Sheldon Bair, Founder and Music Director

2010-11 Season

Of Eastern Europe

Saturday, October 16, 2010  at 7:30PM; Bel Air High School

Beethoven – Creatures of Prometheus Overture
Bartok – Viola concerto
Amanda Harberg – Elegy for Viola and String Orchestra;Viola: Sheridan Kamaberger Currie
Shostakovich – Ballet Suite No. 1 (selections)
Tchaikovsky – Overture 1812

The SSO kicked off its 34th Season with an unforgettable concert on Saturday, October 16th. Keeping with tradition, the orchestra opened the season with The Star Spangle Banner and followed it immediately with Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture and Bartok’s Viola Concerto.

The guest soloist and principal violist of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Sheridan Kamberger Currie, provided a flawless demonstration of viola dexterity as she guided the audience through Bartok’s final composition. Her ability to interpret and give life to Bartok’s musical ideas truly connected with the audience, as many patrons remarked on her performance and abilities during intermission and after the concert.

Tank Wrenches

After the conclusion of the short intermission, the orchestra and audience had some fun as members of the Board of Directors auctioned off the “right” to become an honorary member of the SSO and play the Tank Wrenches during the 1812 Overture. The Tank Wrenches, provided courtesy of the Aberdeen Test Center, were “non-standard” replacements for the church bells that Tchaikovsky employed in his Overture 1812. When struck with a hammer, these “Wrenches on Steroids” produced a tone indistinguishable from church bells. After several rounds of spirited bidding, Laurel P. Holthause placed the winning bid of $400. For this, Ms. Holthause received a lesson in Tank Wrench playing by principal percussionist, Mary Eilerman, and had her 16 minutes of fame as an honorary SSO tank wrench player.

The second half of the concert opened with Elegy for Viola and String Orchestra, by Amanda Harberg, with Sheridan Kamberger Currie again as the viola soloist. Earlier in the evening, as part of the Metlife Meet the Composer program, Harberg provided patrons with a preconcert lecture where she discussed her motivations for the composition and answered questions about the work. As the orchestra began this solemn and moving piece, Kamberger Currie again performed brilliantly as she transposed Amanda Harberg’s thoughts and reflections on the death of her dear friend into a physical reality. At the conclusion of Harberg’s well received piece, the auditorium was completely silent as the audience absorbed the meaning and strength of Harberg’s work.

1812 Overture Finale

The next works, by contrast, were three selections from Shostakovich’s Ballet Suite No.1, which celebrated dance and motion and lots of brass. The Waltz, Polka, and Gallup, each progressively faster and more detailed set the stage for the finale work, Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812. Always a crowd pleaser, Maestro Bair guide the orchestra through the siege of Moscow and the retreat of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. As the cannon fired, the tank wrenches rang (courtesy of Ms. Holthause) and the orchestra sounded their final notes, streamers were fired overhead while the audience sprang to their feet for a prolonged standing ovation.


Christmas Holiday Concert

Saturday, December 4, 2010  at 7:30PM; Bel Air High School

Theldon Myers – People Look East
Haydn – Trumpet Concerto; Trumpet: Kevin Businsky
Raymond Scott, arr. Herfurth – the Toy Trumpet; Trumpet: Kevin Businsky
Rimsky-Korsakov  – The Snow Maiden: Suite
Holcombe  –  ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
arr. Chase  – Christmas Memories
arr. Bair  –  A Christmas Sing Along

The SSO presented its 34th annual Christmas Concert, Of Holiday Brass and Christmas Bon-Bons this evening at the magnificent Bel Air High School Auditorium. Always a winter treat, the concert opened with The People Look East, a work by Harford County’s own Theldon Myers, SSO Composer-in-Residence. This well received piece, which set the holiday tone for the concert, was immediately followed by Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with Harford County native and C. Milton Wright graduate Kevin Businsky flawlessly performing the lyrical trumpet passages of the concerto. As a special treat to the audience, and much to the audience’s delight, Maestro Bair followed the Haydn piece with Scott’s The Toy Trumpet. Businsky, a fellow with the New World Symphony, accepted the audience’s standing appreciation.

Just prior to the concert, Monika Vasey, harpist for the SSO, presented a most informative lecture on research and advancements for musicians with disabilities. During her talk, she provided numerous examples of musicians with disabilities who were either able to continue to perform or overcame barriers to learn and master their chosen instruments.

The second half of the concert opened with Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden: Suite. This light hearted and rhythmic piece evoked the images of winter and concluded with the ever popular (and very fast) Dance of the Buffoons.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Next, Bruce Burns took the stage surrounded by children from the audience as the orchestra played Holcombe’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. With the fireplace nearby, Burns conjured up visions of sugarplums and reindeer as he described Santa’s evening visit while the orchestra provided the necessary sound effects to bring the poem to life. The orchestra immediately followed with Chas’s Christmas Memories, an arrangement of secular Christmas tunes. As the orchestra guided the audience through such favorites as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, it was clear that Maestro Bair was building audience enthusiasm toward the Christmas Sing-Along.

