Thursday, August 31, 2017
The largest instrumental ensemble in the D’Angelo School of Music at Mercyhurst University, the Mercyhurst Chamber Orchestra, is being reborn this fall as the Mercyhurst Civic Orchestra.
Director Jonathan Moser says the new name reflects the group’s growth in both size and repertoire, as well as its intention to reach out into the community to recruit members.
The civic orchestra provides performing experience for Mercyhurst music majors, but also welcomes other students and faculty from the university, as well as nonprofessional musicians of all ages from the surrounding community.
The Civic Orchestra will perform public concerts in October, December and May, and will accompany the D’Angelo Opera Theatre production of Rigoletto in March.
“Erie’s classical music scene is full of remarkable opportunities for a city this size, but a civic orchestra is the one thing we have been missing for a long time,” says the Rev. Charles McClurg, pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church and a member of the orchestra’s brass section.
“For just about any serious horn player there is a hunger to play with an orchestra and, for me, to play the classical repertoire. The Mercyhurst Civic Orchestra is the first regular opportunity I have had to do that since my school days. In truth it has been sheer joy, along with the occasional terror of a tough passage. “
Beginner cellist Colleen Shah echoes McClurg’s comments. “When Jonathan and Mercyhurst opened their program to avid amateurs, I had hoped I could be part of it,” she says. After a lifetime of sitting in the woodwind section – she was an oboist with the Erie Junior Philharmonic throughout her high school years, and in several community orchestras when she lived near Philadelphia – she turned to cello during the second season of her life.
“Because of Jonathan’s commitment to developing players at every skill level, I am able to participate in the orchestra,” she adds. “It gives voice to my soul, first, of course, with incredible orchestral repertoire; it develops musicianship through a demanding – but supportive – conductor and a hugely encouraging membership; and finally, really does dare to explore the truth, beauty and goodness of classical music.”
High school junior Sadie Anderson, at just 16, has been playing in the Mercyhurst orchestra since 2013 and is its concertmaster. She was drawn to the group while studying violin with former Mercyhurst faculty member Dr. Joseph Kneer and travels regularly to Erie from her home in Jamestown, New York.
“I am thankful that they allow me and others who have no other affiliation with the school to play in the orchestra, as it is a rare and excellent opportunity for musicians of varying levels to play challenging and exciting music," she says. “I've continued to come not only because I have few other orchestral opportunities in this area, but also because I think Mr. Moser is a good conductor to learn from, and I've made several friends there who I enjoy seeing and playing with.”
The Mercyhurst Civic Orchestra rehearses Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Mercyhurst’s Walker Recital Hall. The ensemble is open and requires only seating auditions. There is no charge to participate.