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New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: 1922 - New Jersey, USA

Follow the history of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (= NJSO) back to 1846 and the Eintracht Choral Society on its historical timeline.

In 1846 the Eintracht Men's Choral Society is founded in Newark. It originally was called the Männergesangverein (Men's Choral Society). Eintracht means harmony in German. Singing societies were very popular among the Germans from about 1846 until 1915. Competitions were conducted among them. In 1872 the Eintracht Orchestra Society joins the Eintracht Men's Choral Society. This is the same year that the Newark Industrial Exhibition opens on August 20, and continues through October 11. It was the first industrial exhibition in the United States displaying only products made in the city. In 1889 the Haydn Orchestra of Orange is founded. In 1914, the Eintracht Men's Choral Society and Orchestra becomes the Newark Symphony Orchestra. In 1917, the Llewellyn Ensemble presents concerts at the home of William B. Dickson in Montclair. In 1920 The Montclair Orchestra is formed and presents concerts at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Montclair.

In 1922, the Llewellyn Ensemble presents a program of chamber music at the Montclair Art Museum on May 15. Philip James, who has charge of music at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Montclair, leads 16 string players in a concert on November 27, at the Montclair Art Museum. The players included members of the Llewellyn Ensemble. This is considered to be the beginning of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. In 1923 the groups that played at the Montclair Art Museum become known as the Montclair Orchestra. About this time the Newark Symphony Orchestra is absorbed by the Haydn Orchestra of Orange. The USA premiere of Gustav Holst's St. Paul's Suite is presented by the Montclair Orchestra. In 1924 wind instruments are added to the Montclair Orchestra. Percy Grainger, the composer, is guest conductor as the orchestra plays one of his compositions. In 1925 the Montclair Orchestra calls itself the Symphony Orchestra of Oranges and Maplewood when it appears in those communities. Midway through the 1926-1927 season the orchestra began calling itself the New Jersey Orchestra to include more communities. At this time it is composed of only of 20 strings. In 1928 the New Jersey Orchestra absorbs the Haydn Orchestra of Orange acquiring brass and percussion instruments. Pablo Casals, the cellist, solos with the New Jersey Orchestra in February. Russell Kingman, an amateur cellist, becomes the first president of the orchestra. He serves until 1936. The New Jersey Orchestra is incorporated. In 1929 Philip James steps down as music director. Rene Pollain replaces him.

In 1936 Charles E. Arnott replaces Russell Kingman as president. In 1937, the orchestra adopts the name the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (= NJSO). In 1939 Rene Pollain, an American citizen, returns to France and is unable to return to the USA because of the outbreak of World War II. Guest conductors fill in for him. In 1940 Rene Pollain dies in France. Dr. Frieder Weissman is named music director. The season is expanded from three to four programs. Each is presented twice.

In 1941 the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra records Russell Kingman's Let Your Light So Shine, and an arrangement of the Adagio of Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto for cello, chorus and orchestra. NJSO also makes a recording with Kingman as soloist of music by Bach. Proceeds went to Bundles for Britain, a WW II relief project. Kingman, a cellist, also served as NJSO president from 1928 to 1936. In 1942, during World War II, the orchestra is composed mainly of women. In 1946 the Griffith Foundation manages the orchestra for a year. In 1947 Dr. Samuel Antek becomes music director and F. Stark Newberry becomes president. Dr. Antek introduces children's "Music is Fun" and Pops concerts. In 1948 the New Jersey Symphony makes it radio debut on Radio Station WNJR with lecture recitals by Dr. Edna McEachem, chairman of the music department at Montclair State College, now University. In 1950 Upsala College Choir is the first musical group to appear with the NJSO. Thereafter many different choral groups are featured.

In 1951 the Friends of the NJSO, a volunteer organization forms to promote the NJSO. Barclay Kingman, son of Russell, is elected president. In 1952 Beverly Sills appears as a soloist at the first outdoor concert of the NJSO on the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Augustus C. Studer of Montclair. W. Osgood Morgan is elected president. In 1953 the first gala ball of the NJSO is arranged by the Friends of the NJSO at the Maplewood Country Club. A New Jersey Symphony Week is observed. Mayors of area communities issue proclamations. In 1954 a Junior Symphony Orchestra is founded. 1955 the NJSO Ensemble makes its debut. In 1956 The New Jersey Summer Music Festival of NJSO is featured at the Papermill Playhouse, Millburn. In 1958 Samuel Antek suffers a heart attack and dies. Matyas Abas is appointed music director. The Samuel Antek Memorial Fund is established to benefit young conductors and later young New Jersey musicians. Percy Rappaport is elected president. In 1960 Matyas Abas leaves NJSO. Guest conductors serve for the next two years.

