Walking the Red Carpet with West Michigan Symphony as it Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

Muskegon, Michigan, Sept. 9, 2014 — Tuesday, Nov. 28, 1939, the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts (then known as the Michigan Theater) was buzzing. Enormous crowds converged on the auditorium, program sheets in hand. The buzz had been intriguing; the audience members knew they were about to witness something delightful, unexpected, and brand new to the west shore. As the lights dimmed, silence filled the hall. Then the music swelled and they thrilled to a unique, highly emotional feast for the senses like nothing they had experienced before. Hours later they emerged, many with tears in their eyes. “Can you believe we finally have something like this here in Muskegon?” they must have exclaimed. Yes, in Muskegon, as all over the country, “Gone With the Wind” was a huge success.

Meanwhile, five minutes away by motorcar, an orchestra concert was taking place in the Muskegon High School auditorium. On the program was an overture by Wagner, an early symphony by Haydn, some songs by Romberg, and a pavane by Morton Gould. Conductor Palmer Quackenbush had assembled an enthusiastic group of community musicians dubbed the new creation the West Shore Symphony. Playing to a good sized audience of their own, the 50-piece orchestra performed with energy, passion, and an impressive amount of skill. Though the program was difficult and varied, Mr. Quackenbush had drilled the music in rehearsal after rehearsal, and the amateur players had responded with enthusiasm. Most in attendance agreed: with perseverance, hard work, and more than a few generous donations, this orchestra might go places.

Three-quarters of a century has passed since that first concert and the West Michigan Symphony has evolved in dramatic fashion. The proud descendants of that first Tuesday night in 1939, West Michigan Symphony has become one of the finest regional professional orchestras in the United States.

The Symphony kicks off their 75th anniversary season red-carpet style Friday, Sept. 26, at the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts with Hollywood on the Lakeshore. Music Director Scott Speck, who returns for his 12th season on the podium, conducts a symphonic celebration of cinema with recognizable works from current and classic films.

“Music and movies have always had the most intimate of connections,” commented Speck on film-themed concert. “In the early 20th century, some of the world’s foremost European composers immigrated to America and wrote music for Hollywood — and some of their creations are miniature masterpieces. Conducting them is a great joy, and the orchestra loves to play them as well. At heart, we are all enthusiastic moviegoers. What better way to kick off our 75th season than to pay tribute to these spectacular themes.”

The star-studded evening is in store as guests walk the red carpet into the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts for its 75th season opener, Hollywood on the Lakeshore, a Symphonic Celebration of Cinema. The concert will feature music from “Frozen,” “Spider-Man,” “Inception,” “James Bond,” “Star Wars,” “E.T.” and harkening back to that evening three-quarters of a century ago, the theater will echo with music from the classic film, “Gone with the Wind.” The concert begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon.

Season and single tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling the WMS box office at 231.726.3231 x223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue, online at westmichigansymphony.org or at info@westmichigansymphony.org.

About West Michigan Symphony
As one of the few professional regional orchestras in Michigan, West Michigan Symphony has played a leading role in the region’s cultural community for 75 years. Founded as the West Shore Symphony Orchestra, WMS now serves a regional audience with eight performances annually at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, 15 performances at its new performance space, The Block, plus dozens of educational and outreach activities for children and adults. For more information, westmichigansymphony.org.

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts