I can think of nothing that would have put the "icing on the cake" of the Savannah Philharmonic's fifth season finale than what took place at the Johnny Mercer Theater Saturday night. Entertining for us in the lobby from a St. Andrew's School string orchestra under the direction of Fred Devyatkin. Fred is a superb musician in his own rignt directing the Beaufort Symphony and often sitting in with our Savannah Phil. They put on a wonderful performance of their own with a pre-concert concert so to speak. Then came the fireworks from the Savannah Philharmonic on "A Night of Grieg and Mahler." Sensational doesn't even begin to express the performance.
First we got a big pitch from David Pratt our executive director who--thank God--has come back to us and decided not to move to the Rockies! Then Melissa Emery, president of the board of directors came out to thank everyone for their support and the sponsors (Critz was the primary sponsor Saturday night) and then announced that we'd begin the concert with the Star Spangled Banner, like we did at the beginning of the season with one caviat...Peter Shannon, Musical Director and Conductor, and his wife had just become US citizens! So Saturday night for the first time Peter conducted the National Anthem as an American citizen. WOW!
Mrs. Shannon played Grieg's Piano Concerto with all the verve of a true classic artist and Peter's conducting in Mahler's Fifth Symphony (which is FIVE movements too) is almost like running a maraton for conductor and orchestra alike. The strings were out of this world and the horns were beyond the university and the woodwinds were somewhere in their too. What a fitting ending to five dynamic years as this orchestra and organization has grown from a few hundred thousand dollar budget to one of nearly $2,000,000 today and rising.
When Peter got here a few years back from Heidleburg he declared Savannah is a world class city and deserves a world class orchestra. In a mere half-decade that is coming to fruition. Pray that we can keep him! He and this marvelous orchestra deserve our support. Become a friend for $25 but give lots more if you can. I don't care if you don't like classical music and never darken the door of one of their performances. That's your loss...don't make it the community's as well. Just know that when new companies want to move to a particular city one question always asked is: "What's the culture and arts like? Do you have a symphony orchestra?" If they decide to do business here it may very well hinge on the answer to those questions. We lost our orchestra once, shame on us if you do it again.