In 1961 Women's committees are formed to help with fundraising and educational programs. The NJSO is upgraded by the American Symphony Orchestra League from a community orchestra to metropolitan rank placing it among the top 25 orchestras in the nation. In 1962 Kenneth Schermerhorn is named music director. Adam Pinsker is named the first General Manager of the orchestra. A junior orchestra for children in the fifth through ninth grades is founded. In 1964 John W. Kress is selected as the first chairman of the board. A joint commission of NJSO and New Jersey State Tercentenary Commission is formed. The world premiere of Ulysses Kay's Inscriptions from Whitman is held. In 1965 The Mosque Theater becomes the permanent home for NJSO. The building is renamed Newark Symphony Hall. NJSO appears on the new WNJU-TV (Channel 47) from the theater performing music of Sibelius and Richard Strauss. NJSO receives a $650,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for its expanded children's concert programs. Henry Becton becomes president. In 1966 the NJSO features the world premiere of Roger Sessions' Symphony No. 6. It becomes the most important of the compositions given world premieres by NJSO. The New Jersey Symphony Chorus and the Boys Chorus are formed. The Boys Chorus becomes the independent Newark Boys' Chorus. The Garden State Ballet joins the Boys Chorus and NJSO to present The Nutcracker. It becomes an annual event. A Junior Committee is formed to encourage participation and support for NJSO's activities by young couples. The New Jersey State Arts Council is formed and grants $5,000 to NJSO. Adam Pinsker resigns as general manager and George Platt Jr. is named to replace him. In 1967 the first Festival of Music featuring the new New Jersey String Preparatory Orchestra, the New Jersey Junior Symphony Orchestra and the Boys Chorus is featured during the summer. In 1968 Schermerhorn resigns and Henry Lewis becomes the first African-American director of a major symphony orchestra when he is appointed by NJSO. Henry Lewis expands both the summer and winter concert series. He conducts three outdoor concerts in Newark, two on Prince Street near Springfield Avenue, site of the 1967 riot, and one on Untermann Field, adjacent to Chancellor Avenue School in the Weequahic Section (South Ward) of Newark. Volunteer musicians are replaced by professional musicians. NJSO becomes the home orchestra for the new Waterloo Village music festival. The orchestra also appears at the new Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel. In 1969 Henry Lewis expands the concert season to 18 weeks after labor disputes. The number of places the orchestra appears also is expanded. The first annual maintenance fund drive is initiated. Andrew Mellon Foundation gives $100,000 to the orchestra. Governor Richard J. Hughes signs a bill providing $100,000 to NJSO. Tiny Tot concerts for children from three to six years old begin. Dollar concerts are given at Symphony Hall to enlarge the audience. George Platt resigns as general manager and is replaced by Joseph Leavitt In 1970 NJSO debuts at Carnegie Hall, New York City, with Marilyn Horne, wife of Henry Lewis, as the soloist. Family concerts are introduced at Newark Symphony Hall.

