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March 15, 2014

Big names to battle for conductor's baton

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — A contest to conduct the Catskill Symphony Orchestra and rub shoulders with a few local celebrities is drawing to a close.

Gary Laing, owner of The Shipping Room and president of the Oneonta Outlaws; Barbara Ann Heegan, president of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Wood, Oneonta Town Supervisor, have been collecting donations for CSO throughout the past few weeks. Whoever raises the most funds will have chance to conduct John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to close out the annual CSO Cabaret concert Saturday. 

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Alumni Field House at SUNY Oneonta. Masters of ceremony for the event will be Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge of Sharon Springs, founders of Beekman 1802 and stars of the Food Network show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys.” 

“It was the brainchild of our governing board chair, Martha Forgiano,” CSO manager Deb Wolfanger said Friday. 

Wolfanger said Forgiano got in touch with someone who worked for the Beekman Boys and emailed back and forth with them, finally securing the couple’s commitment to host the concert. 

“I was a little surprised,” Wolfanger said. “They have quite the calendar. They’re so well-known locally, and folks love to see them, so we were pretty excited.” 

Longtime master of ceremonies Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, will be attending the concert as a guest this year, Wolfanger said. 

“We thought it might be nice for Jim to actually come to the concert and enjoy it for once,” she explained. 

The orchestra will open the concert with a program of popular Broadway tunes, including music from “Les Miserables,” and Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances.” Before the intermission, the three conductor candidates will “audition” for the audience, Wolfanger explained, and bags will be passed during intermission to collect one last batch of donations for each candidate. 

The Cabaret concert is CSO’s major fundraiser for the year, Wolfanger said; the guest conductor competition typically raises between $15,000 and $20,000 in donations. 

For the second half of the concert, klezmer group Big Galut(e) will join the orchestra, with CSO’s principal clarinetist as a featured performer. According to a media release from CSO, the group “blends history, passion, energy and humor in its performances of Yiddish music of the Old and New World.” 

The members of Big Galut(e) play the accordion, guitar, bass, violin and clarinet. They have appeared in concert as far away as Hawaii, and locally to sold out audiences as part of the Stamford Friends of Music series and the Cherry Valley Artworks annual summer series. 

During the week leading up to Saturday’s concert, the group performed for residents at The Plains at Parish Homestead in Oneonta, and for elementary school students in Otego and Unadilla. 

General admission tickets, at $40, sold out earlier in the week, but half-price tickets at the back of the house were still available Friday and any remaining tickets would be available at the door, Wolfanger said Friday. For more information, visit catskillsymphony.net. 

The concert is sponsored by Tom Morgan and Erna McReynolds and the Morgan McReynolds Group at Morgan Stanley in memory of Wendy Brown. Additional support is provided by Benson Agency Real Estate. The performance is also made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.