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April 6, 2013

Anderson Symphony Orchestra celebrates 45 years

ANDERSON, Ind. — Nothing less than one of Beethoven’s most famous and important works, “Symphony No. 9,” will serve to mark a milestone for an Anderson cultural treasure this month.

The Anderson Symphony Orchestra celebrates 45 years with a special performance at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, at the York Performance Hall.

The venue marks a “coming home” for the orchestra as it returns to the Anderson University campus to perform.

“This is a very special concert,” said Rick Sowers, Anderson Symphony Orchestra music director.

The ASO was originally launched by leaders at Anderson University, and it was comprised mostly of volunteers. Today, the orchestra boasts professional musicians.

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9,” with the famous “Ode to Joy” in the final movement, makes an apt choice to celebrate the anniversary.

“Being able to do Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ is kind of an extraordinary thing,” said Sowers. “There are some pieces of music that have such incredible staying power.

“It’s kind of a groundbreaking symphony,” said Sowers. That’s because it was the first major work of its kind to which voices were added.

“It’s very difficult to play and difficult for the chorus to sing. ... There are some vocal gymnastics.”

“This will be a classical-sized orchestra,” said Dana Stone, executive director of the ASO. That means there will only be about 50 of the usual full complement of 65-75 musicians on stage. They’ll be accompanied by 70 singers from the Anderson University Chorale as well as members of the AU Men’s Choir, Women’s Chorus, the Anderson Symphonic Choir and alumni.

Soloists, several of whom have performed at the Metropolitan Opera, include soprano Alison Bates, alto Jane Dutton, tenor Thomas Studebaker, and base Cody Medina.

Sowers and Stone are also enthusiastic about the venue. The recently opened 24,000 square-foot York Performance Hall boasts superior sound.

“The acoustics in this new hall are just absolutely amazing,” said Sowers. This will be the first time that the ASO has appeared there.  “It’s a wonderful, wonderful hall, and it will be great to try it out.”

The hall accommodates 250 people in main floor seating, with another 70 in the balcony, and a choral loft that holds 75.

“It’s the type of venue that Beethoven would have composed for,” said Stone.  “There’s going to be a lot of sound. ... We’re really pumped about it.”

James Edwards, president of Anderson University, and David Shade, president of the ASO, will be on hand for the event. They will make opening remarks, and a reception will follow the concert.

Sowers has served as the director and conductor of the Anderson Symphony Orchestra for 23 of its 45 years. He has been a professor of music at Anderson University’s School of Music for 29 years.  In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses, and overseeing the symphony orchestra, he, is the Conductor of the Anderson University Chamber Orchestra, the Anderson University Chorale, the Anderson University Men’s Choir, and the Anderson Symphonic Choir.

This season, the Anderson Symphony Orchestra marks a change as it seeks to expand its audience-reach and tap into local assets to enhance the audience experience. After operating a sister symphony in Noblesville since 2007, this year the two symphonies are being combined.

Although the anniversary event is on the Anderson University campus, the historic Paramount Theatre in Anderson continues to be the ASO’s performance base, its home since 1995.

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