GROTON — The next season of Vista Philharmonic Orchestra is one of old and new friends.
Vista Philharmonic Orchestra recently announced its 2023-2024 season, which will be the 49th season of orchestra performances, the 25th anniversary of conductor Bruce Hangen, and the second season in the new concert hall (and with a new name) at Groton Hill Music Center.
Guests joining the 70-person orchestra playing both traditional and modern composers will include a bass-baritone, violinists, a string quartet and a pianist.
“It is important for us to highlight composers of color like Eleanor Alberga and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and to include 20th-century composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, to show audiences young and old that classical music goes beyond the three B’s (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms),” Maestro Bruce Hangen said.
However, Beethoven is still an “old friend” who will also be played next spring. To Hangen, they are all old friends — whether they’re soloists or composers, living or not, or specific compositions.
Vista Philharmonic Orchestra includes multimedia experiences, with visual concertos that have included a projected montage of photos submitted by local photographers. It adds more new friends like area choruses performing on the choir loft at the brand new concert hall and a state-of-the-art digital organ.
The orchestra has a six-concert season, which will run from October 2023 to May 2024 (although tickets are still available for their June 17 finale for the current season with a flute/taiko guest soloist).
Subscriptions, with consistent seating for each performance, are available now with the main drop of individual tickets going on sale June 1.
Vista Philharmonic started in 1975 as a small chamber orchestra comprised of a group of professional musicians local to Groton. It grew into the Orchestra of Indian Hill, part of Indian Hill Music, and gave concerts at Groton Middle School’s Performing Arts Center and the Littleton High School Performing Arts Center. In 2022, Indian Hill Music became Groton Hill Music Center; the Orchestra of Indian Hill became the Vista Philharmonic Orchestra and officially opened the 1,000 seat Concert Hall at Groton Hill.
Hangen said the new venue is “truly exciting, invigorating, and inspiring, but even more so that after all these years we finally are performing in a world-class concert hall and have a true sense of “home” throughout the whole orchestra.”
“[The concert hall] was actually designed with our orchestra in mind! The pristine acoustics in the hall are tuned to enhance the unamplified nature of a symphony orchestra. So it wasn’t so much a match, as it was a custom fit,” said Julie Pampinella, marketing and public relations manager at Groton Hill Music.
Hangen added the new hall provides the “potential to bring new musical experiences to our audiences” and to increase attendance, especially of young people, with the continuation of programming that highlights “underperformed composers, feature well-known and up-and-coming soloists, and newer works deserving of performance opportunities.”
It was pretty much also designed with Hangen in mind.
“We are so fortunate to have had Bruce’s steady hand at the baton all these years. He’s a deft programmer, weaving seasons and stories together that have built a strong community of classical music lovers and supporters for 25 years,” said Lisa Fiorentino, Groton Hill CEO.
Hangen has been conducting since 1976 and has been at the helm of the Vista Philharmonic since 1998, rising to Music Director and then to Maestro and Artistic Director. He is also Director of Orchestral Activities at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee and is a frequent guest conductor of the country’s leading orchestras, including almost 300 performances of the Boston Pops over the last 30 years.
“Conducting the same ensemble for 25 years is quite an experience: rehearsals take on a different — and more effective — kind of communication, as we all know what to expect from each other we can almost speak in catch phrases or musical ‘code’”, he said, adding that it allows him to choose concert programming to allow the orchestra’s “particular musical strengths” and “talents” to “come shining through.”
All of the orchestra players are professional musicians who also perform and teach in high-caliber organizations and ensembles throughout New England. They play the violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, and piano. Principals lead each instrument section, with their Concertmaster Alice Hallstrom a violinist who will also be a featured guest soloist in the 2023-24 season.
Many are still local to Groton and North Central Massachusetts, but they also reside in Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area, all over New England, and with some from outside the U.S.
“Many years, and a few name changes later, here we are in our new facility, bringing all of our performance and educational efforts together under the same roof for the first time in our history,” Hangen said.
Many of the orchestra members teach right at Groton Hill, which has a mission of education and access to the “transformative power of music.”
Over 80 faculty members teach 35 instruments and voice to over 1,700 students via private lessons, classes, and ensembles plus provide free music education in Fitchburg, Lowell, Clinton, and Lawrence public schools, and in the Fitchburg and Leominster Boys & Girls Clubs.
Pampinella said the wider community can help the orchestra first and foremost by becoming a new friend and attending concerts, which “supports the artists, helps to keep the art form alive, and also helps us to connect with the music, with ourselves, and with others. There is nothing that can replace a live music experience.”
As a nonprofit organization, the Vista Philharmonic Orchestra also relies on the generous donations of individuals and businesses as well as corporate sponsors of many concerts and grants from government and private foundations.
They also have on-site food and libations.
Groton Hill Music Center “wanted to create a full-service dining and concert experience for our patrons so that having a full night out is a seamless experience for them,” Pampinello said.
There are five bar areas for beverage and snack service before and during concerts to meet friends old and new. The Woodland Room offers a sit-down dining room that is exclusively open to reservations from concert ticket holders, featuring a prix fixe menu.
Ticket subscriptions to the Vista Philharmonic come with presale options, guaranteed seating, invitations to the season scoop event and other private events limited to subscribers, and early access to Woodland Room reservations.
Groton Hill Music Center is less than 15 minutes from Interstate 495 and Route 2 with ample free parking.
To purchase tickets or learn more about upcoming programming, visit grotonhill.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.