On Thursday, Sept. 17, Tom Hofstetter and Dr. Donald Portnoy’s longtime vision of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra finally became a reality.
“It was the end of a dream, and the beginning of something new,” said Hofstetter.
The USC Aiken Etherredge Center was almost full for the 7:30 p.m. Paremski Plays Tchaikovsky concert, presented by the Aiken Symphony Guild.
The crowd hushed as David Tavernier, president of the organizing committee, and Em Ligon, co-president of Aiken Symphony Guild, came on stage.
After their opening remarks, Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh walked on stage, greeted by an applause, and read the City’s proclamation declaring Thursday to Wednesday Aiken Symphony Orchestra week, and encouraged the community’s support of the new endeavor.
After their exit, the 50-piece professional orchestra stood as concertmaster and first violinist Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian entered. She tuned the orchestra and then nodded to another musician, marking the entrance of Portnoy, the conductor.
The presentation of the colors was followed by the orchestra playing Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which the audience sang.
After intermission, when the orchestra settled back into their positions, Russian pianist and the night’s soloist Natasha Paremski entered in a sequined gown and jeweled headband and took a spot she’s taken frequently since she was 4 – on the piano bench.
The concert concluded with a standing ovation, one so persistent that Portnoy and Paremski left and returned to the stage’s front multiple times.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” Paremski said. “The orchestra was exhilarating, and the audience was very enthusiastic. … I was honored to be a part of it.”
After Paremski went to the lobby and sold and signed some of her CDs, she ascended the stairs to a reception hosted by USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan for Tim Simmons, for whom the concert was dedicated.
Simmons, who was being honored for his efforts in the arts and the Aiken community, was presented with the baton Portnoy used during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a certificate of appreciation.
“I was absolutely delighted,” Hofstetter said of the Aiken Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural concert. “The turnout was spectacular.”
The orchestra will perform at 3 p.m. Oct. 4 for the Aiken Symphony Guild’s Horses and Harmony event at Windswept Farm, 114 Larkspur Road, Wagener, and with the Beijing Guitar Duo at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Etherredge Center, 471 University Parkway.
For more information, visit www.aikensymphonyorchestra.com or www.aikensymphonyguild.org or call 803-648-0364 or 803-641-3305.