Mount Vernon Orchestra Preparing for New Season

Mount Vernon Orchestra Preparing for New Season

In a few weeks, Ulysses S. James will take the helm of the Mount Vernon Orchestra for the 17th year in a row.

“They’re wonderful people and good musicians. I’m a very lucky guy,” said James.

He’s looking forward to the 2002-03 season. “Every concert has a special flavor,” said James. “The first concert is all French music because we’re taking a group to Alsace and Provence.”

Featured at the October concerts will be Ernest Chausson’s “Poem for Violin and Orchestra,” with violinist Irina Garkavi; Claude Debussy’s Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, with saxophonist Ed Fraedrich; George Bizet’s “Carmen Suite No. 2”; and Albert Roussel’s Symphony No. 3.

Note that there are changes in the standard schedule. Instead of performing its Mount Vernon concerts at Carl Sandburg Middle School, the orchestra will be at West Potomac High; and due to scheduling conflicts, the December concert will be given first in Mount Vernon and then in Alexandria. While the majority of the Alexandria concerts will continued to be held at Bishop Ireton High School, two of them will be performed at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center.

James said that the December concert will feature the Community Chorus from Northern Virginia Community College. They will join the orchestra for Mark Whitmire’s “Magnificat and Nunc dimmitis” and Franz Shubert’s “Mass in G.” Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 31 will be performed as well.

Terese Arcole used to attend the concerts when she lived in Alexandria. Now that she’s in Washington, D.C., she doesn’t go to as many of them but does get to them when she can.

“The orchestra is very good, considering that they’re not professional musicians,” she said. “The conductor is fabulous. Ul is so committed.”

Janice and Joseph Demko attend the concerts as well. Their son played in the Mount Vernon Youth Orchestra and is now attending the New England Conservatory of Music.

Janice Demko said, “They’re a good community orchestra. What I particularly like is Ul’s choice of music. He always picks things that are interesting, yet not too modern. They’re a very talented group of people.”

The Demkos are season subscribers, and she likes the fact that they can select either of the two locations. She said that they’ve gone to both places, but she likes going to Bishop Ireton because it’s very convenient and comfortable. Another benefit is that there is plenty of parking, and it’s free.

Jerry Andersen has been a subscriber for the past 10 years and said, “It’s a wonderful orchestra. They play different pieces — they play things by composers that I think I won’t like, but I love everything they do. Ul James is not only a wonderful conductor, but he’s one of the most wonderful persons I’ve ever met — he has so much love in his heart and reaches out to everyone. It’s always such a pleasure to hear them [the orchestra].”

IN FEBRUARY, THE ORCHESTRA will begin something that James said it will continue through the years. It will support the winner of the 2002 Northern Virginia Music Teacher’s Association Vocal Competition, soprano Diana Vera. At the June concert, the orchestra will feature the winners of the Women’s Committee of the Arlington Symphony Concerto Competition.

“I’m delighted to do that — it underscores our support of the community. We want to support the community every way we can,” said James.

In April, the orchestra will perform a selection of works from various operas. One of those pieces is Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto, featuring violinist Peter Haase.

The final concert will be held in June and will feature a premiere of a bassoon and piano concerto composed by Haskell Small and performed by bassoonist Arnold Irchai and pianist Haskell Small.

First concert will be held on Oct. 13 at Bishop Ireton High School, 201 Cambridge Road, and again on Oct. 20 at West Potomac High School, 6500 Quander Road. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. For complete concert schedule, call 703-799-8229 or visit the Web site.