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Gainesville's orchestra is a 'go'
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The Gainesville Symphony Orchestra at last year’s July 4th concert at the Brenau Amphitheater. This year’s GSO season kicks off with the annual performance, and continues with a slate of new themes for the performances. - photo by Tom Reed
Patriotic Pops Concert
What: Concert by the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra
When: Gates open at 6 p.m., concert starts at 7:30 p.m. July 3
Where: Brenau University Amphitheater, Prior Street, Gainesville
How much: $30 for preferred seating, $27 for seniors, $20 for general admission and $8 for children 12 and older
More info: Click here

In several different incarnations, the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra has been spreading its love for classical music for the last 30 years.

But its music was starting to fall on tired ears in the past few years, which is why its strongest supporters say it was time for rejuvenation.

The GSO organized several concerts this past season featuring choral ensembles but canceled its final performance, leaving supporters wondering about the classical music group’s future.

After a series of board meetings and changes among its membership, new executive director Candace Monnarie said the organization has one clear message for Hall County: The symphony is here to stay.

“We’re here, we’re alive, and in fact we are stronger than ever but (with) completely new energy,” she said. “We want to regain the trust from those who felt like we were in a sinking ship.”

In the past few months the symphony’s board, along with Monnarie, decided to rebrand and relaunch the nonprofit organization.

“We’ve been labeling our idea — this new branding image — the new face of the symphony,” Monnarie said. “We really have been wanting to do a lot of different things for a long time and just have not been able to get there. Now we are all on the same page and we are all going in the same direction.”

She added that the GSO will be going after a younger segment of the population, dropping ticket prices to $20 for general admission and $8 for children and younger than 6 are free, and will feature new and contemporary concerts.

“We have realized that our cost of tickets have prohibited certain groups to be able to attend. Secondary to that is that we realize that our music selection was very narrow in focus,” said Monnarie, who added there also is a new website. “The first thing that we did on the business side is relaunch and renew our image with a new logo, ‘Go Symphony,’ with the tag line ‘it rocks!’”

The contemporary twist on symphonic music will be adding selection that aren’t classical.

“We are opening our fall concert with a ‘Night at the Movies’ (theme) and we are playing all theme music from various movies — ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘(2001: A) Space Odyssey,’ she said. “The unique factor is this year, something that we have never done before is each one of our concerts will have a visual component.

Animation films and integration of high school musicians will be some of the new features of the GSO productions.

“Our mission is not only to make the Gainesville symphony fun,” said David Kennedy, president of the GSO, “but something that people will enjoy. And I think we are succeeding in that.”

The upcoming season reflects some of the symphony’s most dramatic changes yet, he said.

“We’ve changed a lot in the last four or five years. This is going to be the most visible change. And we’re all very excited about the direction.”

Gregory Pritchard joined the GSO in 2005 and said he is excited about the new focus. He conducts about 75 professional musicians who perform the six concerts each season in Pearce Auditorium on the Brenau University campus.

“This is an opportunity for a lot more people to experience the symphony that maybe haven’t been able to in the past,” Pritchard said. “We do want to tap into new audiences that includes the younger audiences and we are doing some innovative programming.”

Beyond the movie-themed program, Pritchard noted a holiday concert that will features a choral ensemble.

“We also are bringing back the holiday pops concert, and we’re featuring multiple choruses with this one — Gwinnett Choral Guild, multiple children’s choirs,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity where we will focus on younger crowds.”

The next GSO concert will be the Patriotic Pops Concert on July 3 with special guest vocalist Shawn Megorden. The show is an outdoor performance at Brenau University’s amphitheater on Prior Street in Gainesville.

“It’s a really great patriotic pops concert that is outdoors and great for the whole family,” Monnarie said.

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