NEW PORT RICHEY — Last Monday night, inside the First Baptist Church of Elfers, the sounds of violins being tuned and clarinet reeds being changed echoed through the sanctuary as the Richey Community Orchestra geared up for their first rehearsal of the 2013-2014 season.
They started their rehearsal with the familiar strands of “The Raiders March,” commonly known as the Indiana Jones theme song. After a quick run-through, conductor Derek Weston paused to give a few notes before tackling specific sections of the sheet music’s complex refrains.
“I want to break this apart a bit,” Weston told the group, which ranged from teenagers to the oldest, who is 93. “There are a lot of different accompaniments and we’re getting some of them confused. Woodwinds and trombones, from the top!”
Weston stopped them after a few notes.
“Woodwinds, pick your favorite tastebud and use that to articulate,” Weston said. Many in the orchestra laughed, others were so intensely focused on reading their music that they appeared not to have noticed the joke,
With each take, the orchestra improved in confidence and in sound. Weston, satisfied with their progress, ran them through one more song before taking a break.
Weston, one of three conductors for the community orchestra, is also the director of choral studies at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, housed at Gibbs High School. This is is fourth season conducting the group.
“This is a group of musicians who are playing music because they want to play music,” Weston said. “That, in my opinion, is the highest form of musical performance. They love what they do and they create something really special. In a lot of regards, it’s more fulfilling than even working with a professional group.”
Weston considers the orchestra a staple in the Pasco community. He looks forward to the first concert, which he describes as “filled with composers that defined American music and gave American orchestral music its own identity.”
The orchestra first started in 1967 with a trio of musicians By 1963, the group, called the “The Richey Instrumental Ensemble” grew to 24 and and gave performances at local churches. Throughout the 60s the group continued to grow and in 1971 the name was changed to “The Richey Community Orchestra.”
Now, the 50-piece orchestra, with a broad range of ages, experience levels and instruments, will meet every Monday night during the season for a two-hour practice in anticipation of the six shows they’ll be playing. The first show, called “Born In The USA – A Tribute To American Composers,” is scheduled for Nov 17. The show will be at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge and starts at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for open seating. Advance reservations are suggested.
Many of the members, like orchestra excutive director Denise Isaacson, have been involved for decades. Others, like Valerie Austin of Palm Harbor, showed up to the rehearsal for the first time, battling nerves to do what she loves.
“I’m still kind of lost but I’m trying to keep up,” said Austin, who has been playing the violin for two years. “I hope to keep coming back.”
To order tickets by mail, send a check payable to the Richey Community Orchestra for the tickets desired to 6827 Amberjack Lane, Hudson, FL 34667. Tickets may also be purchased by Paypal through the website at www.richeycommunityorchestra.com. To receive a free brochure about the current season’s shows, call Denise Isaacson at (727) 919-3866 or visit t www.richeycommunityorchestra.com.