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.
This season, the Portland-based Pink Martini orchestra will perform its eclectic mix of classical, jazz, world, and pop music on April 3, 2019. Maestro Harville cautions those who may consider passing on this concert that, “it will be one of the worst decisions of your life.”
The Broadway in Great Falls series features Finding Neverland, Winter Wonderland, Kinky Boots, Harry Potter, and Celtic Women. The symphony season is well underway, kicked off a Mahler Titan Symphony No. 1 followed by a night at the opera, Canzoni d’Amore. Upcoming concerts include the Christmas Concert featuring a matinee performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria, choral work and Christmas pieces; Cascade Quartet violinist Mary Papoulis in a solo of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, a concert featuring Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and the season finale for the 60th anniversary, a commissioned world premiere of Michael Djupstrom’s piece inspired by the Missouri River, and Brahms’ Requiem.
The Youth Orchestra plays concerts on Nov. 17 and March 30 (free) and 31. The Cascade Quartet performances are Dec. 9 and 11, and Feb. 24 and 26. The Chinook Winds play Jan. 13 and 15 and March 24 and 26. The perform together May 19 and 21. The Symphony, Youth Orchestra and Broadway in Great Falls perform at the Civic Center; venues for the string and wind ensembles are First Congregational Church, University of Providence and Masonic Lodge. The Symphony can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information and tickets contact the symphony at: 11 3rd St. N., Liberty Building, PO Box 1078, Great Falls, MT 59403 or by calling (406) 453-4102