Sing Along

This year, in a lecture funded in part through the Meet The Composer’s MetLife Creative Connections program, Maestro Bair discussed how he arranged the Christmas Sing-Along, the reason he chose the songs that he did, and lead the orchestra in providing audio examples of how the music was enhanced by the addition of instruments and counter melodies. At the conclusion of his talk, the house lights came up and the sing-along commenced, with Maestro Bair leading the vocals and the orchestra.

As the audience sang out the last strains of Christmas Sing-Along, the orchestra immediately moved into its annual rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and Santa himself appeared accompanied by four elves. As Santa greeted the audience, Maestro Bair put the orchestra on auto-pilot while he played percussion and principle percussionist, actress and comedian Mary Eilerman entertained the orchestra with her dilemma in choosing the correct slapstick to play the whip snap at the end of the piece. As Sleigh Ride concluded, the audience was on its feet much to the appreciation of the orchestra members and Maestro Bair.


Dvorak’s 8th

Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7:30PM; Bel Air High School

Smetana – Polka from  “The Bartered Bride”; Conductor: Brian Folus
David Finko – Piccolo Concerto; Piccolo: Doris Reinhardt
Dvorak – Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

The rafters were shaking again as the SSO presented its third concert of the season at the magnificent Bel Air High School Auditorium! After Concertmaster Wendy Bohdel tuned the orchestra, guest conductor and principle bassist Brian Folus took the stage and launched Smetana’s Polka from The Bartered Bride. “Launched”, it turns out, is an apt descriptor for this well known work, as Brian accelerated the orchestra from a moderate paced introduction to near light speed at The Bride’s conclusion.

After a warm reception of the opening selection, SSO Music Director and Conductor Sheldon Bair took the stage as the orchestra reconfigured itself to play David Finko’s Piccolo Concerto. Maestro Bair, known for his eclectic change-ups of musical styles, provided the audience with some interpretive remarks concerning this modern work and introduced the SSO’s own Principle Flutist Doris Reinhardt as the Piccolo soloist. Just prior to the concert, Maestro Bair presented a lecture on Finko’s work and his contributions to the musical repertoire for the piccolo. Finko, a long time friend of the SSO, was originally scheduled to present the lecture, but unfortunately was unable to attend.

Doris Reinhardt

As the three-movement work began, Doris Reinhardt clearly demonstrated why she is the principle flutist for the orchestra. Her range and interpretation of the work did full justice to the intent of the composer and her warm presence on the stage drew in the audience as the work progressed to its resounding climax. At the conclusion of the concerto, the efforts of Reinhardt and the orchestra were again warmly received by the audience and in fine Harford County tradition, Doris was presented with a bountiful bouquet.

The second half of the concert was devoted entirely to Dvorak’s 8th symphony. Under the baton of Maestro Bair, the SSO presented the full four movements of this lyrical and melodious master work. Beginning with the cello section in the first movement, the work progressed briskly, recalling old and introducing new melodies as it moved forward. Maestro Bair flawlessly interpreted Dvorak’s genius and wit as the melody moved from section to section and the music swelled and diminished. Too quickly it seemed for this enchanting music did the fourth movement reached its culminating point. As the final notes were sounded, the audience’s standing and enthusiastic response was certainly appreciated by the orchestra members and by Maestro Bair.

Cellos Dvorak

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Free Benefit Chamber Concert

Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 3:00PM; St. Matthew Lutheran Church

The Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra held its annual chamber music concert this year for the benefit of the Judith Lloyd-Famous Scholarship fund on Sunday, April 10, 2011. This annual concert, again hosted by Saint Matthew Lutheran Church of Bel Air, saw an eclectic mix of music beginning with Schubert’s Octet in F major. The SSO Steel Drum Band, dressed appropriately in Hawaiian Shirts and accompanied by Maestro Bair on the drums, turned up the volume and excitement level while performing selected pieces including local composer Tim Reinhardt’s Orangutan’s Day Off as the concluding performance.

In between Schubert and Reinhardt, the audience was treated to strings, brass, woodwinds and ensembles of all these instruments, as popular and classical music was preformed. Of special note was an arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by Harford Community College professor and composer Benny Russell and the performance of For Judi, an arrangement for cellos of Amazing Grace and It Is Well With My Soul by SSO arranger and trombonist Donald Raff. For Judi was arranged by Raff in memory of his friend and colleague Judi Lloyd-Famous as a tribute to her life and accomplishments as a music educator and musician.

Immediately before the concert, the Fiddlers of the SSO held the first session of “Fiddling with the SSO”. Three intrepid audience members, all with no fiddle experience, were provided with fiddles, bows and instruction as they were introduced to fiddling. At the conclusion of the session, all three were keeping time with Bile Em Cabbage Down as they coaxed out their first fiddle performance.


From France and America (Side-by-side Concert)

Saturday, May 21, 2011  at 7:30PM; Bel Air High School

Debussy – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Raymond Horton – Make Gentle the Life of this World
William Grant Still / arr. Bair – Here’s One: A Still Medley
Debussy / arr. Anderson-Himmelspach – The Sunken Cathedral
Bizet  – Carmen Suite No. 1; conductor: Brian Folus
Berlioz  –  Hungarian March from  “The Damnation of Faust”

From France and America was a resounding success for the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra, garnering four standing ovations in the acoustically near perfect Bel Air High School Auditorium.

As Maestro Bair opened the concert, he spoke briefly with the audience to set the stage for the first work. He said he loved the impressionistic feeling imparted by Debussy in his highly regarded Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, but he” was afraid of him” because of the exacting technical demands of the piece. As it turned out, the orchestra was well prepared for Debussy’s challenge. From the opening solo, which was so well performed by Doris Reinhardt, to the intricate rhythms played by the woodwinds and strings, Maestro Bair and the orchestra did full justice to “Faun”, as they painted a rich and meditative tonal scene. At the conclusion of the work a brief silence ensued, almost as if the spell cast by Debussy had been broken, before the audience broke into vigorous applause.

Horton Bair

At the beginning of the second work, the composer of Make Gentle the Life of This World, Ray Horton, provided the setting and background for this inspirational and moving work. Horton’s composition is a superb orchestral accompaniment to a recording of an impromptu speech delivered by Robert Kennedy in Indianapolis April 4, 1968, the day that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Horton clearly demonstrated his ability to wrap the historic words of Robert Kennedy in subtle, yet emphasizing music, so much so that the music and speech together seemed to flow naturally. There was no hint of forced or overly ornamental music. The piece simply flowed with the words and rhythms of Kennedy as he spoke that historic night. As Robert Kennedy concluded his heart felt remarks, guest Soprano Sabrina Clark began to sing a spiritual, linking together the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy, who would also be assassinated two months later to the day. The effect of Kennedy’s words and Horton’s music on the audience was nothing less than astounding. It was as if we were somehow transported back to 1968 to witness those awful events first hand. As the music faded away the audience immediately arose, freely giving both their respect to the fallen men and their accolades to Horton and the orchestra.

Sabrina Clark

The third work, an arrangement of William Grant Still by Maestro Bair entitled Here’s One: A Still Medley, began with the rich melody of Still’s Here’s One, seamlessly transitioned to Bambelele e Espin Garda, All That I Am and then returning to Here’s One. At the reprise of Here’s One, the orchestra was again joined by Sabrina Clark as she sang the haunting words to what is perhaps Still’s most memorable work. As the music died away, the audience was again on its feet, providing the soloist, arranger, and orchestra with vigorous applause.

At the start of the second half of the concert, Dr. Neal Anderson-Himmelspach provided the audience with the setting and background for his orchestration of Debussy’s piano work, The Sunken Cathedral. Anderson-Himmelspach’s task was to “Arrange Debussy in the style of Debussy”. And in this he certainly succeeded. All of the dreamlike characteristics of Debussy’s work were present as the melody moved from section to section in the orchestra and the music swelled and diminished in this evocative work. As Maestro Bair guided the orchestra to the work’s conclusion, the audience immediately stood and energetically rendered its approving verdict.

Side By Side

For the second half of the concert, 21 young musicians from the Harford Youth Orchestra joined the SSO for the annual Side-By-Side concert. The SSO is one of the last venues in the area to do a general admission side-by-side, which provides young and outstanding musicians the opportunity to practice and perform in a full-up no-holds-barred concert. And Maestro Bair certainly didn’t bar any holds, as he took the orchestra through all five parts of Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1 (ending with the ever popular Les Troubadours) and then marched into Berlioz’s Hungarian March from the “Damnation of Faust”. Maestro Bair put the pedal to the metal on the concluding work, accelerating the orchestra from what was merely a brisk pace to transonic speed for the concluding measures of the Hungarian March. Even before the last strings of the cello section had quit vibrating, the audience was once again standing with a resounding response to the orchestra’s efforts.


Free Bel Air Summer Concert

Sunday June 5, 2011 at 7:00PM; Humbert Memorial Band Shell

The Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra ended its 2010-2011 season with its annual outdoor concert in Shamrock Park and kicked off the Bel Air Summer Concert in the Park Series. With almost perfect weather for the show, Humbert Scholarship winner Edward Kim began the evening with a piano recital of Franck’s Violin Sonata, demonstrating his outstanding talent. As the stage was rearranged for the orchestra after Mr. Kim’s performance, the SSO Steel Drum ensemble performed several popular tunes. Maestro Bair then led the SSO and audience in the National Anthem. The Anthem was followed by Just Before the Autumn by local composer Benny Russell, the National Emblem March by Bagley, and works by Berlioz, Smetana, and Bizet. The last two works needed no introduction: Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and Berlin’s God Bless America, which was narrated by SSO Board Member and Treasurer Jim Weed. These rousing works completed the concert much to the enjoyment of the 400+ picnickers and attendees.

The Bel Air Concert in the Park Series is truly one of the gems of Harford County. As the SSO performed, concert goers picnicked and listened, while children and young adults played leisurely games of Frisbee and catch. This idyllic scene—which is provided at no charge—will be repeated with different performance groups almost every Sunday and Wednesday evening throughout the summer. Come out and enjoy the show!

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