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Posted at 6:05 PM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Beyond the Beltway

By Anne Midgette

In this Sunday's Washington Post, I take a look at the performing arts in Washington's suburbs.

In the suburbs, more -- and better -- performing arts centers, by Anne Midgette.

Washington's small orchestras are striking a key note, by Anne Midgette. [Edited to fix link]

It's striking just how many orchestras there are in the Washington region. There are, to be fair, a lot of small orchestras everywhere (for the purposes of this article, I've defined "small" as being in or below the League of American Orchestra's Group 5 category: orchestras with annual operating budgets of $2 million or less). There are more than 80 such orchestras in California alone; I won't pretend to have made an exhaustive tally of the ones in the Washington region, but there are at least 25 or 30. Jesse Rosen, the president of the League of American Orchestras, pointed out that there are more small orchestras than there are small opera houses or theaters in a comparable budget range. "People just like orchestras," he said. I'd submit that orchestras also offer a more participatory experience than, at least, opera; more people have had enough music lessons to make their way through some symphonic repertory than are able to sing "Don Giovanni" on stage.

I compiled a partial listing of orchestras in the Washington region, which I'll be adding to and annotating over the weekend, partly as a service to anyone who might be interested and partly for my own curiosity. There are way too many small orchestras for the Washington Post to review, and not all of these orchestras should be reviewed regularly; the point isn't to evaluate their quality, the point is that they're there. But it is a useful thing for the community to be reminded of their existence, and of just how many of them there are.

(Note: by "next concert" in the listings below, I mean the next full-length concert of orchestral repertoire; I bypassed a few family and pops concerts in these listings.)

National Philharmonic, founded 1984 as the Montgomery Chamber Orchestra, Piotr Gajewski, music director. Next concert: this weekend, January 8 and 9 at Strathmore (Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with Chee-Yun, Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings).

Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, founded 1957, Christopher Zimmerman, music director. Next concert: January 15 at George Mason University, repeats January 16 at the Hylton Center (Walton violin concerto with Chee-Yun, Dvorak's 9th symphony).

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, soon to be rechristened Symphonica Nova, founded 1954, Kim Allen Kluge, music director. Next concert: February 12 at Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria (Mozart and Rossini arias with Tommy Fallon; Dvorak's 8th symphony).

Arlington Philharmonic, founded 2005 after the 60-year-old Arlington Symphony Orchestra folded, A. Scott Wood, music director. Next concert: May 1 at Washington-Lee High School auditorium (program TBD).

Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, founded 1962, Jose-Luis Novo, music director. Next concert, February 18 and 19 at Maryland Hall (Mendelssohn violin concerto with Elena Urioste, Harbison's "The Most Often Heard Chords," Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess," Mozart's symphony no. 40).

Maryland Symphony Orchestra, founded 1982, Elizabeth Schulze, music director. Next concert: February 12 and 13 at the Historic Maryland Theater, Hagerstown (Ibert's flute concerto with Kim Valerio, Ravel's "Le tombeau de Couperin," Bizet's Symphony No. 1 in C).

Amadeus Orchestra, founded 1981, A. Scott Wood, music director. Next concert: April 10th at St. Francis Church in Great Falls, Va. (Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Debussy's Sacred and Profane Dances, Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in g minor).

Virginia Chamber Orchestra, founded 1971, Emil de Cou, music director. Next concert: April 17 at National Presbyterian Church (commemorating the rededication of the organ there, with William Neil, organist, and Michael Denham, tenor).

Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, founded 1992, Sylvia Alimena, music director. Next concert: March 6 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial, Alexandria (Bruch's violin concerto with Elizabeth Adkins, Haydn's Symphony no. 7, Beethoven's Symphony no. 8).

Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra, founded 2009, Joel Lazar, principal conductor. Next concert: January 22 at Vienna Presbyterian Church, Vienna, Va., and January 23 at St. John's Methodist Church, Springfield, Va. (Neruda's trumpet concerto with Kyle Resnick, Mozart's Serenade no. 10, Elgar's Serenade for Strings).

CounterPoint, founded 2010. Next concert: February 28 at a private residence in McLean, Va. (Ziporyn's "Be-In," Handel's "Gloria" with soprano Esther Heideman, Mendelssohn's string symphony No. 3, Bartok's "Divertimento," tickets available through the group's website).

Loudon Symphony Orchestra, founded 1990, Mark Allen McCoy, music director. Next concert: March 26 at the Virginia Academy in Ashburn, Va., (Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" with Ah Hong, Mahler's 4th symphony).

Columbia Orchestra, founded 1977 as Columbia Chamber Orchestra, Jason Love, music director. Next concert: March 26 at the Jim Rouse Theater, Columbia, Md. (Shostakovich, Brahms, Marquez, Ravel).

Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic, founded 1971 as the Mount Vernon Orchestra, Ulysses S. James, music director. Next concert: February 13 at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, repeats February 20 at Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria, VA (Dvorak piano concerto in g minor with Stephen Bertino, Barber Capricorn Concerto, winners of WMP composition competition).

McLean Orchestra, founded 1971, currently searching for a music director. Next concert: February 12 at Oakcrest School, McLean, Va. (Brahms's Symphony No. 2, Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite).

McLean Symphony, founded 1971, Dingwall Fleary, music director. Next concert: March 19 at the Alden Theater of the McLean Community Center (Dukas's "Sorcerer's Apprentice," Smetana "The Moldau," works by high school composers).

Prince George's Philharmonic, founded 1965, Charles Ellis, music director. Next concert: February 12 at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md. (Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien, Bruch's Romance in F Major, Paganini's Sonata for Grand Viola, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade").

Symphony of the Potomac, founded in the 1970s as the Symphony Orchestra of the JCC, Joel Lazar, music director. Next concert: February 13 at the Cultural Arts Center of Montgomery College in Silver Spring (Nielsen's Overture to Maskarade, Grieg: excerpts from Peer Gynt Suites 1 & 2, Sibelius's Symphony No. 2).

NOVA Manassas Symphony Orchestra, founded as the Nova Manassas Community Orchestra, James Villani, music director. Next concert: March 5 at the Hylton Center (Beethoven's first piano concerto with Donna Baldwin, Virgil Thomson's Acadian Songs and Dances, Grofe's Mississippi Suite, Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite).

Reston Community Orchestra, founded in 1988, Dingwall Fleary, music director. Next concert: Martin Luther King tribute on January 15 at the Reston Community Center.

Edited to correct link and concert information: Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, founded 1976, A. Scott Wood, music director. Next concert: TBD.

Washington Sinfonietta, founded 2006, Joel Lazar, principal conductor. Next concert: February 26 at National City Christian Church (Elgar "Sospiri," Beethoven's 2nd Symphony, Poulenc's Organ Concerto and Mozart's Epistle Sonata for organ and orchestra, both with Charles Miller).


Capital City Symphony, founded in 1967, Victoria Gau, music director. Next concert: March 12 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (Brahms's Tragic Overture, Shostakovich's 5th symphony).

Pan American Symphony Orchestra. Next concert: March 12 at Lisner Auditorium.

Washington Pro Musica, founded in 1981, Philip Momchilovich, conductor.

Trinity Chamber Orchestra, Richard Fazio, music director. Next concert: April 3 at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Washington, DC (Joseph Santo's "Visperas de la Santa Cruz," world premiere).

Avanti - The Orchestra of the Friday Morning Music Club, founded in 1943, Pablo Saelzer, music director. Next concert: March 4 at the Sumner School Museum in Washington, DC (Mozart's piano concerto no. 12 with Wen-Yin Chan, Dvorak's Serenade for Strings).

NIH Community Orchestra, founded in 1996, Dan Walshaw, principal conductor.

NOVA-Annandale Community Orchestra, founded 1994, Christopher Johnston, music director. Next concert: April 19 at the Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Va.

I'll keep adding to this list over the weekend - let me know if there are any that I missed.

By Anne Midgette  | January 7, 2011; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  Washington  
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Next: The Virginia Opera: the sequel


Anne Midgette, what you've done here is truly, truly magnificent. It would be interesting to see what the economic situation of these groups (as a whole) is. As you know, some large and venerable orchestras are often in financial difficulties, but bad economic times don't seem to affect the smaller ensembles, some of which are high caliber. These groups bring wonderful opportunities and experiences to the great talent that's out there - conductors, soloists, composers, organizers - and not only to their audiences. Thank you for writing this. I found it fascinating.

Posted by: pronetoviolins | January 8, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Here are a few more that I think may fit your criteria...

Capital City Symphony

Pan American Symphony Orchestra

Washington Pro Musica

Trinity Chamber Orchestra

Avanti - The Orchestra of the Friday Morning Music Club

NIH Community Orchestra

Montgomery Philharmonic

Posted by: zannieb | January 8, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Piedmont Symphony Orchestra
Fauquier County's Only Semi-Professional Orchestra.

Posted by: laptop1 | January 9, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Great article today! In addition to NOVA Manassas Symphony getting a new home and a bigger audience, Loudoun Symphony's new home at the Virginia Academy has also dramatically increased their audience size.

Your list is a wonderful resource for amateur musicians.

A few years ago I enjoyed playing a couple of concerts with NOVA-Annandale Community Orchestra; it accepts all with no auditions.

Posted by: jwfitz | January 9, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Great article! Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra repertoire for the January 22/23 concerts is--Devienne Bassoon Quartet No. 1, Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet, and Wagner Siegfried Idyll

Posted by: skjrock | January 9, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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