When the Wood River Orchestra began in 2007, Sue Mendelsohn envisioned amateurs having the opportunity to play in an ensemble and perform for their community free of charge. Today, President of the Board of Directors and violinist Lynne Heidel carries that legacy.
“There’s a lifting of my soul, and I think other musicians feel the same way, by playing not just by myself but with others,” Heidel said.
Everyone knows the best way to spread Christmas cheer is through music. After a year and a half away, the Wood River Orchestra will get people in the yuletide spirit this Sunday with their show “Together in Time for the Holidays,” rocking some festive tunes at the Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum. The show is free to the public.
“We have a wonderful base of loyal supporters who come year after year,” Heidel said. “They’re seeing their neighbors, their friends, their family members doing this activity. There’s no distance between the musicians and the audience.”
Most of the music this year will be secular holiday music, including “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson, “The Christmas Song” (a.k.a. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) by Mel Torme and Robert Wells, “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’’ by Leo Jessel, and “Trepak” from Tschaikowsky’s “Nutcracker.”
“There’s a joy in it,” Heidel said. “I like to call it food for the soul.”
Since this fall, there have been seven new additions to the orchestra. They include two high school students, a new chef at the Ram, a teacher at Alturas Elementary and a banker at D.L. Evans.
“They represent the diversity of ages and backgrounds of our orchestra,” Heidel said.
Conductor Brad Hershey hopes to bring back his friendly “snowball fight” he has had with audience members and musicians in years past, COVID protocols permitting.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we finally did get to make music again,” Hershey said. “When we regrouped at the end of August, it felt like we hadn’t missed a beat.”
Before the show, there will be a celebration and mini-fundraiser starting at 3:30 p.m.
The silent auction will include photos donated by the Sun Valley Photography Club, a painting donated by Marty Lyon and a cioppino dinner for eight prepared and served by orchestra musicians.
There will also be a Christmas tree with ornaments people can buy for special prizes. These prizes include an opportunity to conduct the orchestra at a sponsorship of the new concertmaster and opportunities to underwrite the orchestra’s music purchases in the new year.
Money raised goes toward paying for venues, music, promotion, programs, the conductor, instrument repairs and lessons, as well as nonprofit necessities like workers compensation and liability insurance.
The orchestra usually hosts its fundraiser in June, which raises money for the fall, winter and spring concerts. However, they have not been able to hold a fundraiser for two years due to the pandemic.
Everyone in attendance must wear a mask. For more information about upcoming events or to make a donation, visit wrcorchestra.org. ￼
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