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ART BEAT: Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra invites local musicians to perform

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Ritsuko Deguchi Wakabayashi

The Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra is looking forward to a busy winter and spring season, offering audiences and individual musicians the opportunity to both enjoy and perform glorious music.

The opportunities begin very quickly — on Jan. 13. An intimate musical experience featuring Gregory Pritchard, GSO’s director of the chamber and youth orchestra, and the Gwinnett Symphony Chamber Orchestra will be held at the Collins Hill High School auditorium in Suwanee. The program features renowned saxophonist Christopher Creviston and the works of Mozart, Glazunov, Barber and John Williams. And, there is no admission fee. The concert is free to the public. It begins at 7 p.m.

Jumping ahead to May, another unique opportunity is available for area musicians.

In May 1994, the Shorter College Chorale premiered Morten Lauridsen’s exquisite song cycle, “Les Chansons des Roses” at Carnegie Hall in New York City. To honor the 20th anniversary of this event, the GSO, under the direction of Rick A. Smith, will perform this work at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center, and the GSO Chorus is accepting applications for new members to participate. Alumni of Shorter College who participated in the 1994 premiere also will be featured in the chorus for this event.

Another highlight of this very special event will be pianist Ritsuko Deguchi Wakabayashi. Wakabayashi was an accompanist for the Shorter College Chorale during her years at Shorter College and participated in the Carnegie Hall event. On May 6, she will be performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major with the GSO.

Recalling the 1994 event, GSO Chorus Conductor Rick Smith said, “Students of Dr. John H. Ratledge and members of the Shorter Chorale felt a unique closeness to the composer, Morten Lauridsen, even though none of us students had ever met him. Our professor, Dr. John Ratledge, whom we believed to be a choral genius, studied composition with Mr. Lauridsen at University of Southern California and was greatly influenced by his professor. Dr. Ratledge impressed that same immense profundity of being generationally connected to the artist’s creation onto his students. We were changed beings because of it.”

Rehearsals for the chorus begin Jan. 21. Dues are waived for new members joining for the first time, and for those returning, dues are $50 per cycle. Singers should have at least three years of experience in choral singing. All Shorter alumni who have sung “Les Chansons des Roses” may attend the last regular rehearsal and dress rehearsal only although they are welcomed at any regular rehearsal.

In between these two concerts is another, on Feb. 22. The Gwinnett Symphony Youth Orchestra will perform at 6 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Norcross, while the Chamber Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5 in E Minor” and selections from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at 7 p.m. at the same venue.

Opportunities are also available for musicians wishing to be a part of either the GSO or the Gwinnett Symphony Youth Orchestra. New members are accepted by audition only. To apply, visit www.gwinnettsymphony.org/about-us/contact-form-2/.

To purchase tickets for these performances and to learn more about the GSO, visit the website at www.gwinnettsymphony.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.