In 1971 The orchestra appears at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C. and Wolf Trap Park, Vienna, Va. NJSO participates in the New Jersey Federation of Music Clubs' Young Soloist competition. This grew into the Young Artists Auditions initiated by Henry Lewis in 1975. Alan V. Lowenstein is elected president. Joseph Leavitt resigns as General Manager. Benson Snyder replaces him. In 1972 Luciano Pavarotti makes his American debut with the NJSO at the Garden State Arts Center. NJSO gives three concerts at Carnegie Hall to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Benson Snyder resigns as General Manager. Marilyn Knordle serves as manager. Edward W. Blair is appointed as Executive Director of NJSO, a new position. In 1973 the Women's Committees are renamed The NJSO League and continues to operate. Members are both male and female. A Board of Overseers is appointed. Members are presidents of leading corporations in New Jersey. The board raises funds for NJSO. The New Jersey Legislature appropriates $250,000. Sydney Stevens is elected president and Alan V. Lowenstein chairman. Catherine French serves as General Manager. In 1974 financial restraints causes the orchestra to cut back from 36 to 23 weeks. The NJSO gives its first inaugural concert at the Veterans War Memorial Building in Trenton in conjunction with the inauguration of Brendan T. Byrne as Governor of New Jersey. Edward Blair resigns as Executive Director. Kenneth R. Meine is appointed General Manager. In 1975 Henry Lewis initiates the Young Artist Auditions. In 1976 Henry Lewis leaves the orchestra. Max Rudolf serves as artistic advisor. In 1977 Thomas Michalak is named Music Director. Sydney Stevens is elected chairman and Harold E. Grotta president. In 1978 NJSO debuts on the mobile sound stage at Princeton University. The stage was purchased for the NJSO with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust. Members of the NJSO strike for eight days. In 1979 NJSO revises its performance schedule moving into New Jersey communities with better concert halls and larger audiences. Sites include New Brunswick, Trenton, Red Bank, Cherry Hill, Hackensack, Denville and Atlantic City. Musicians strike for 6 days. Harold E. Grotta becomes chairman and Lowell Broomall president. Kenneth R. Meine resigns as General Manager. John Hyer is appointed Executive Director. 1980-81 season is cancelled because of financial problems. In 1980 a gala Gershwin concert at Newark Symphony Hall becomes the first nationwide Public Broadcasting program. Sarah Vaughan wins an Emmy award for her appearance with the orchestra. Musicians are locked out.

In 1982 Dr. Merton L. Griswold is elected president. The NJSO performs a 14 week schedule. The 60th anniversary is observed with a debut at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. A recording, "Christmas with the Westminster Choir" of the Westminster Choir College, Princeton, (now part of Rider University) is released by the Book-of-the-Month Club Records. In 1983 Thomas Michalak leaves the NJSO, George Manahan, associate conductor, serves as acting conductor for the rest of the season, Guest conductors serve NJSO through 1985. In 1984 NJSO participates in the June Opera Festival of New Jersey. Luciano Pavarotti appears with NJSO at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The concert is telecast live on PBS television. NJSO appears at Carnegie Hall, New York City, for the first time in three years. Dr. Merton L. Griswold is elected chairman and William B. Cater, president. In 1985 Hugh Wolff is appointed music director. Under his direction NJSO presents a series of radio broadcasts on New York, Philadelphia and Trenton Stations. NJSO also plays a series produced by WNYC in New York City. In 1986 Richard W. KixMiller is elected chairman while Robert C. Waggoner is elected president of NJSO. Governor Thomas H. Kean commissions the consulting firm of C.W.Shaver & Company to assess needs of New Jersey's performing arts organizations. Mayor Sharpe James establishes the Mayor's Performing Arts Center Task Force. A holiday party for Newark children is featured at Newark Symphony Hall with the Newark Boys' Chorus. In 1987 Governor Thomas H. Kean announces plans for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The NJSO appears at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Hugh Wolff and receives rave revues. In 1988 Richard W. KixMiller is elected chairman while Robert C. Waggoner is elected president of NJSO. In 1989 Ezra Laderman's Concerto for Double Orchestra and John Harbison's Viola Concerto, commissioned by the NJSO are premiered. The Rodgers and Hart musical, Babes in Arms is recorded by NJSO for New World Records. In 1990 The NJSO debuts at the Adare Festival in Limerick and Dublin, Ireland. The Greater Newark Youth Orchestra is formed with Peter Rubardt, assistant conductor of NJSO, as director.

