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History of the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra

Video of performance

It's another magical moment. The sellout crowd rises to its feet in a joyous chorus of "bravos" as the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra closes its 2013-2014 season with a debut of "Con te partirò" (better know as "Time to Say Goodbye"), an Italian operatic pop song written by Francesco Sartori (music) and Lucio Quarantotto (lyrics). The orchestral version was arranged by our own Bill Baker and young Luke Emmoth. This triumphal finish marks the completion of another yet more successful season for the orchestra. What is the magic that endears this community orchestra to its large and enthusiastic crowd of supporters? "It's simple… we enjoy playing music."

The response is practically unanimous from orchestra members when asked why they devote thirty-six Monday nights a year to rehearsing for nine concerts. violin Whether an accountant like James Michaelson, a dance instructor like Kathy Ingram, or a small business owner like Sheryl Schlegelmilch, these diverse players generate a synergy that's been instrumental in the phenomenal growth of the orchestra, now forty-five pieces strong. "The Beaufort Orchestra is a group of highly dedicated Lowcountry musicians who simply want to make music. As such, it epitomizes the spirit of the community," comments Frederick Devyatkin, the energetic and charismatic conductor. His pride is clearly shared by participating musicians as well as hundreds of people in the community who support the group, which has made incredible progress since it began in 1985.

Brantley Harvey, local lawyer and one of the original members, recalls those early days. "We started as a group of five violinists who rehearsed with conductor Peter Dunden on Monday nights." Lowell Keene, a commercial property and casualty insurance agent, took over as conductor when Peter Dunden left. By 1987, the group had grown to include most every instrument, and by 1991, membership had reached approximately twenty-five. Soon after, Devyatkin, who formerly played full-time with the Savannah Symphony, became conductor to the forty plus players who now fill up the stage at our new venue, the Sea Island Presbyterian Church.


Each season the orchestra performs a classical concert in October, a Christmas concert in December, another classical concert in March, a Pops concert in May, and additional concerts as desired, often in tandem with the Youth Orchestra. Two performances are given for each concert. Devyatkin, who, as artistic director, programs all the concerts, explains, "I don't choose music because I think it will impress people or because of its intellectual nature. I just play a piece because I have a good gut feeling about it. I play the kind of stuff that, if I heard it was going to be played on the radio, I'd say 'Cool… leave it on this station.'"

With all the growth and popularity, where will the orchestra go from here? Of course, one goal is to increase the level of performance. Devyatkin notes, "The mission statement of this orchestra is to provide performances and performance opportunity to the community of Beaufort. I think we can raise the standards enormously higher and still stay within that." But one hopes that the special feeling and sense of community that the orchestra has developed will never change. Charter member Brantley Harvey sums it up: "We are energized by each other and have seen that together we can accomplish things that we might never have dreamed possible individually."

"Keep the Music Live!"

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