QCulture: Queens Orchestras Too Hot To ‘Handel’

Staff Writer

When it comes to music, Queens has one of the most varied selections in the City. Although the popular genres of the day, like rock and roll, pop and rap, get a ton of attention, Queens’ classical music scene is just as vibrant. Symphonies, orchestras and chamber groups can be found performing in dozens of neighborhoods, with a large song selection between them all. For those of you who would rather listen to Bach than the Beatles, here are some of the Borough’s best orchestras.

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One of the Borough’s best-known performers of classical music is the Queens Symphony Orchestra. Founded in 1953 by David Katz, this group provides world-class music and arts education to the international community of Queens. In the 1970s, QSO hit a milestone when it joined the union, becoming the only professional orchestra of Queens. Today, music director Constantine Kitsopoulos leads the symphony, having taken over in 2006.
QSO performs at various venues in Queens year-round, with its 70 musicians creating a massive, but uncluttered sound. Members of the group also play at smaller locations, like senior centers and libraries. During the summer, you can enjoy Concerts on the Green, the orchestra’s free outdoor shows.

(718) 279-3006

The Oratorio Society of Queens is the oldest performing cultural organization in the Borough. Founded in 1927, the group is engrained in Queens, with its performers coming from its neighborhoods. Its cultural mission is to share a love of classical choral music with audiences all over the Borough during its performances. Its artistic director is David Close.

Traditionally, the society performs two concerts per year. It has a holiday concert that features favorites for that time of year, along with part one of Handel’s “Messiah.” The spring concert changes each year, with a set that includes Broadway tunes and classical compositions like Verdi’s “Requiem,” Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” and Rossini’s “Stabat Mater.” If you want to try out for the choir, auditions will take place the evenings of Sept. 8 and Sept. 15.

(347) 542-3308

Classical music is not just for adults. As the Children’s Orchestra Society proves, some kids are just as dedicated to the genre. Founded in 1962 by Dr. H.T. Ma, the society teaches the language of music to children and teenagers, alongside teamwork and life skills. The group creates a supportive learning environment and gives the kids an opportunity to perform. It is a win-win for all involved. The children get some essential experience and the community gets a great concert.

(917) 300-8695

The Astoria Symphony Orchestra is the flagship ensemble of the Astoria Music Society. The musicians are a mix of professionals and young up-and-comers. While the orchestra does frequently perform pieces by Beethoven, Brahms, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and more, it also embraces and promotes classical music from today. The group has had more than a dozen world premieres since 2002.
For its upcoming 2014-2015 season, the orchestra will have a new maestro, with David Stech taking over from founder Silas Huff. Stech was the resident conductor of the group since 2011. The first concert of the new season is tentatively scheduled for October.

(718) 374-1627

Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Forest Hills Symphony Orchestra is making good on its primary goals of teaching the youth, offering adults a place to improve their skills and creating music in a positive social experience for the community. It is led by musical director Franklin Verbsky, who said that the symphony does not turn anyone away from membership, instead working to improve the skills of its new members.
With members from all age groups and ethnic backgrounds, the FHSO regularly performs for senior citizens. It holds three concerts per year at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, located at 106-06 Queens Blvd. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125,, or @JoeMarvilli.