On May 16, every inch of the historic Paramount Theatre stage will brim with music to mark the finale of the 25th anniversary season of the Oakland East Bay Symphony.
Conductor Michael Morgan will muster the full complement of the orchestra, the Oakland Symphony Chorus and the Oakland Youth Orchestra to present Hector Berlioz' masterwork, "Requiem."
Also celebrating anniversaries this season are the youth orchestra -- its 50th -- and the chorus -- its 55th.
Since its incorporation in 1988 as a regional orchestra, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, under the guidance of Morgan, has gained wide recognition for its convergence of artistic excellence and community service. Annually, symphony activities reach more than 75,000 people, with more than one-third of the operating budget dedicated to education and outreach programs, according to its website.
Longtime followers of the symphony remember when predecessors to the current organization performed at the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium's Calvin Simmons Theater, named for the symphony conductor who accidentally drowned in 1982. Simmons, who was 30 when he died, was the first African-American conductor of a major U.S. city symphony.
Those with even longer memories recall when Orley See organized a community orchestra in the 1930s. Later, conductor Harold Farberman would play a key role in the acquisition of the 3,000 seat Paramount Theatre in the early 1970s.
The Paramount was the first major motion picture house in the West to be renovated as a theater for live performing arts. Generous benefactors including Edgar Kaiser (son of Henry J.) and Steven Bechtel contributed to the theater's purchase, and Joe and Dee Knowland of the Knowland family, longtime publishers of the Oakland Tribune, led the campaign to raise funds for the meticulous restoration of the theater's opulent interiors. The total cost in 1973 was $4 million -- $1 million to buy it, $2 million for an endowment fund and $1 million for the interior renovation.
That would be $21.3 million in 2014 dollars.
Today the Paramount is a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation possible.
In other memories, the late syndicated cartoon artist Morrie Turner lent the endearing characters from his "Wee Pals" strip to highlight a series of "Wee Pals" concerts for young people. Barbara Schaaf, longtime subscriber (and former Symphony Guild president during the "Wee Pals" concert era in the early 1980s) recalls, "We sold out the 3,000 tickets for these performances every time we offered them. Morrie's Rainbow Power characters would be projected on a big screen behind the musicians. Everybody loved it!"
The Oakland Youth Orchestra was founded in 1963 as the educational arm of the Oakland Symphony. The orchestra now has 88 music students ages 12 to 22 who come from 46 different schools around the Bay Area. They perform challenging works and present several classical, pops and youth outreach concerts each season.
In celebration of their golden anniversary, the Oakland Youth Orchestra will be performing May 4 at a gala concert and auction at the Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Oakland. More information is available www.oyo.org.
Learn more about the Oakland East Bay Symphony's 25th Anniversary Season and the May 16 final performance at www.oebs.org.
Contact Annalee Allen at email@example.com or at 510-238-3234.