Like a concert score that shifts tempo from adagio to vivace, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra opened its new symphonic season with some refreshing and unexpected vigor at both a concert and celebratory after-party on Friday, September 17.
First came the performance — aptly titled "Pulling Back the Curtain" — that finally welcomed an audience back to FWSO's home, Bass Hall, after a pandemic-season pseudo-residency at Will Rogers Auditorium. (Patrons obeyed a mask-wearing policy and respectfully kept their social distance in common areas.)
The concert was dedicated to beloved, recently passed FWSO president and CEO Ann Koonsman, whom principal violinist Adriana Voirin DeCosta remembered from stage as a champion of the organization and its musicians. "Her love, drive, and devotion to the Fort Worth Symphony, and especially the musicians, was magnified and exemplified by a confident, passionate energy sprinkled with a dose of really great sense of humor," DeCosta said.
In the night's next surprise, a screen descended from the ceiling, and composer Brian Raphael Nabors introduced his work Pulse in a pre-recorded video — a most modern communique in this modern Zoom age. Then 45-year-old guest conductor Kevin John Edusei led 32-year-old violinist Ray Chen and the orchestra (itself with several new, young and diverse players) in Sibelius' virtuosic Violin Concerto and Dvorak's rhapsodic Symphony No. 8.
After several curtain calls, FWSO's most ardent patrons zipped a few blocks to City Club for the official Opening Night Celebration. Hosted by chairman Mercedes T. Bass and the FWSO board of directors, the dinner and cocktail party honored Teresa King for more than two decades of service to the orchestra.
Symphony leaders, including CEO Keith Cerny and wife Jennifer, mingled and sipped champagne with musicians, including concertmaster Michael Shih and new assistant conductor Alex Amsel and Yvette Keong. Also spotted in the crowd, enjoying the post-concert afterglow, were Lisa Fortson, Kimbell Wynn, Frasher Pergande, John Pergande, Cornelia Blake, Cody McClarty, Rachel McClarty, Janine Geisel, Stas Chernyshev, Ann Hung, Ke-Hsuan Chen, Nick Sakakeeny, and Mariel Zuniga.
Andreas Bremer, honorary consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, and his wife, Nici, were special invited guests. Fresh from stage, Nabors, Chen, and Edusei took pictures with patrons; all guests had provided proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend.
After cocktails, guests dined on a buffet dinner that included sliced beef tenderloin, lamb chops, smoked salmon, a mashed potato bar, and a tower of mini desserts.
Bass presented King with the prestigious FWSO Medal of Excellence.
And Cerny revealed that the FWSO, thanks to generous donors and musicians, had been able to complete the pandemic season with a small operating surplus while maintaining staff and continuing to pay musicians.
"This is something, as we look back at the 100-year history of the Fort Worth Symphony, we can be incredibly proud of," he said.
The welcome announcement was met with cheers and applause, and guests left the evening looking forward to an exciting new season ahead. Onward to prestissimo!