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OPRO celebrates 20 years

By Elisabeth Hatch

Staff Intern

This April will mark the 20th anniversary for the Old Post Road Orchestra. The Orchestra will celebrate the special anniversary with a concert series at the end of April featuring Beethoven's Symphony #5.

Other pieces included in the concert will be Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #6," "Light Cavalry Overture," by Franz von Suppe, and "Victory at Sea," by Richard Rogers.

For some, the 20 year celebration is hardly believable. Malita Brown started the group 20 years ago this April, and is still an active member of the group.

"I can't believe 20 years have gone by," Brown says, "Our first rehearsal was April 4, 1986. In the beginning I was doing everything, now I'm doing very little."

When the group was in the beginning stages Brown had hoped the group would become what it has today.

"It's worked out very well, I enjoy playing with the group very much," Brown said. She plays the cello for the orchestra.

Conductor for the Old Post Road Orchestra is Neal Schermerhorn. Schermerhorn is in his ninth season with the orchestra. "The first ingredient in this concert was Beetoven's Symphony #5," Schermerhorn said. "That's something I've been wanting to do for a long time now."

Everything just fell into place after that, Schermerhorn added.

"The Hungarian Dance [#6] we recently did for a kids concert, and I thought it'd be fun to throw that in there," Schermerhorn added. "We try to have something for everyone."

The group has come a long way in 20 years they've grown in size and are more valued in the community, Schermerhorn added.

"Neal [Schermerhorn] is the final say in what we play, he knows what we're capable of," explained Madeline Flanagan, long time member of the orchestra.

Flanagan said the concert will be very spirited and there will certainly be something for everyone to enjoy.

"There will be lots of noise, and sound, and different parts of the orchestra are featured," she explained.

Throughout the year the orchestra has five series of concerts in the surrounding area, including a concert for kids in March where children can try out different instruments, and enjoy the petting zoo provided by the orchestra.

"We've really grown," Flanagan reflected. "We're a full blown orchestra."

Schermerhorn said he is excited to conduct the special upcoming concerts.

"It's going to be a great deal of fun. I love conducting concerts," Schermerhorn said. "There I don't have to tell someone to do this, or do that, there I just create music."

Brown said she plans to stay with the orchestra until she can no longer carry her cello.

"It's not something you retire from, it's something you retire to," Brown said.

The Old Post Road Orchestra will host their 20th anniversary concerts April 28 at the Wilbraham Middle School, and April 29 at Saint Catherine of Sienna Church on Parker Street in Springfield. Both concerts will start at 7:30. Interested concertgoers may call 596-9732 or 566-3854.