Symphony Orchestra makes rare visit to the Panhandle

October 01, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - How often can Morgan County residents say the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra came to town?

It did Saturday night and performed romantic masterpieces at the Connie Perry Auditorium in Berkeley Springs High School. It was a sold-out performance.

Pat and Nelson Sparks moved to Berkeley Springs from Frederick, Md., and couldn't believe their luck in getting to see a live symphony performance.

"This is wonderful; this is a treat," Pat Sparks said.

"You could see it was a great success by the turnout and the audience's rapt attention - from bikers to bankers," said Ann Harkins, board president of the Morgan Arts Council, one of the community sponsors.


The orchestra, based at the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va., performed for a reduced rate during its first performance in Morgan County - its only performance in the Eastern Panhandle this year. Proceeds from the ticket sales go to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, said Jeanne Mozier, MAC board member.

"We wanted to make it possible for kids to attend, and we set the ticket price at $20 each," she said.

Community members purchased 65 of the 350 tickets sold so middle and high school kids could attend for free, said Kathy Seager, who organized the event.

"This allows people to contribute for young people to attend the concert," Mozier said.

The students chosen have musical interests and were picked by Seager, choral director at the middle and high schools.

Robbie Mann, 14, plays the violin, and Saturday marked his first live symphony experience.

"It's phantabulous," he said, using the word that his mother, Pam Mann, said is his new favorite.

Colleen Seager, 14, is a ninth-grader at Berkeley Springs High School and plays the flute.

"It's exciting; it's powerful," she said of the symphony performance.

She wants to perform in a marching band when she gets to college, and whatever she decides to do as an adult, Colleen will include music in her life, she said.

Samantha Michael, 14, is an eighth-grade Warm Springs Middle School student. She is a trumpet player and had never seen a live symphony performance.

"I'm so glad we got to come to the concert tonight. Music will be part of my life, too," Samantha said.

"The kids can become inspired and become engaged by going to the symphony and learning about the classics and the composers, and how it relates to life and how it can be expressed in any music. They can be inspired to reach out and learn more," Seager said.

Bill Lands of the Morgan County Forum for Arts, Sciences and Technologies, Seager and Mozier wanted first-time symphony attendees to understand the music, so they included some information about romantic masterpieces and the Romantic Period, based on research, in the program, said Mozier.

"This was written to educate the public," she said.

With the Blenko Glass exhibit opening this weekend, Mozier said, "There is so much art happening in Berkeley Springs, there is a greater proportion of the population engaged in high-quality art this weekend than in Manhattan."

Seager said the orchestra's general manager, Paul Helfrich, told her after the performance that the orchestra would like to come back to Berkeley Springs and perform at the high school again. She said she would need community support and help in planning a future performance.

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