the NSM that hasn't been said locally on some level at one time or another, and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: VW-UAW Fiasco Begins

One pundit who is awaiting the opening volleys of “The Volkswagen Hearings” is calling today’s start of the labor union fiasco at the Hamilton County Courthouse as fascism at its finest. That’s what you call it, he wrote in a fiery way, when the union, the employer and the president of the United States all line up on the same side. “And this push to eviscerate the legal rights ... (click for more)