Try something new at open rehearsal of S.O. Symphony

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Did you play a musical instrument when you were growing up, and participate in orchestras or other ensembles? Do you think sometimes about reprising those memories, if only for one evening? Then come to an open rehearsal of the South Orange Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, Sept. 4, from 7:30 to 9 p.m at South Orange Middle School, 70 N. Ridgewood Road in South Orange. There will be refreshments following the rehearsal.

The orchestra is always looking for string players. Openings for other instruments are more limited, but don’t let that keep you from coming, and feel free to ask about openings. Or, come and see what it’s about, then make a note to come to one of the orchestra’s three annual free concerts.

Conductor Susan Haig plans to lead the orchestra through readings of a movement or two from Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony, Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmila Overture,” Dvorak’s “Othello Overture,” Brahms’ “Tragic Overture” and other possible selections. The next concert will be Sunday, Nov. 4, at 3 p.m.

The open rehearsal marks the beginning of the South Orange Symphony’s 70th season. It is a community orchestra in the truest sense of the word, where the main qualification is enthusiasm for playing orchestral music. It plays a broad variety of music, from the early classical and romantic composers to popular film scores like “Star Wars” to 20th-century composers both famous and more obscure.

Who plays in the orchestra? There are about 50 members, who range from touring professionals to amateurs who played in high school and perhaps college then stopped for years, or even decades, before taking up their instrument again. Others are semiprofessional and professional caliber musicians who started young and never stopped. Often two or three Columbia High School students join when their study schedules allow. Many members are from South Orange and Maplewood or nearby communities, but others come from as far away as the Brunswicks, Hackensack, and Morris and Sussex counties.

Concertmaster Robert Radliff, concertmaster since 2015, says, “The South Orange Symphony is a great place to come together with your friends and neighbors to play some of the best music around. It is a friendly, warm, inviting and enthusiastic group.”

Radliff teaches locally and plays professionally with the Vramensco Quartet and at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble.

I joined a few years ago after going to an open rehearsal on a whim because my wife was away. Not having played much since high school one might have assumed that an open rehearsal would be a venue for some basic and fun arrangements. But, while the setting was informal, the music was the real thing. I kept going back for the challenge, and because it is amazing how much one learns during the eight-week to 10-week rehearsal cycle between concerts.

Cellist Sarit Greenman has played with the orchestra for four years. A working mother of young children, she said, “I joined to get some much needed ‘me’ time. I was looking for something creative that would be fun and meaningful and the South Orange Symphony fit the bill! And the best part of all is having my children come to our concerts where they can be inspired by the music and see their mommy on stage.”

If you have questions or need more information, contact Janet at

The South Orange Symphony receives funding in part from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs and matching gift funds from several New Jersey corporations. The balance of funding comes from individual donors.

Text by John Tierney and Photos Courtesy of Innes Borstel