GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 24, 2013

Symphony finds welcoming home in Manchester

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — The Cape Ann Symphony closed its 61st season recently on a high note, having found a continued enthusiastic audience at its new venue at the auditorium of the Manchester Essex Regional High School.

The board of directors will now prepare to embark on the 62nd season in the fall, with both new leadership and plans to continue its concerts in Manchester, where the symphony landed after deteriorating conditions forced the organization from its former home at the former Fuller School building in Gloucester.

Gloucester photographer David Stotzer, who now serves as the board president, said the symphony weathered the major change well, and there is optimism for the years ahead.

For one thing, ticket sales also are going up.

“Every concert we get new people, and we’re developing a Manchester audience,” said Stotzer, who has served on the board for the past seven years. “Plus the orchestra is better than it’s ever been and it remains a jewel of Cape Ann’s cultural community.”

Stotzer said the Manchester community has made the symphony feel very welcome in its new home.

”We are working hard to develop a younger audience base,” he said, “because that is the future of the symphony.”

The symphony remains steadfast in its efforts to bring classical music and the experience of a live symphony to local children.

Pamela Burton, who returned to serve on the symphony board as vice president of marketing, has that goal as a top priority. She moved back to Cape Ann after living several years in California.

In 2009, she led a project that had that very mission in mind. That project was the world premiere of Virginia Lee Burton’s “Katy and the Big Snow” by Gloucester composer Robert Bradshaw, which was commissioned by the symphony as part of its youth outreach initiative. The original musical work was inspired by the long-standing children’s book of the same name, written by the noted Gloucester children’s author, Virginia Lee Burton.

The symphony plans to present again that successful event next January as part of its continuing youth outreach initiative. The program is targeted to fourth- and fifth-graders throughout Cape Ann.

”It was such a wonderful family and multi-generational event,” she said. “Now there’s a new generation of kids in the fourth and fifth grades. First the musicians go into the schools to teach the kids about the instruments and engage them in the music they will hear. For many, it is their introduction to a symphony orchestra. And if you add in a family concert -- it’s the icing on the cake.”

Burton said she reads every thank you that the symphony receives from the students.

One fourth-grader from Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School wrote the following note of thanks to the symphony: “I have never seen a symphony until that day. It was a most wonderful thing I have ever seen. It was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.”

Stotzer said he feels privileged to be in a leadership position with an energetic board.

”The positive energy that has ensued since our move to Manchester is contagious,” he said.

The New board members who joined the organization in 2013 include Jennifer Ober, Kathleen Purdy and Thomas Queeney. They joined the current board members: Thomas Class, Robert Whitmarsh, Jr., Peter Beacham, Henry Betts, Dana Cohen, Frances Conover Fitch, Robert Y. Ellis, William Fonvielle, Jacqueline Gravell and Thomas Mannle.

This season, Mannle takes over the position of vice president of development. Philip Chalmers has assumed the position of treasurer, and former board president John Bjorlie continues as secretary. Ober joins Cohen as co-chairs of the celebrations committee.

Stotzer, a Rotarian for more than 20 years, has a history of community service. He received the Rotary Paul Harris Award for Distinguished Community service in 2008. He also served on the board of the Gloucester Pride Stride Association for the past nine years.

David Benjamin, the longtime business manager, said the move to Manchester was a win-win for everyone — the orchestra, the audience and the Manchester community.

”We’ve seen lots of new faces in the audience and lots of smiles on the faces of our long-time patrons,” said Benjamin. “Plus, the new auditorium at Manchester/Essex is comfortable, clean, accessible and welcoming.”

The musicians, too, are pleased at the new venue.

”The clarity of sound challenges us to play even better,” said Conductor Yoichi Udagawa. “We’re looking forward to next season when we will play some incredibly difficult pieces such as the ‘Symphony Fantastique’ of Berlioz. Our goal is to always raise the level of our performances for our audiences.”

Cape Ann Symphony’s 62nd season opens next September with guest artist Owen Young of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to Berlioz, the concert program also includes music by Dvorak.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.