LASALLE — Friday will be a celebration of the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra’s 70th year of existence, even though the organization’s 69th season isn’t over.
Held at LaSalle’s Celebrations 150, the IVSO’s 70th anniversary gala will be an evening of cocktail attire, dining, dancing and a look ahead the symphony’s past as well as its future.
“Personally, I don’t think we get dressed up enough. It will be a grand gala. We want you to be there. It will be a blast,” said Ottawa’s Andrea Kowalski, president of the IVSO board.
“We’ve never had a gala before. We’re going all out — to celebrate we have a symphony. It’s really a party. We wanted to have more than a concert.”
The evening will include dinner, with meatless and gluten-free options available, following with dancing to Legenz, a LaSalle-Peru-based band that plays dance and rock ’n’ roll music. Advance tickets must be purchased by Wednesday.
Proceeds will support the IVSO, founded in 1949 with a vision of entertaining and inspiring the community with live music. Members include musicians who reside inside and outside of Starved Rock Country.
“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a growth in the quality and demand of the music performed,” said Barbara Lukancic, Spring Valley, IVSO’s longtime business manager and a former musician.
“We are complementing our local players with outside the area players, performing more challenging music, and featuring more soloists. The challenge is to find enough players who are available.”
Following the 2018 departure of Dr. Lucia Matos of Northern Illinois University, the orchestra’s music director and conductor, different musicians have served as conductors in each of the 2018-19 concerts; a fifth show (and conductor) will close the season, 7 p.m Saturday, May 4, at Illinois Valley Community College, Oglesby.
“This season we are having a conductor search with five guest conductors, each taking a concert,” Lukancic said in an email interview. “Following each concert, the players are asked to give their revue. After the final May performance, the search committee will analyze the player’s comments and take into consideration other issues of compatibility, then present a recommendation to the board and proceed from there.
“Ten years ago, we had a conductor search with five conductors vying for the position. Lucia Matos was selected. We are hopeful to have a long relationship with a new conductor.”
The gala will be a chance for the IVSO to raise some money and bring its supporters and members together for camaraderie, Lukancic said.
“We’ve had successful wine tastings and trivia nights as fundraisers,” she added. “At the 50th celebration, an endowment was started with a donation by Kevin McMahon, the resident conductor at the time. (Classical violinist) Rachel Barton Pine, who was soloist at the final 50th season concert and attended 50th celebration, also made a generous donation to help start the endowment.
“She returned to solo and challenged the area to increase the endowment, and it did. She was soloist at our 60th and perhaps will be at our 70th.”