After a pandemic hiatus that played out for a year, the former Chappaqua Orchestra has a new leader, a new home base, and a new identity.
After public performances were suspended from March 2020 on, the group was anything but inactive during its forced hiatus.
It hired Australian Russell Ger as music director, relocated to Pleasantville from Chappaqua, and rebranded itself Orchestra 914 (O914), underscoring its newfound mission to reach a wider audience, irrespective of location.
Founded in 1958 as the Chappaqua Orchestra, O914 was originally a local affair, with a blend of amateur and professional musicians. Today, all 39 members of the orchestra are professional musicians.
O914 will perform at Ossining Library (Feb. 13, a brass trio), at Paramount Hudson Valley (March 20), and at Chappaqua Performing Arts Center (April 23).
Orchestra 914 Co-Executive Director David Restivo, also a violinist with the group, calls the Paramount an “amazing, historical hall,” noting that Leonard Bernstein performed there.
The orchestra is continuing its Concerto Competition, open to “Juniors” (ages 12 to 17/18) and “Seniors” (ages 18 to 25). It culminates with a Winners Concert at Paramount Hudson Valley on May 21, 2022.
The orchestra’s annual Family Concerts will take place at Tarrytown Music Hall on March 6, 2022 (themed “Music is Science”) and at Chappaqua Performing Arts Center on April 23, 2022. The program spotlights the special needs community playing with the orchestra.
Maestro Russell Ger, who graduated top of his class in 2010 at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, exudes excitement for his new role as Music Director: “The mission of O914 aligns with my personal mission — to present music as accessible, energizing, open. I personally guarantee it!” (He may not be a New York native but he’s already channeling Joe Willie Namath.)
To enhance audience appreciation of the music at performances, Ger will briefly discuss each piece, communicating “the expression, color, and the content that the piece demands.”
Regarding the move to Pleasantville, Restivo says O914 wanted to “find a community that is dedicated to and thriving in the arts. We feel Pleasantville has proven itself as a town committed to cultural organizations, such as Jacob Burns Film Center, ARC Stages, Pleasantville Music Festival and Pleasantville Farmers Market.”
Briarcliff Manor resident Lee Hemphill is a regular contributor to River Journal North.