SPCO kicks off 50th seasonby Karl Gehrke, Minnesota Public Radio
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is kicking off its 50th anniversary season this weekend. The opening concerts are tonight and tomorrow at the Ordway Center.
St. Paul, Minn. — The SPCO held its first concert in November 1959 at the St. Paul Central High School Auditorium. Today, the group is the nation's only full-time professional chamber orchestra.
John Mangum, the SPCO's vice president for artistic planning, says 50 years is an important milestone.
"When you get to 50 years there's just sort of, 'The SPCO is here to stay' about it that you can't deny," said Mangum. "A 10-year anniversary and a 25-year anniversary -- not quite there. But 50 years, you know, that's the real watermark that something has taken hold and put down roots."
Scottish conductor Douglas Boyd is one of the SPCO's five artistic partners, and is leading this week's concerts. Boyd says the group has had its ups and downs over the years, but is now playing better than ever.
"It, mercifully, is a wonderful time to celebrate the orchestra because the orchestra is playing at such a peak. And I think that's being increasingly recognized," said Boyd. "It was recognized at our Carnegie Hall concert earlier in the year. It was recognized on their European tour with Roberto Abbado, where they got stunning reviews everywhere. It's being recognized as a world chamber orchestra."
Highlights of the orchestra's 50th season will be a five-city Scandinavian tour in December and an international chamber music festival in January.
Tonight's opening concerts will feature the debut of the orchestra's anniversary chorus led by Dale Warland.