Manchester Symphony and Chorale Begins 60th season Friday

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer

Grace Helmke

The opening concert of Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale’s 2019-20 season on Friday, Nov. 8, celebrates not only the beginning of MSOC’s 60th season, but the start of its first full season with the orchestra’s new music director, Luca Antonucci.

Antonucci will conduct the Manchester Symphony Orchestra in “Postcard from Italy, a musical visit to the Eternal City” via Respighi’s romantic Pines of Rome and will also welcome the audience with a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. at Manchester Community College’s SBM Foundation Auditorium, 60 Bidwell St. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

The program begins with the Weiner Philharmoniker Fanfare. Richard Strauss wrote this festive work in 1924, and it still opens the annual grand ball held as a fundraiser for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Antonucci chose this fanfare to celebrate the opening of MSOC’s 60th season, but it also serves another purpose. Pines of Rome requires a large orchestra, including many brass instruments, but, in some of the other works in this concert, the brass instruments have long passages with little or nothing to play.

A trumpet player himself, Antonucci wanted a piece that gives the brass players their moment to show what they can do. He describes the orchestra’s brass section as “a group that clearly pays close attention to their individual and collective sound; they can play with warm, mellow, rich softness and also can overpower the entire orchestra with brilliance and clarity when it is called for in the music.”

As this concert celebrates MSOC’s 60 years of making music, it also features the musicians of today and tomorrow. Grace Helmke, MSOC’s 2019-20 Young Artist Soloist, will be the flute soloist in Mozart’s Concerto in D major with the orchestra. Helmke is the daughter of two MSOC musicians – John Helmke is a trumpet player and Linda Helmke is an alto in the chorale.

Grace Helmke appeared as a soloist with the orchestra at the age of 10, when she performed Leroy Anderson’s Penny Whistle Song. Since then, she’s performed with the Hartford Symphony, been a member of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra, and is now a member of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra as she continues her musical studies at Boston University.

La Novia de Tola, an engaging and energetic piece inspired by a folk tale from Nicaragua, is the work of another artist with local connections. Its composer, Gilda Lyons, is currently on the faculty of Hartt School of Music.

Tickets can be purchased at the door. Prices are $18; $15 for seniors; and free for youths younger than 18, students of any age, and military personnel. For more information, call 860-646-0047, email: MusicSix(at), or visit the Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale on its Facebook page or at its website: