OUR OPINION: TSO celebrations 40 years of music

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra begins its 40th season Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. Link Centre concert featuring Croatian-born pianist Martina Filjak, an anniversary milestone for a professional orchestra that defies the survival odds in a city of Tupelo’s size.
The symphony’s history began with the passion of the late Wade Lagrone, a Tupelo attorney and lover of great music. His work and persistence led to the orchestra’s founding in 1971, and its supporters have remained steadfast and enthusiastic for four decades.
Lagrone was innovative in securing the professionals to play in the orchestra, recruiting them from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, and hiring the professionals who lived in Tupelo who were interested in symphonic music.
Each season has featured notable guest artists, many well-known names in instrumental music and others in vocal performance. It has drawn on the impressive talent of area universities’ and colleges’ chorales and concert choirs, and its pops concerts are consistently among each season’s favorites.
The orchestra’s annual performance with the Symphony Chorus has become a July 4 tradition at Tupelo’s civic celebration in Ballard Park.
The orchestra also has contractual arrangements with the Cliburn Foundation and the Cleveland International Piano Competition, with winners performing in Tupelo.
Filjak, a winner of the Cleveland competition, is typical of the caliber of young, rising professionals who perform with the orchestra. She has been favorably reviewed by The New York Times and by many other publications’ music critics. Her concert schedule for 2011-2012 will take her on to Madrid, Torino, Boston, her native Croatia and many other points worldwide.
Steven Byess is the conductor, and he also is Cover Conductor of the Detroit Symphony, Opera Conductor for the Cleveland Institute of Music and California State University-Los Angeles, and conductor at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv.
One of the remarkable accomplishments of the Tupelo Symphony is in holding the price of tickets to an affordable level: Six concerts this season cost $90 – a striking bargain compared to the cost of, for example, a major college football ticket, which is $65 per game, and perhaps higher. It has maintained financial stability when other orchestras have struggled.
Other concerts are scheduled Dec. 10, 2011, and Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 31 and April 21, 2012.
Filjak will perform Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1.
Concert tickets are available online at www.tupelosymphony.com or by calling (662) 842-8433.
We applaud the symphony’s success and its longevity; it enhances the quality of life in our region.

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