Wow! Some things only get better with over time. Organizers and planners of the 60th gala season of the Symphony of Southeast Texas (SOST) believe that the remarkable music that has been delivered by this outstanding group of citizens, friends, relatives, and perhaps coworkers provide some of the choicest memories of the now six decades in Southeast Texas rich history.
And it continues with this year’s entertaining performances. The Symphony of Southeast Texas is kicking off its 60th season at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Julie Rogers Theatre with “Simple Gifts from the Symphony of Southeast Texas,” a concert filled with celebration and recognition of the milestone year for the orchestra.
The inaugural performance of the Beaumont Symphony Orchestra took place on May 12, 1953, under the direction of Jay Dietzer, and the music continues to this day. Dietzer recruited musicians from all walks of life to form the symphony. A quote from a local news source on the day following the premiere concert in 1953 said, “The event represents a milestone in Beaumont’s civic progress whose value cannot be overestimated.”
Actually, the desire to have a symphony orchestra in Beaumont was evidenced long before it came to fruition. The Beaumont Music Commission, at its founding in 1923, stated as one of its objectives, to create and support a local symphony orchestra. In 1950, following a performance in Beaumont by the Houston Symphony, it was determined that Beaumont indeed wanted and needed its own orchestra. The Beaumont Symphony Society organized that year and worked diligently to gain supporters. They began by sponsoring performances by other out-of-town symphonies, which worked to further spark interest.
In 1992, the orchestra changed its formal name to the Symphony of Southeast Texas in order to serve the entire region. One of the keys to the rich success of the symphony throughout the years has been the unfailing support of the Symphony League of Beaumont, originally organized in 1955.
“Sixty years of continuous music is unique,” said SOST Music Director Chelsea Tipton. “So many orchestras have breaks throughout time, and so many communities don’t even have orchestras any longer. The quality of music we are able to generate here is fantastic. It is a high level, not just for a town the size of Beaumont, but for any community.”
“To still have a symphony after 60 years is impressive,” said SOST Board of Directors President Melanie Dishman. “It shows that they are worthy of support into the future.”
SOST Executive Director Craig Escamilla said that the organization has much more forward growth still going. “Sixty years is definitely a milestone, and we want to savor the moment and share it with the community,” he said, “but we are still going strong into the future. Every concert is a new opportunity to build on that.”
The first event is Master Series 1 and will include “Fanfare and Celebration,” piece composed by SOST Principal Timpanist Gary Parks especially for this milestone occasion. Also on the program is Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” perhaps better known for the theme “Simple Gifts,” based on a Shaker melody of the same name. The music has a very American feel that Tipton said fits this region well and demonstrates the gift that the symphony has been to the community over the years.
The audience will be taken back to that inaugural concert of May 12, 1953, as the orchestra performs Rimsky Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol,” which the Beaumont Symphony Orchestra performed that historic evening. Based on Spanish melodies seen through the eyes of one of Russia’s most important composers in 1887, the piece features the orchestra prominently and has a grand, celebratory feel.
Closing out the premiere concert of the 60th season will be Arturo Marquez’s “Danzon No. 2,” a popular, significant piece from the Mexican composer.
“One notable point about this concert is that there is not a featured soloist,” Tipton said. “The ‘soloist’ is the entire orchestra, and we want to showcase their great talent in this momentous performance.”
Maestro Tipton also invites all guests to arrive early at 6:30 p.m. for a pre-concert talk. The performance will then begin at 7:30 p.m. Single ticket prices range from $15 to $36; senior, student and group discounts are available.
This concert is sponsored by Rosine McFaddin Wilson.
An added “sparkling” attraction for the four Master Series concerts during this milestone season includes a diamond jewelry piece give away. A representative will draw one ticket from the subs submitted upon entrance to the theatre on concert night. The winning concert-goer holding that ticket will be presented with a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry. The winner must be present to claim the wonderful prize. The jewelry for Sept. 15 is generously donated by Nederland Jewelers.
The Master Series 2 concert on Nov. 3 continues to build the ability of the orchestra with “A Taste of Italy,” featuring musical selection with Italian elements, but not necessarily by Italian composers. Pieces featured in the concert include Puccini’s “I Crisantemi,” Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante E-flat major” featuring SOST soloists Whitney Bullock on viola and Matt Detrick on violin, and Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4,” also known as the Italian Symphony.
Sunday, Dec. 16, the symphony celebrates the festivity of the holiday season with “Home for the Holidays,” featuring such popular works as “White Christmas,” “Carol of the Bells,” “The Hallelujah Chorus,” “Sleigh Ride” and a holiday sing-a-long. Guests will enjoy these popular and recognizable Christmas songs performed in grand style by the orchestra.
This concert is a great way to start a tradition for families. Tickets to the holiday concert are $20 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.
For the annual Pops Concert on Jan. 19, 2013, Tipton invites the community to “come get their sway on” with the Symphony and the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Choir at “A Gospel Celebration.” Selections include: “ride on, King Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “Hallelujah!” and more.
Feb. 23, 2013, the Master Series 3 concert will be the trifecta of perfection with “Three Score and More!” As the Symphony celebrates its three score anniversary, they will perform three scores of music including Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 1,” and the Beethoven “Triple Concerto,” which features three soloists. The concert will be a treat for guests because it’s not often performed by a full orchestra, and it’s not often performed because of the highly demanding aspect of having three soloists. The piece will feature guest soloists Frank Huang on violin, Brinton Averil Smith on cello and Jon Kimura Parker on piano, who all perform together in the Houston Symphony and at Rice University.
Closing out the season April 6, 2013, will be the Master Series 4 concert “Symphonic Story Celebration,” featuring pieces that tell a story. Music selections include Richard Strauss’ “Don Juan,” and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” which will include soprano soloist Jeanine Thames, who also performed in this capacity at the SOST 50th Season Finale. The Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus and the Southeast Texas Children’s Chorus will also contribute to this magnificent finale to the big 60th season. The events promise “to be good to the very last note.”
All performances begin at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the holiday concert Dec. 16, which begins at 3 p.m. Now is the time to purchase season tickets, with prices ranging from $67 to $133. For additional information, go to www.sost.org,or  contact the Symphony office at (409) 892-2257.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.