Changes ahead as Saratoga Orchestra opens its sixth season

Posted in Feature, Music

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor

The Saratoga Orchestra showcases the breadth of its talent with the kick-off concert to its sixth season at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 at South Whidbey High School.

This concert also marks the final orchestra appearance for artistic director and conductor Legh Burns.

Under Burns’ visionary leadership, the orchestra (previously called the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra) has developed into an exceptional ensemble of musicians and replacing the maestro will not be easy, said Larry Heidel, the orchestra’s executive director and orchestra trombone player.

Burns who is passionate about developing young talent, can look back at a successful teaching career that includes being a Professor Emeritus of the University of Oklahoma School of Music and former first trumpet with the United States Air Force Band in Washington D.C. where he founded and conducted the Washington Chamber Ensemble.

After the opening concert, this will be the first season for the ensemble without Burns, who has been the music director and conductor of the orchestra since its inception in 2007. Due to health concerns he will step down after laying the foundation for growth and success for the ensemble, Heidel said.

“A two year conductor search will take place,” Heidel said.

“This year we will be accepting applications and narrowing down the field to three or four qualified candidates. The 2013-14 Season will be an audition year for these finalists, each conducting their own concert.  At the conclusion of the season we will choose a new artistic director and conductor,” he added.

However, for the moment, classical music lovers can look forward to a great concert on Sunday, one that showcases Burns’ vision and creativity at its best. The orchestra will perform the overture to Carl Maria von Weber’s “Der Freischütz” – which is widely considered to be the first important German Romantic era opera – and Antonín Leopold Dvořák’s “Symphony #8, Op 88.”

“This concert will have something for everyone,” Burns said.

Soloist Gloria Ferry-Brennan will play Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D” during the Saratoga Orchestra’s kick off concert on Sunday, Nov. 4. (Jim Carroll photo)

“A rousing overture to start things off and a tuneful, dramatic and exhilarating symphony to wind things up. Sandwiched in between will be one of the treasures of the violin repertoire, Beethoven’s ‘Violin Concerto in D.’”

For this special concert the orchestra has set ambitious goals and will showcase local talent, soloist Gloria Ferry-Brennan, performing Beethoven ‘s famous concerto.

“I can’t think of a better way to begin our sensational sixth season,” Burns said.

Following the November concert, the orchestra will engage several guest conductors to take to the podium for the remainder of the season, Heidel said.

The popular sing-along Messiah concert will be presented in both Oak Harbor and in Freeland on Dec. 2.

The “Classically Speaking” concert will be presented on Feb. 4, 2013 and will feature guest conductor Roupen Shakarian of the Skagit Symphony conducting a program of Mozart and Haydn pieces.

Heidel explained that this concert will feature Demarre McGill, the new principal flutist of the Seattle Symphony.

March 15 will be a “Friday Night at the Movies” pops concert with Dr. Paul-Elliott Cobbs of the Everett Philharmonic, and will also feature the South Whidbey High School Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Chris Harshman.

“We are thrilled to be presenting classical guitarist, Michael Partington on May 5 at our annual Intermezzo Gala Concert,” Heidel said. “This concert will be guest conducted by Roger Nelson and will feature the popular guitar work, ‘Concerto de Aranjuez’ among other pieces by our musical guest.”

General admission tickets are $20 for adults and $18 senior/military. Students under 18 are admitted free. A paying adult must accompany children under 14.

Tickets are available at Anchor Books in Clinton, Moonraker Books in Langley, Vino Amore in Freeland, Bayleaf in Coupeville and Oak Harbor, and Click Music in Oak Harbor.

Audiences can purchase ticket online at

For more information, visit the Saratoga Orchestra website.

At top, Legh Burns conducts the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra in 2011.

Michaela Marx Wheatley is a freelance journalist who has worked as a reporter/writer in the U.S. and her native Germany.  She can be reached at

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