By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
May 19, 2011
MANCHESTER — On Saturday, May 21, when Lewis J. Buckley steps off the stage of the SBM Foundation Auditorium at Manchester Community College, a chapter in the 51-year history of the Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale will come to an end.
With the exception of Jack Heller, who conducted the orchestra for 17 seasons, Buckley is MSOC’s longest serving orchestra conductor. He began leading the orchestra as assistant conductor in 2003-04, and as permanent conductor since 2004-05.
“An Evening with Gershwin” is MSOC’s final concert of the 2010-2011 season.
The legendary George Gershwin died in 1937 at the age of 38, but no other composer had more influence on 20th-century American popular music. The concert program includes “An American in Paris” and orchestral selections from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” There will also be a sampling of the songs he wrote for Broadway and the movies, many with lyrics by his brother Ira Gershwin. Over the years, Buckley has led the orchestra in many of the greatest works of the classical repertoire, and the Pops concerts are an opportunity to present an even wider musical spectrum.
When Buckley played trumpet at the 2006 Pops concert with his own ensemble, the Dixieland All Stars, the audience were practically dancing in their seats. A reprise of the program was the first MSOC Band Shell concert in many years.
For the 2009 Pops concert, “A Night at the Movies,” Buckley used Manchester High School’s newly renovated audiovisual system to show a Laurel and Hardy comedy as the orchestra provided the live music accompaniment, just as in the days of the silent movies.
Buckley will be sharing the podium on Saturday with Chorale Director Kevin Mack. The two directors work closely together, and not only when the chorale and orchestra join forces. One of their most memorable collaborations was the orchestra’s performance of “The Composer is Dead,” a musical mystery story for kids of all ages, with Buckley as conductor and Mack as narrator.
That delightful family concert was just one of Buckley’s efforts to include young people in MSOC’s activities. During his time with MSOC, he directed side-by-side concerts with Manchester High School students and established a tradition of annual Young Artist concerts, in which talented young high school and college age musicians perform as soloists with the orchestra.
Buckley believes this outreach is an essential role for MSOC as a community-based musical group. “Part of the MSOC’s mission statement has to do with reaching out to young people in an educational way” says Buckley. “This isn’t just something we do because it’s a nice thing to do. This is something that we do because it is what this organization is about.”
Buckley’s musical talents and leadership will be difficult to replace, and MSOC plans to use the 2011-12 season to choose his successor.
“An Evening with Gershwin” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Prices are $18; $15 for seniors and students, and free for those under 18. For more information, call 860-645-1151, email MusicSix [at] cox.net, or visit the MSOC on Facebook or at its website: www.msoc.org