OSO tunes up for return to stage

Matthew Wardell, the Music Director and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, plays the timpani with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble during the Red, White and OSO Blue: A Salute to Independence concert for the Fourth of July at the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, July 4, 2020. The concert, which had limited attendance, was held with social distancing in mind as a precaution due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Concertgoers were asked to wear a mask as they entered and left and were seated at least 6 feet apart in assigned seats. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted July 30, 2021 | By Susan Smiley-Height, Ocala Gazette

Matthew Wardell, the Music Director and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, plays the timpani in this file photo. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

Excitement is building over the nearing completion of the expansion of the Reilly Arts Center and for the Ocala Symphony Orchestra’s (OSO) season-opening concerts.

It has been nearly six years since the former city auditorium was renovated into a performing arts center and well over a year since the pandemic impacted live performances there. Now, as the footprint of the center is increasing to nearly twice its original size, the leadership team is excited to offer expanded programming and new ways to be part of the fun.

Tickets for the OSO’s opening weekend performances of “Variations on Opening Night,” set for Nov. 20 and 21, go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3. That same day will bring the debut of the OSO Season Flex Pass, with which patrons can choose four of six subscription performances and save 15% when they use the code “maestro” at checkout.

For the opening weekend concerts, the full orchestra will return to the stage with “Variations on Opening Night.” World-renowned pianist Jasmin Arakawa will join the OSO for Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Arakawa has performed at Carnegie Hall, Salle Gaveau in Paris and Victoria Hall in Geneva, as well as in broadcasts of ABC Australia, BBC, PBS and Radio France. She holds Doctor of Music and Master of Music degrees in piano performance and is assistant professor of piano at the University of Florida, as well as director of the UF International Piano Festival.

Continuing the opening concert theme will be “Variations on America” by Charles Ives and “Enigma Variations (Variations on an Original Theme)” by Edward Elgar.

“We’re opening the season and our new expansion with three works that are inventive, clever, exciting and, more than anything, just plain awesome to hear,” said Matthew Wardell, OSO Music Director and Conductor. “The music, along with an incredible piano soloist, is going to make for one of the best concert weekends we’ve ever had.”

The November concerts will be the first time the full orchestra has performed together on the Reilly stage since February 2020. The expansion project, which will add nearly 16,000 square feet of space to the historic venue, including a new lobby, black box theater and multipurpose education center, began in January of this year. In addition to serving as the home of the OSO, the arts center also offers a wide range of performances by artists such as Leo Kottke and comedian Gilbert Gottfried, and tribute acts such as Almost ABBA.

As part of its new season, the OSO will offer “Pops! Goes the Holidays,” “The Four Temperaments,” “90 Years of John Williams,” “The Unfinished” and “21st Century Anthology.”

“The orchestra’s opening weekend is by far one of the most anticipated concerts of our entire season and a time for everyone to come together and celebrate music and community,” stated the Reilly’s Executive Director Pamela Calero Wardell. “Whether someone has been attending for several seasons, or this will be their first concert with us, my goal is that they leave better than when they arrived because of unforgettable music performed by outstanding musicians, great company and an experience that they will remember forever.”

Performances of “Variations on Opening Night” are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21. Tickets are $15 to $40.

The Reilly Arts Center is located at 500 NE 9th St. Ocala. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, which is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, at reillyartscenter.com or by calling 352-351-1606. 

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