If you worry that things in Pendleton are too slow, think about dropping in on the Oregon East Symphony concerts at the Vert Auditorium for great music and a roomful of enthusiasm.

Keeping a 50-member orchestra going in northeast Oregon is not for sissies: competition with other orchestras, seeing grant money decline, asking guest musicians to travel. A recent article made the Vert out to be in such bad repair that a friend called from Portland to ask if events were still being held there. Anyone who attended the Nov. 5 season opening concert got some assurance and their money’s worth.

Music Director Beau Benson, connected to the music program at Baylor University in Texas, is in his fifth year with Oregon East Symphony. The opening concert drew an audience of 250, including 15 who were invited as part of a “Take a Friend to the Symphony” promotion. Benson blends familiar concert pieces with those newer to the audience. Another blending: 53 musicians on stage, two-thirds of whom came from Walla Walla, Boise, Vancouver, etc., and one-third of whom were local.

There was an air of enthusiasm over the Nov. 5 concert despite tough economic conditions for symphonies. A few days before the concert, the orchestra played in front of fourth grade children. And four young musicians from Oregon East Symphony’s youth program played the last two numbers onstage with the older musicians.

Remaining concerts this year and next are Dec. 10, Feb. 10, March 10 and April 21. The OES office is in the basement of the Vert.

Mike Forrester


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