The Williamsport Community Concert Association (WCCA) is getting ready to kick off its 85th season this month.
The WCCA is impressive because it is an entirely volunteer organization with a long, rich history. Williamsport has been a favorite stop for professional musicians since 1968, when the Ulman Opera House opened in Market Square. It wasn't until 1870, however, that Williamsport started attracting big names in music.
From 1890 until 1920, Williamsport was known as a "try-out city." Young musicians would stop here on their way to or from New York.
The Tamburitzans will perform on March 25 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium as a part of the Williamsport Community Concert Association's 2011-12 season.
In 1928, the WCCA was born when late Williamsporter Oliver J. Decker, gathered a committee and met with a National Community Concert representative who came from New York to negotiate the terms of a contract to begin a branch of the organization in Williamsport.
The National Community Concert Association has since gone bankrupt, WCCA's Executive Director Dale Bower said but the WCCA goes on strong.
The musicians who give concerts are chosen by the WCCA's selection committee. These selections are made, according to Bower, "depending on who we had the year before, and also on price, and who's available and traveling through."
The money comes from memberships and a patron drive each year.
Bower said, "We [also] have 100 corporate sponsors - we do a booklet with all the sponsors, corporate logos and so on. We mail that out."
The concerts are held at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, 348 Market St.
"It's acoustically excellent," Bower said. "It's the best auditorium anywhere around for sound and all the artists coming in love it. It's only 40 years old."
The crisis of all of this, however, is that the Scottish Rite Auditorium is scheduled to be sold before the winter of this concert season. If the sale goes through, the WCCA will need to change venues for the series.
So the WCCA, brave in the face of adversity, has booked the Lycoming High School Auditorium for two of the remaining concerts, and is still looking for a home for the fourth which will be The Tamburitzans.
Aside from the acoustic superiority, the advantage of the Scottish Rite Theater, is that there are no stairs. The concert seats are all on the same level, and there is a lovely, large, beautifully designed lobby.
Bower said, "Many people have been subscribers for 40, 50 years or more, some even for 60."
The WCCA has about 600 members, and sells additional seats at a per-seat price according to Bower.
The first concert this year will be The Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass. That concert will be held next Sunday. The 5 Browns, a group of prodigious pianists, will perform on Nov. 12. Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Russia's renowned group, is scheduled for Feb. 16. The Tamburitzans, a cadre of college students who honor Eastern Europe's cultural history with their performance, will perform on March 25. Greg Giannascoli, accomplished Marimba player, will be this season's last show on April 29.
Tickets are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling Dorothy Maples at 323-6012. The membership packages range in price for adults from $60 to $65. Family rates (two adults plus children) are available in the range of $125 to $162.50. Children's packages range from $25 to $32.50. The cost of membership depends on how near the stage one reserves seats.
Members of The Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass do not, as their name would suggest, necessarily hail from Philadelphia. The group is a collection of top-notch musicians from all over the United States. They tailor their performances to include everything from solos to full brass ensemble, with the option to include a choir or organ. Visit www.rmpbb.com for more details.
The second concert, The 5 Browns, are five young siblings whose mission it is to refresh classical music. They've been touring together and appearing on stages and talk shows nationwide for a little less than a decade, and all five attended Julliard in New York. This will be their second visit to Williamsport to play the Scottish Rite as part of the WCCA series. Visit www.the5browns.com for more info.
The third concert, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, is in its 20th year under the leadership of Misha Rachievsky. The group is world-renowned as an orchestra and boasts some of Russia's best string musicians. They've made 30 CDs and will make their way to Williamsport in February. Check out www.chamberorchestrakremlin.ru/orch.
The fourth concert will be given by Greg Giannascoli, esteemed percussionist and instructor and various prestigious music schools, who will present his tapping talent with a pianist. Giannascoli only plays the marimba in concert. The marimba's country of origin is Africa. It is a percussion instrument made of wooden bars and it is played with mallets. The pair will offer familiar songs. For more information about Giannascoli, visit www.greggiannascoli.com.
The fifth and final concert will bring the Tamburitzans to Williamsport. The Tamburitzans are a group from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. They pay homage to Eastern Europe's history of music and dance, and by doing so, preserve it. All of the performers in the group are full-time college students who perform 80 shows each academic year and many of them achieve academic excellence. None of the students perform with the Tamburitzans for more than four years. See what they are about at www.duq.edu/tamburitzans.