Nashua orchestra strikes new chord

The city has had an orchestra for nearly 90 years and a professional, paid symphony for the past several years.

Now, the state will get to experience that which has been uniquely Nashua’s for decades.

Symphony New Hampshire, or Symphony NH for short, was announced last Monday by Eric Valliere, executive director, and Jonathan McPhee, music director and principal conductor of the orchestra.

More than a rebranding and name change for the former Nashua Symphony, the orchestra is seizing an opportunity to broaden its performance footprint and let more people experience its quality concerts.

There are other symphonic groups performing in New Hampshire. Concord’s Granite State Symphony is the only other purely professional group, but it is smaller and served by a volunteer staff. The New Hampshire Symphony, once based in Manchester, fell apart in 2009, leaving a gap that Symphony NH will try to fill.

The orchestra will remain based in Nashua, performing predominantly at Keefe Auditorium, but expect to see concerts at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, the
Palace Theatre in Manchester and other statewide venues.

Its other missions will remain intact: keeping a focus on making music in schools; widening its community reach; and growing the local audience, which, since 2005, has expanded 40 percent. This 2012-13 concert season will include eight or so local performances, ranging from Mozart to New England swing.

We see this expanded direction as a wonderful opportunity for the former Nashua Symphony Association, formed in 1923 and the state’s oldest orchestra. Performing elsewhere will afford the group additional revenue and underwriting opportunities.

Valliere acknowledged that, without a name change, the Nashua Symphony simply wouldn’t resonate – or play – in the Music Hall, for instance.

Further, a local orchestra may generate a local arts and corporate following in the community in which it principally serves, but the opportunities to gain large business gifts statewide are limited.

That would seem no longer an obstacle. In fact, Symphony NH, among its first performances with its new identity, will be in Manchester, exclusively for clients of a law firm.

While those advantages are clearly tangible, identifiable and are the driving force behind the name change, we see this as an example of “big” thinking and stretching to meet opportunities.

We’ve certainly been critical in the past of Nashua taking too myopic a view of itself. In Symphony NH, we have an institution looking to elevate one of the strengths of this community.

That is refreshing and hits all the right notes.