Orchestra prepares for its first concert of month

Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra will be performing its first concert of the month 7:30 p.m. Friday at the First Methodist Church, 707 Sassafras St.

The orchestra will be celebrating its 34th season with its annual “Guess the Composer” concert.

Every February, the “Guess the Composer” concert is a tradition for the musicians and the audience to interact more with each other, said Susan Spafford, temporary general manager of the Erie Chamber Orchestra.

“In the program book we describe the pieces, talk a little about the composer and give the title of the work, but we don’t say who wrote it,” she said.

“Instead, we provide a list of eight to 10 possible composers and we invite the audience to participate by trying to piece together the clues to see if they can guess the composer.”

Spafford is a violinist who resides in New York City.

She is a musician in a few orchestras including Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra and Allentown Symphony Orchestra. Spafford is also vice president and director of “The Music Paradigm,” a personnel manager for the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra and a violin instructor.

Spafford has been with the orchestra since September to keep the musicians going after their late manager and conductor, Bruce Morton Wright, died.

“I stepped in at the time because Bruce’s passing was unexpected and I was friends with his family and daughters,” she said.

“I grew up in Erie and played violin with his oldest daughter, Nina, and played in this orchestra as well. I feel very invested in it, so I want to be able to continue that.”

The Erie Chamber Orchestra is a professional orchestra made up of people who are from Erie or from the surrounding areas.

When Morton created the orchestra 34 years ago, his mission was to make sure live classical orchestra music was available and accessible to everyone, According to Spafford.

“Money, social status, economics and education was never a barrier,” she said.

“If you look at the audiences that Bruce has, he has a diverse group, especially compared to most orchestras. I’m really proud to be a part of that.”

Chris Reiper, teacher at Willabee Arts School and French horn teacher at Mercyhurst College, said he enjoys practicing for “Guess the Composer” concert because there is fascinating music each year.

“It’s a joy to rehearse and work with the other musicians to have the end result is a good performance,” he said.

Reiper has been playing the French horn since 1984 with Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra.

Audience members can expect to hear classical music from all different eras and countries from short works using strings to long works using brass and percussion.

Also, there will two solo performances by Kay Stonefelt and Deven Shah.

Stonefelt has been a musician with Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra for 10 years.

The Ferdonia, N.Y. musician plays the percussion, but is also a college professor of music.

Stonefelt enjoys being a member of the orchestra for many reasons. “I love the selection of music and everyone here feels like family, but are also professional at the same time,” she said.“Being a part of this brings on challenges and a good feeling when it comes to practices and rehearsals.”

Shah is a 10-year-old boy who will be playing a short piano contribute, Spaffod said.

“Deven’s piano teacher and Bruce were friends and he always asked her what hot shot kid she could send his way,” she said.

“He always loved to get children involved. He was big into showing local and regional talent, and helping kids.”

Matthew Kraemer, associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, will be the guest conductor for “Guest the Composer” concert and is currently running as one of the three conductor candidates to replace Wright.

Kraemer rehearses with the musicians three times before a concert and he said being a part of the orchestra is indescribable.

“I have passion for the musicians and I love making music,” he said.

“There’s a very good repetition there and the best thing is that everything we do is free for the public. It paints a big picture and a small picture about understanding and balancing the music that we’re about to perform.”

Even though the concert provides a trivia part, people can come and listen to the music without participating, Spafford said.

“It brings out a few different people who may not come to a regular orchestra concert,” she said.

“I think it’s a little fun for Gannon students since they can put their music and class knowledge to use to see how much they can apply. It is also interesting to people who are into the new technology or have a short attention span.”

Spafford describes the concert as a light–hearted  show. She said it’s not just sitting in one spot for a long period of time being quiet.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking because it’s a change,” she said.

“But it will be an exciting experience, between the concert, guessing the composers and the conductor candidate using some unusual pieces and some well-known loved composers.”

COURTNEY HERZING

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