With its orchestra and choir, string and wind chamber-music ensembles, a youth orchestra, Broadway series, and world-class guest performers, the Great Falls Symphony is celebrating its 60th season.
The symphony is unique among Montana orchestras since it has a core of nine professional musicians who live in Great Falls, says Grant Harville, the symphony’s music director and conductor.
They make up the Cascade (String) Quartet and Chinook Winds (Quintet), appearing with the orchestra, playing in their ensembles that also travel to smaller communities throughout the state, and teaching students. The rest of 150-members orchestra have “day jobs.”
“It is very rare for an orchestra this size to have core, salaried musicians,” he said. “There are many ways to promote Great Falls, and the Symphony does it with music.” Harville, 38, comes to Great Falls from the Idaho State-Civic Symphony in Pocatello, and along with Hillary Rose Shepard, executive director, and Cynthia Stevens, choir director, replaced long-tenured leaders. Harville followed Gordon Johnson, who wielded the baton for 35 years.
The orchestra plays six regular concerts during a season; the Cascade Quartet and Chinook Winds, three each and collaborate on a fourth; and the Youth Orchestra plays two concerts and has chamber groups. There are nearly 100 members of the Symphonic Choir under the direction of Cynthia Stevens.
The orchestra’s venue is the plush Mansfield Theater in the downtown Civic Center, built during the Depression as a public works relief project. It seats 1,780 on two floors.
In years past the symphony has had guest appearances from luminaries such as cellist YoYo Ma, violinists Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Joshua Bell and flutist James Galway.
Tom Kotynski is the author of, “Discovering the Rocky Mountain Front.” He is a writer, a teacher, and an avid outdoorsman. Toms skill sets were sharpened during 36 years of daily newspaper work (Great Falls Tribune, USA-Today, The Times (a Chicago suburban daily)) and nine years in education as director of GFPS career and technical ed programs, and adjunct professor at UGF (now Providence) and Great Falls College. He taught writing, humanities and philosophy. Now retired, you can find Tom exploring the back country of Montana. His blog outtherewithTom.com hosts an extensive database of Montana adventure information.