Celebrating 60 years of making music

-A A +A
By Special to the Monitor

The Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra (LASO) is celebrating their 60th Anniversary with a concert to be presented at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Two former Los Alamos High School students and former members of the LASO will present the featured number on the program. Kay Johnson Newnam, violin and Thomas O'Connor, oboe, are now professional musicians and will perform the "Concerto for Oboe and Violin," by J.S. Bach. Also on the program will be the "Fanfare Diamante" by local composer and trombonist T.E. Vives, "Capriccio Italienne" by Tschaikovsky and "Symphony No. 5" by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

During the war years Los Alamos had no organized instrumental group, but there were several small chamber groups and a very fine jazz band that entertained the community weekly. A group comprised of military and civilian personnel was formed under the direction of Robert Dike, a French horn player. Dike wrote special scores for the available talent. Some of the people who performed under Dike were Diz and Al Graves, Moll Flanders, Eric Jette, Frank Bice, Robert Richtmeyer, Harold Fishbein, Hermond Lacey, Frank Osvath and Don Lovelace.

The Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra of today was first formally organized during the fall/winter of 1947-48. At that time it was called the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra. John Winks, the newly appointed music director of the school system, was the first conductor. Rehearsals were held in the music room of the high school, which at that time was Central High School. Four on the original roster were students at the high school. Rosemary O'Connor is the only original adult member still playing her violin with LASO.

In August of 1948, the Los Alamos Community Council presented "H.M.S. Pinafore" at the Community Hall, or Theatre No. 2. The Los Alamos Choral Society and the Little Theatre Group with the Los Alamos Civic Orchestra produced it. The musical director was John Winks; vocal coach, Kathleen Manley; stage director, John W Macey Jr.; and accompanist, Dorothy Bond. In late 1948, Bob Dike suggested a new name for the Civic Orchestra. "Los Alamos Sinfonietta" was the name offered and subsequently adopted. The members now were entirely of the civilian community. The Los Alamos Sinfonietta was renamed the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra in 1991. Throughout years the LASO has collaborated with the Choral Society in a major work or a program designed to fit both groups. Also, each season since 1947 the Symphony has provided the orchestral phase of the Light Opera production.

Today more than 60 musicians play regularly with the LASO. Among the members are teachers, lawyers, physicians, scientists and homemakers. An active group of students participate in one or more offerings each year. When one realizes the isolation and small size of Los Alamos, it is truly a "phenomenal symphony," Marion Pack, a LASO member, said.

The LASO Board of Directors urges all current and former symphony members to commemorate this 60th anniversary by signing a special scroll at this concert. It will be kept in the LASO archives for posterity.

A reception will take place after the concert in the IHM Parish Hall. The guests of honor and members of the Symphony will be present to converse with the audience. Everyone is invited to attend.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and are available at Otowi Station Bookstore in downtown Los Alamos and Smith's in White Rock. Tickets may also be purchased at the concert, which is at the IHM Church.

Future programs to be presented this season will include a Christmas program to coincide with the "Winterfest and Lighting of downtown."

It will be held in the IHM Parish Hall at 4 p.m. Dec. 1. LASO will join with the Los Alamos Choral Society in Performing "Elijah" Jan. 28. The LASO spring concert will take place April 11 in the IHM Church.