HISTORY OF THE FALL RIVER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Fall River Orchestral Club was founded in 1925 by a group of fifteen players who wanted the opportunity to play orchestral music. They had all played chamber music but wanted to broaden their scope of performance. This was the foundation laid seventy-five years ago. They set as their reason for existence "to encourage interest in good music and to give players an opportunity to join in orchestral works, and to build up a Fall River Symphony Orchestra, not as an organization for profit, but rather a contribution to the musical life of the community and source of pleasure and musical development to those who are members of it". This policy has endured for all of these years and the present Board of Directors has endorsed it for the future.
Messr. Manuel Santos, a professor of music, on leave from a conservatory in Portugal, Louis Capanacci, on oboist, Bruno Pieroni and Manuel D. Perry, violinists recruited other instrumentalists and presented their first concert on May 11, 1926, with Julio Cardona as conductor. Professor Santos had returned to Portugal prior to this time. Membership over the years has consisted of people from all walks of life. There have been bankers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, school teachers, mill workers, music teachers, engineers, professional musicians, high school and college students and senior citizens.
For the 1926-1927 season, Danilo Schotti, of Providence, conducted the group. In 1927, Hugo Giduz started the season, but could not, for personal reasons continue, so Ray Goff, of Newport, became the conductor, and remained in that position until 1950, a twenty-three stint. It was during the Ray Goff years, 1938, that the name was changed to the Fall River Symphony Orchestra. On his retirement, Edward J. Gahan became the conductor. He was the Secretary/Treasurer of Local 216, American Federation of Musicians in Fall River. He had earned a reputation as a fine trumpeter. After eleven years, 1951-1962 at the helm, he retired. In 1962, Faust D. Fiore was named Music Director/Conductor. After forty years, Mr. Fiore decided to step down in 2002. During the 2002-2003 concert season, four guest conductors led the Symphony until Ms. Ann Danis was selected as the new conductor. In 2004 Ms. Danis was also named Music Director.
The orchestra moved around for rehearsal space and concert hall. The first rehearsals were held in the YMCA, and the concerts were held in the Music Hall on Franklin Street. For the next twenty-seven years, 1927-1954, concerts were held in the Masonic Temple Hall. Over these years rehearsals were held in the Womenís Club, the First Congregational Church, and the Central Congregational Church. Concerts were then moved for some twenty years, 1954-1974, to the Ziskind Auditorium of Temple Beth-El. They then moved to the new Diman Vocational/Technical High School, 1974-1978. When the new Durfee High School was completed in 1978, rehearsal space and the Auditorium for concerts were offered to the orchestra. For several years, 1989 to the present season, the orchestra has rehearsed and given their concerts in the Margaret L. Jackson Arts Center of Bristol Community College.
In 1963, shortly after taking over as conductor of the orchestra, Fiore and several members of the orchestra, including Edwin C. Gardner, Ruth M. Shand, Mrs. Irving W. Bogle, Freeman S. Borden, along with people who had supported the orchestra through the years, got together and discussed the possibility of forming an organization to support the efforts of the orchestra. It was from these meetings that the Greater Fall River Symphony Society, Inc. became a reality. There has been a happy relationship between the Society and orchestra from its inception.
There were times in the past when players of certain instruments couldnít be found and substitute instruments were made, which was not very satisfactory. However, with reorganization, funds have been made available so that a few professional musicians have been hired to round out the instrumentation.
The personnel in the orchestra are divided rather equally in three categories: professional players, good players who have other professions and good non-professionals and students. The orchestra has been successful because it makes no claims to be a professional orchestra. No city the size of Fall River can truly support a professional orchestra. The Greater Fall River Symphony Society and the Fall River Symphony Orchestra are truly a "Community Orchestra", and our audiences are made up of people who enjoy listening to good music, played well. They donít expect to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
One important function, of which both the Society and the orchestra members are proud, is the annual competition for high school students of greater Fall River. Winners of this competition perform with the orchestra on the second program of the concert series. Several, now professional musicians, got their first such experience with the Fall River Symphony Orchestra.