In 1991 John Hyer resigns as Executive Director, Karen Swanson serves as Acting Executive Director, Dr. Victor Parsonnet is elected chairman of the Board of Trustees, Lawrence Tamburri is appointed Executive Director and Hugh Wolff resigns. The NJSO returns to Limerick for the Adare Festival. Architectural plans for NJPAC are displayed. The State Theatre in New Brunswick is renovated for NJSO. NJSO is endowed by the Donald L. Mulford family for the concertmaster's chair. In 1992 Zdenek Macal is named Artistic Adviser of NJSO. Hansel and Gretel is presented as the children's Christmas show. In 1993 Ott's Water Garden is given its New Jersey premiere. George Frideric Handel's Messiah is presented March 19 to 21. In 1994 a festival of Czech music is presented. Sergiu Comissiona, Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, debuts with the NJSO at Trenton. In 1995 Anthony Newman, a harpsichordist, soloist, composer and organist, is presented in his Organ Concerto, which was commissioned by Robert Waggoner, chairman emeritus. John Tesh, television personality, pianist and vocalist, appears in a Pops concert with NJSO at the Garden State Arts Center. The 100th anniversary of the birth of William Grant Still (1895-1978) is observed with concerts featuring Richard Alston of Maplewood, chairman of the music department at Essex County College and teacher of black music history at Rutgers-Newark. Still was the first African-American to write a symphony and an opera, and to perform with and conduct a major orchestra. He wrote for radio, motion pictures and television. The NJSO presents a memorial concert featuring 20th Century music in honor of Eduardo Mata (1942-1995), conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who was killed in an airplane crash. Montserrat Caballe, a Spanish soprano, appears with the NJSO at Carnegie Hall on the 30th anniversary of her debut. The first Amadeus Festival is conducted at the Richardson Auditorium at PrincetonUniversity. A Salute To The Allies is given at Eastside Park, Paterson, on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. In 1996 Leontyne Price appears in a recital at Newark Symphony Hall presented by the NJSO. In 1997 Music Director Zdenek Macal celebrates the 25th anniversary of his conducting debut in the USA. The NJSO gives its final concert at Newark Symphony Hall. The NJSO participates in the opening gala at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on October 18, 1997. The NJSO's Opening Night Celebration is held on October 21, 1997. The program is taped for a national broadcast on December 31, 1997 and is viewed by over 4,000,000 people nationwide. In 1998 NJSO wins ASCAP award for contemporary programming. NJSO Community Chorus is established and joins NJSO in a performance of Hannibal's African Portraits. In 1999 NJSO presents historic and artistically acclaimed performances of syntheses of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in a winter festival entitled The Symphonic Wagner: An American Tradition. The NJSO returns to the newly renovated War Memorial theater in Trenton with a gala performance featuring mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. In 2000 NJSO performs with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at Liberty State Park on July 6, 2000, as part of New York City's July 4th celebration. The NJSO's performance during the centennial celebrations of the birth of American composer Aaron Copland is broadcast live on National Public Radio. Scott Simon, an NPR on-air broadcaster, narrates Copland's Lincoln Portrait.

In 2001 The NJSO's recording of Dvorák's Requiem and Symphony No. 9 From the New World is honored with a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Classical Recording. In 2002 NJSO presents a World Premiere of Hannibal's work about the life of Medgar Evers entitled God, Mississippi And A Man Called Evers. Zdenek Macal conducts his last concert as the NJSO's Music Director, before being named Music Director Emeritus. In 2003, presented the world premieres of Robert Aldridge's Leda and the Swan, Derek Bermel's Slides (Sound Investment program), and Richard Danielpour's Apparitions. Presented the American Roots Festival in January 2003. In 2004, presented works by various contemporary New Jersey composers, including Jeffrey Cotton's Elegy (NJ premiere), Steve Mackey's Lost and Found (NJ premiere), Frances White's Centre Bridge (dark river) (world premiere), George Walker's Lyric for Strings, and John Harbison's The Most Often Used Chords. Presented the New Jersey premieres of Philip Glass' Violin Concerto and Sergei Assad's Triple Concerto for Two Guitars and Violin. Presented the Dvorák Centenary Festival: Inspiring America in January 2004

Music Directors

Philip James (1922-1929)
Rene Pollain (1929-1939)
Frieder Weissman (1940-1947)
Samuel Antek (1947-1958)
Matyas Abas (1958-1960)
Kenneth Schermerhorn (1962-1968)
Henry Lewis (1968-1976)
Thomas Michalak (1977-1983)
Hugh Wolff (1985-1991)
Zdeněk Mácal (1993-2002)
Neeme Järvi (2005-2009)
Jacques Lacombe (2010-Present)

Source: NJSO Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2006, July 2012 )

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Joseph Flummerfelt


Selection from BWV 248

Links to other Sites

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (Official Website)

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (Wikipedia)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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Last update: Monday, May 29, 2017 15:53