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Philharmonic celebrates Black history

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Those who are not familiar with the beautiful, exciting sounds of a symphonic orchestra are in for a treat this month.

The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis will present its 12th annual Gospel Concert on Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Pike Performing Arts Center. Joined by the Symphonic Praise Choir, the orchestra will perform a series of gospel favorites and selections celebrating Black History Month.

“This is a very important tradition for us that features work by great composers and guest performances by Black musicians,” said Robin Andres, managing director of the orchestra. “This concert combines the energy of gospel music with the depth of symphonic orchestrations. The fusion of gospel church sounds with a symphonic background is just simply beautiful.”

Song selections will include “Be Still My Soul” by Jean Sibelius; Ernest Chausson’s “Poeme for Violin & Orchestra;” “Adagio” and “Symphony No. 1” by Johannes Brahms; and Jules Massenet’s “Meditation” from the popular opera “Thais.”

Many of the solos featured in the songs will be performed by special guest violinist Sonya Hayes, who is African American. A native of Indianapolis, Hayes is currently on the faculty of the Middle C Music program in Washington D.C. and has performed in venues around the nation as a guest musician.

She has performed for the National Symphony Orchestra, the University of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Discovery Concert Series, the Norwegian Embassy, the Brazilian Arts and Cultural Institute and various church congregations.

The concert will also feature two African Americans in prominent roles, including Jackson Wiley as director of the orchestra and Reggie Waters as director of the praise choir.

“This is really an enjoyable experience for everyone who is able to arrive before it becomes a full house,” joked Wiley, who has been with the orchestra since 1993. “What we do is take regular church arrangements and place them with classical accompaniments. We always try to play a variety of selections that will appeal to anyone’s tastes.”

The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis was established in 1940 by Herman H. Rinne, owner of the Indiana Music Company and former musician with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Rinne’s orchestra was designed for skilled amateur musicians who loved to play music but had occupations which prevented them from becoming professional orchestra musicians.

The Philharmonic first made a name for itself during World War II by giving benefit performances for service groups and teen organizations.

For nearly 60 years the orchestra has become a popular regional attraction, performing at colleges, community centers, churches, highs schools, hospitals, parks and correctional facilities. It appeared during the first version of the Indy Jazz Fest in 1999 and appeared before thousands at the Indiana Convention Center in 2002 for the international celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Star Wars.” 

In addition to performances, The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis offers numerous activities for the community, most notably Strings and Jazzy Things, a week-long tuition free summer camp for young musicians who play stringed, wind, brass and percussion instruments.

The orchestra also has the Listen & Learn program, which allows guests to have a behind-the-scenes learning experience with conductors and musicians before concerts. Listen & Learn will be offered at 2:30 p.m. before the gospel concert.

“Our musicians really put a lot of hard work into the preparation for these performances,” Andres said. “This upcoming concert will be fun and participants will enjoy the awesome and powerful experience of gospel with a full orchestra and symphonic choir.”

Did you know…

The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis performed its first concert at Manual High School in 1941. It began with 13 members, but quickly grew to over 50. In 61 years, more than 1,200 musicians have played in the diverse orchestra. Three members have served for almost 50 years. “These figures speak for what the Philharmonic has meant to people,” director Robin Andres said. “No musicians are paid; they play for the love of music.”

enjoy the music!

Who: The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis

What: 12th annual Gospel Concert

When: Sunday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m.

Where: Pike Performing Arts Center, 5401 W. 71st St.

Tickets: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for students and kids age 10 and under admitted free.

For more information and tickets, call (317) 229-2367, or visit www.philharmonicindy.org.

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