symphony

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Grant Cooper, will visit Beckley Monday to play in the Beckley Area Foundation’s Labor Day Concert for the 27th time.

Submitted photo

The spirit of giving isn’t just for Christmas, and the Beckley Area Foundation wants to give back to the community the way it does every year — through the gift of music.

The Beckley Area Foundation will be hosting its 27th annual Labor Day Concert at 7 p.m. Monday at the Woodrow Wilson High School auditorium.

The concert will feature the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and a guest performance by the New River Youth Symphony performing a variety of well-known tunes that range from The Beatles to West Virginia folk tunes.

“A lot of people immediately think that the symphony only plays classical music, but the concert always has a variety of music,” said Sharon Lilly, who helps concert committee chairs Debbie Songer Gray and Linda Polly.

“I think the concert is so successful because it fills a need for a genre of music and because it is a family event. A lot of people are just passing through the area and visiting family and they make it a point to come to the concert.

“It’s also very uplifting. To see a live performance is so much more than just hearing it. There’s a depth to a live performance. It’s all very exhilarating.”

Audience members and performers alike feel the thrill of performing for the auditorium, which is normally filled to the brim.

“The concert in Beckley is the perfect example of an opportunity to share our love of music, our joy of music, and we receive such an incredible level of support from the community,” Maestro Grant Cooper said.

“I really look forward to the concert every year. It’s wonderful to have the ability to communicate with people through music. It doesn’t matter what piece we’re playing, whether it’s a traditional classical piece or a folk piece, each one of them creates a special moment.”

“I’m sure the students are thrilled,” New River Youth Symphony conductor William Bailey added. “They get to sit right up front with the top players and get to sit in with the orchestra. It’s just such a thrill for the kids to play with a professional orchestra. It’s rewarding to see the kids up there. Just to see the joy in their faces is great.”

The Youth Symphony will join the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra for the final song of the concert, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” This is the fourth year that the Youth Symphony has performed in the Labor Day Concert.

As always during the finale, an oversized U.S. flag is displayed as “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is played. In years past, the flag has been borrowed from Kroger at Beckley Crossing. This year, Kroger has donated a new large flag to the Beckley Area Foundation to keep and use at Labor Day concerts for years to come.

The concert is free, but the Beckley Area Foundation hopes everyone will bring a nonperishable food item. The food collection will benefit local food pantries as part of the BAF’s “Everyone Can Be a Philanthropist” program.

“Many people associate the word ‘philanthropy’ with being a Rockefeller or Carnegie and having lots of excess money,” Sharon Lilly said. “This concept applied to a community is not just a few people giving a lot of money, but it’s the entire community pooling their resources. You don’t have to have a giant surplus of money to help your community. One person may have $5 to give and one person might have $50 to give. They’re both helping.”

Lilly said the foundation’s officers and board of directors hope everyone will make an effort to attend this year’s concert.

“I would recommend that anyone experience a live concert in their lifetime,” Lilly said. “I would encourage people to come if they have not had the chance to come and experience the gift. This concert is a continued celebration of who the Beckley Area Foundation is. It’s our gift back to the community.”

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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