In 1928, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra began as the five-member Gerhart String Ensemble.
As it opens its 80th season, the orchestra bears little resemblance to that original ensemble, with more than 75 musicians and its first female maestra.
Still, when the orchestra takes the stage Sunday at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona, Shirley Pechter will be thinking of those first five musicians and one in particular: her mother, Fannie Abelson, who played the violin.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Shirley Pechter of Altoona attended the Altoona Symphony Orchestra’s first concert 80 years ago.
"I think she would be so happy to know we have such wonderful musicians under a good leadership," said Pechter, 88, who lives in Altoona. "I think it would just thrill her. Her idea in the beginning was, 'Let's put music out front, for everyone.'"
Maestra Teresa Cheung has said previously she intends to do just that, through outreach programs in the community and local schools. Last month, the ASO held a free outdoor concert at Canal Basin Park in Hollidaysburg that drew about 800 people.
ASO has seen an increase in ticket sales over last year, board president Lue Kormanski said.
If you go
What: Altoona Symphony Orchestra's first classical series concert, "Consecration of the House"
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Tickets: $27 and $17; $10 for students. Call 943-2500 or visit www.altoonasymphony.org
Luncheon with the maestra
The public is invited to lunch with maestra Teresa Cheung and guest artist Alexandre Moutouzkine at the Allegro Restaurant, Altoona, at noon today. Cost is $15 per person and reservations are required by 10:30 a.m. Call 943-2500.
"I think it is due to the park concert and outreach," she said. "I also think we've been out in the community a lot more, doing education programs, the Cushion Concerts, that type of thing. ... I was surprised. I thought in this economic environment, we'd have difficulty, but people are excited to see Teresa. She's a big draw for us."
Sunday's concert, which begins at 2:30 p.m., is the first concert of the subscription season - the first of this year's classical series - and is titled "Consecra-tion of the House," after Beethoven's work by the same name.
Guest pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine will perform Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1."
"I love it," Moutouzkine, who's based in New York City, said in a telephone interview. "It's one of the most beloved pieces ever, one of the most famous classical pieces ever."
Looking back at the past 80 years, Pechter said she thinks the symphony's come a long way - and is right about where it should be.
"We've survived all kinds of good times and bad times, and the symphony's still there," she said. "It's the people of Altoona who've supported it. There've been loads of symphonies who've had to close their doors, and we never did."
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.