The Beat Goes On

The Brevard Symphony Orchestra’s full ensemble performs
The Brevard Symphony Orchestra’s full ensemble performs under the direction of Conductor Christopher Confessore. The orchestra performs in Melbourne, but schedules a few shows in Vero Beach. BREVARD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The Brevard Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming season will bring audiences to Vienna, Hoboken, outer space, and — in a 65-year tradition — to their feet

BY KERRY FIRTH

Fifth-graders in Indian River County
Fifth-graders in Indian River County hear the Brevard Symphony Orchestra through its partnership with the Indian River Symphonic Association. INDIAN RIVER SYMPHONIC ASSOCIATION

There is nothing like the sound of 50 to 100 professional musicians playing in perfect harmony. The melodic songs of the strings and the mystical tones of the woodwinds contrast with the resonant brass and powerful percussions, yet their movement and tempos stir emotions from deep within the soul. The Brevard Symphony Orchestra has been performing live symphonic music that leaves the audience breathless for more than 65 years.

It all started in 1954 when accompaniment was needed for a performance of The Mikado, which was being presented by the Northrop Glee Club. Thirteen musicians gathered for the performance and decided to remain together, calling themselves the Brevard Light Concert Orchestra. Concerts were held regularly over the next several years, and a decade later the Brevard Symphony Orchestra (BSO) was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. The BSO grew exponentially over the next 20 years and in 1987 was designated the “orchestra-in-residence” for the new Brevard Performing Arts Center now known as the King Center for the Performing Arts.

Maestro Kypros Markou led the very first performances of the BSO at the King Center and every performance thereafter until the spring of 1994, when he resigned to accept a position at Wayne State University in Detroit. After an extensive search, the BSO announced the appointment of Christopher Confessore as the new music director and principal conductor. Confessore is celebrating a milestone 25 years in his position, as well as holding the position of associate conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

“Confessore is an incredible musician and director,” says BSO executive director David Schillhammer, who joined BSO after serving as executive director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra for 16 years. “His programming acumen is beyond compare, and his artistic leadership is respected and admired throughout the industry. Audiences relate to him when he’s on stage, and the musicians love working with him.”

Fortunately, audiences can look forward to performances directed by Confessore for years to come as his contract was just renewed through the 2023-2024 season — the BSO’s 70th anniversary season.

A Vero Beach performance of A Sinatra Valentine
A Vero Beach performance of A Sinatra Valentine is slated for early February. BREVARD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

This year’s season opens Nov. 16 with a performance of The Planets by Gustav Holst, sure to fill the 2,016-seat facility. The performance is a monumental undertaking, requiring more than 100 performers. Because of the difficulty and number of musicians needed, the show has only been performed once before in BSO’s history. The intergalactic theme requires both musical and technical mastery, and this is a show that musicians love to perform.

“We had the incredible opportunity to play with Duran Duran at the Kennedy Space Center during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and this BSO’s opening night performance will continue with the yearlong salute to space exploration,” explains Schillhammer. During The Planets, the orchestra will also play music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a piece by Mason Bates called Mothership. Both masterfully blend pure musical talent with electronically enhanced scores for an exciting and colorful concert.

Orchestra musicians remain focused on their music
Orchestra musicians remain focused on their music during a performance. BREVARD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The five other concerts this season are Visual Concertos on Jan. 18; A Sinatra Valentine on Feb. 8; Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on Feb. 22; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 Pastoral Symphony on March 14; and Tchaikovsky and Brahms on April 4.

While most of the BSO’s 30 to 50 performances are held at the King Center, they partner with the Indian River Symphonic Association to bring the orchestra to Vero Beach for three public performances and two special shows for Indian River County fifth-graders. “We are so thrilled to have the Brevard Symphony come to our stage at Community Church of Vero,” says Ed Schanaphy, marketing director of Indian River Symphonic Association. “Their performances give our residents the opportunity to hear world-class musicians without ever leaving their county.”

This year, local performances will include pop concert A Sinatra Valentine, starring Michael Andrew — who sounds just like Sinatra and embodies his musical style. The concert will be held a week before Valentine’s Day on Feb. 7. On March 13, the BSO features one of today’s most celebrated flutists, Amy Porter, performing an extraordinary musical tribute to the American Indians who were forced to leave their homes in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to relocate to designated Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Trail of Tears is a stunning and emotional journey. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte are on the program as well. The final concert to be held in Vero Beach features Paul Huang, a young and dynamic violinist playing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D major.

The trombones
The trombones are just one component of the orchestra’s brass section. BREVARD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

“One of our most exciting partnerships with the BSO is the performance we bring to each and every fifth-grader in the county,” Schanaphy says. This year the pop concert A Sinatra Valentine will be performed for the children on Feb. 6, the day before its scheduled public performance. “Exposing children at a young age to classical music opens up a whole new world for them,” he says, adding that two performances are scheduled to accommodate all 1,500 fifth-graders. “This early exposure has actually changed some of those young lives, inspiring them to learn to play an instrument and pursue a career in music.”

Vero Beach residents can also hear the BSO perform locally during the May Pops concert sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Foundation. The outdoor concert will be held at Windsor Polo Club on May 5. This time-honored tradition marks an end to the Vero Beach cultural season and is a truly elegant afternoon.

“The BSO’s commitment to the community is one of the things that inspired me to interview for the executive director’s position,” says Schillhammer. “The first time I saw them on stage they were performing side by side with the Brevard Symphony Youth Orchestra giving budding young musicians a chance to share the stage with professionals. It was mesmerizing.”

The Brevard Symphony Orchestra
The Brevard Symphony Orchestra plays at Community Church in Vero Beach as well as its home theater, the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne. BREVARD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

With so many performances from the Treasure Coast to the Space Coast, there is no reason not to experience the excitement and passion of the Brevard Symphony Orchestra. Visit www.brevardsymphony.com for more information.

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