The S.C. Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 50th season Friday. Under the direction of Morihiko Nakahara, the orchestra will celebrate its growth in the Midlands with its first Masterworks program, celebrating another milestone, the bicentennial of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth.
The season continues with the popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans (Jan. 11), a tribute to jazz greats (April 5) and a return of bluegrass impresario Bela Fleck (May 3).
Here are just a few of the high notes of the professional orchestra over the years.
• The orchestra was founded in 1963 as the Columbia Festival Orchestra.
• The first concert was April 29, 1963 at the Township; 1,600 people attended the event.
• The first “season,” consisting of two concerts, wasn’t until 1964.
• The first conductor of the Columbia Philharmonic, Dr. Arthur M. Fraser, was the head of the music department at USC.
• In 1972, choral conductor Arpad Darazs was chosen to lead the orchestra.
• Einar W. Anderson, a practicing ER physician, was appointed as the orchestra’s conductor in 1982.
• Nicholas Smith was named conductor in 1993.
• Morihiko Nakahara, the Philharmonic’s fifth music director, began conducting in the 2008-2009 season.
Famous guest stars
• Violinist Daniel Heifetz appeared with the orchestra on March 21, 1997 at the Township.
• Itzhak Perlman performed Mendelssohn’s violin concerto Opus 64 with the orchestra on Oct. 7, 1986.
• Judy Collins performed with the orchestra on Feb. 1, 1986.
• Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath played May 19, 1985.
• Dizzy Gillespie was a guest of the orchestra in 1985.
• Former “Tonight Show” band leader Doc Severinsen was a guest in February 1985.
• Bela Fleck, who is closing out the 2013-14 season with the orchestra, performed with the orchestra in November 2009.
• The orchestra added Handel’s Messiah to its Christmas season offerings in 1984.
• The Philharmonic played at the Riverbanks Zoo in May 1985.
• On Feb. 4, 1989, the orchestra gave its first concert in its new home at the Ira and Nancy Koger Center for the Arts
• The orchestra was renamed the S.C. Philharmonic in the fall of 1984, after celebrating its 20th season.