Spotlights swept the stage of the Lexington Opera House on Saturday night as the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra played its first selection, the iconic 20th Century Fox Fanfare, which has heralded numerous Oscar-winning movies.
The fanfare was for the Philharmonic itself, which celebrated its 50th anniversary season with a concert presented in the style of a Hollywood awards show.
Snow flecked the red carpet in front of the Lexington Opera House as gowned and tuxedoed patrons entered, many coming from a pre-concert party around the corner at ArtsPlace.
"I was afraid the snow might keep people away, but this place is packed," said Sharon C. Reed, whose longtime involvement with the Philharmonic has included leading the orchestra's board and heading up numerous initiatives. "So many orchestras aren't celebrating 50 years, but we are, and we want to thank the people that brought us this far."
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American orchestras are far from their heyday as many, including Louisville's, have endured financial and labor difficulties. In contrast, Philharmonic officials are pleased not only to be celebrating 50 years in business, but also to be enjoying the fact that more than 1,000 patrons have bought season subscriptions.
In addition, the orchestra was celebrating what by all accounts has been a successful transition from longtime music director George Zack to current director Scott Terrell.
Zack received a spontaneous standing ovation Saturday night when he took the podium for the first time since his retirement in 2008. He conducted music from Schindler's List featuring violin soloist Daniel Mason, who is in his 29th year as the Philharmonic's concertmaster.
Zack directed the Philharmonic for 37 years.
"It was a poignant moment seeing so many friends," he said of standing before the orchestra again at Saturday afternoon's rehearsal.
The movie theme and award-show format was Terrell's idea. After seeing it play out in rehearsal, he said, "It has turned out far better than I ever imagined."
The concert was emceed by WLEX-TV anchor Nicole Pence — who wore a turquoise gown from Miss Priss — Roger Duvall of WEKU-FM and Tom Godell of WUKY-FM.
Film themes were paired with photos and video from the Philharmonic's past, names of key players in its history, and quotes from people like first Philharmonic Guild president Jean Pival, who said, "When we offered the first concert, we had no idea how many people were going to come."
Current Philharmonic board president Gregory Jenkins was co-chairman of the search committee that brought Terrell to Lexington in 2009. At that time, he said, he wasn't thinking about the 50th anniversary, "but now that it's here, it's great to celebrate it with so much momentum for the next 50."