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ASHEVILLE SYMPHONY MATURES IN 1980s
The Asheville Symphony Orchestra began in Asheville in 1927 under the direction of the famous flutist Lamar Stringfield. He was a former member of the New York Philharmonic and founder of the North Carolina Symphony. Their first performance was a program of classical favorites at the old Plaza Theater.
In August 1981 Robert Hart Baker became the new conductor of the Asheville Symphony. He was the Symphony’s first full-time director and conductor. The selection process started with 115 applicants and, from that group, four finalists came to Asheville to audition. Upon arrival, Baker immediately challenged Symphony members to work with him to produce music that inspired and delighted concert-goers. Frank Lapoto, a member of the orchestra, said the Symphony made “a quantum jump” under Baker’s leadership.
The opening concert of the 1984-85 season illustrated the Symphony’s growth with Mahler’s spectacular Symphony No. 2—“Resurrection.” The massive production filled the stage in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium with an enlarged orchestra of 110 musicians, including two harps, an organ, two sets of tympani, eight trumpets and ten horns. A 180-member chorus and 2 vocal soloists added to the richness of the evening. Tickets were $4-$8.
During the 1980s, the Asheville Symphony sponsored a lecture series and musical programs in schools, as well as a string program in the schools which employed four full-time string teachers.
Baker, an accomplished oboist, wrote in The Arts Journal in 1982, “We hope to contribute to a vital cultural life that will inspire us all to make the most of living in the mountains.”
Post by Phyllis Lang, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member and Moderator of this program.
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