A Short (mostly) Artistic History of the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra

2000’s – at John Carroll and then the new Bel Air HS

  • The Covid virus hit the world. Concerts were cancelled everywhere! The SSO returned to performing as a Chamber Orchestra with 20 string players. St. Matthew Lutheran Church, of Bel Air has  graciously hosted the SSO, and concerts have been performed since the fall of 2020
  • 2019 World premier of English composer David Osbon’s “Dearly Ransomed Soul”
  • 2018 World premier of Jonanthan Graybill’s  “A Winter Celebration”
  • 2018 World premier of James Lee III’s “Yoshiyahu” with violin soloist Emmanuel Borowsky
  • 2018 Maestro Sheldon Bair composed, and the SSO premiered “This We’ll Defend” to honor the 100th Anniversary of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds
  • December 19, 2018 – The SSO performed for WBAL-TV 11’s second annual “Season to Celebrate” that premiered on NBC in prime-time.
  • June 2018 – In partnership with the Town of Bel Air, our June concert was an Opioid Addiction Awareness Event.
  • March 2018 – Our first annual “Young Musicians of Note” were honored at our concert.
  • October 2017 – Composer, Kile Smith, was commissioned to write a work for the SSO – “Susquehanna: An Overture for Orchestra” which was later used by the Town of Bel Air’s Office of Economic Development in their advertisements promoting living in and visiting Harford County.
  • 2016-17 – Our 40th Season! A special “roast” of Maestro Bair by local comedian and owner of Bel Air business Music Land, Larry Noto, had us all in stitches for the evening!
  • March 2014 – Orff “Carmina Burana” with six choirs.
  • May 2013 – Civil War concert with music by Copland, Bacon, Poling and others.
  • Sept. 11, 2011 – 10th Anniversary Memorial Concert at the William Humbert Amphitheater.
  • The SSO traveled to NYC twice for concerts with a Polish music organization in Brooklyn:
    • 2009 – Carnegie Hall with massed choirs.
    • 2007 – St. Patrick’s Cathedral to a standing room only house but after two of our 3 buses were in an accident on the NJ Turnpike.
  • December 2000 – Performed portions of the Handel / Mozart / Franz – Messiah with massed choirs.
  • March 2000 – Emmy award winning composer Sir Malcolm Arnold joined us for 10 days for the US premiere of his Ninth Symphony. This began a long relationship with Sir Malcolm and later Sir Malcolm’s publicist and publishers. Later the orchestra performed many of his works including the US premiere of his Symphony No. 1.
  • Other interesting repertoire included Lee Johnson’s Grateful Dead Symphony, Ray Horton’s Make Gentle the Life of this World, and Todd Goodman’s Some Assembly Required.
  • Piano soloists included native Eric Zuber (Tchaik and Mozart 25) and star Yuja Wang (Grieg and Brahms 2), each twice.
  • 25th Anniversary Concert included guest composer Kile Smith and piano soloist Reynaldo Reyes. We also performed the premiere of Daniel Dorff’s The Three Bears that December! Also for the 25th season we performed the Cello Concerto by David Finko with Cecylia Barczyk as soloist.
  • Alexis Lee, cellist, was a soloist twice with us (Elgar and Haydn C Major).
  • Linda Leanza played with the SSO for a fourth time in the Beethoven Violin Concerto.
  • Russian violinist, Alex Skwortsow, played both the Brahms and Tchaikovsky Concerti on two separate occasions.
  • Repertoire included Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 9 and 11 and Tchaikowsky’s 1812 Overture with APG tank wrenches being used in the latter two works.

1990’s – mostly at C. Milton Wright HS, Havre de Grace HS, and John Carroll School

  • Dr. Theldon Myers became our composer-in-residence.
  • Richard Cassilly, a native of Harford County and MET Opera tenor soloist, was our guest.
  • Linda Leanza played with us the 2nd time – Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.
  • 1995 March – Doug Miller and the Penn State Concert Choir sang Bach’s St. John Passion with members of the SSO at John Carroll High School. Carolyn Black-Sotir, John Kramar, and Richard Kennedy were guest soloists with organist Mark Famous and cellist Laura Ruth playing the continuo parts.
  • Performances included two at the Baltimore Convention Center for the MMEA and for the MENC (all-Eastern), the latter with composer David Amram.
  • Glass harpist, Jamey Turner, performed with us for the first time.
  • The 20th Anniversary Concert included guest composers David Amram and Kile Smith.
  • Edinburgh String Quartet from Scotland was our guest twice.
  • Performed John Davison’s Cello Concerto, which he wrote for us with Evelyn Elsing as soloist.
  • Run-outs included Elizabethtown College and 2 concerts in Cecil County.

1980’s – Performances primarily at C. Milton Wright HS and Havre de Grace HS

  • The late 80’s included a Schubert Symposium with Schubert scholar and biographer Brian Newbould as our guest. The SSO performed Newbould’s completion of Schubert’s Seventh Symphony. We have also played his completion of Symphony No. 10.
  • This time period also began the orchestra’s performances of the music of William Grant Still and a fruitful relationship with his daughter, Judith, who was our guest on two occasions.
  • Barry Tuckwell was our guest horn soloist in the Weber Concertino.
  • Run-outs included Cecil County and the Dupont Museum in Delaware.
  • Summer outdoor concerts begin at the Bel Air Bandshell (now the William Humbert Amphitheater), and for a few years at the Bel Air Arts Festival held in September, and also for a number of years at the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air.
  • 1986 Dec. – 10th anniversary concert with Marilyn Groves playing Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1.
  • 1984 July – SSO members performed twice in London, England.
  • 1983 – A long and fruitful relationship began with Soviet Émigré composer, David Finko and his wife Rena. We performed his Symphony No. 1 in 1983, its US premiere that received a standing ovation (one of our first).
  • Early 80’s – The members decided to change our name to the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra.

1970’s – Performances primarily at John Carroll School

  • April 1978 – First Concert including, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony as the Harford Community Orchestra.
  • Other early performances included Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 and the Orchestra’s first of three performances on Dvorak’s New World Symphony.