GRSO performs at GVSU

GVL / Claire Fisher 
The Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra perfroms inside Cook-DeWitt Center Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

GVL / Claire Fisher The Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra perfroms inside Cook-DeWitt Center Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

Claire Fisher

From Grand Valley State University students to community members celebrating their 100th birthday, audience members at the Arts at Noon concert on Feb. 3 were able to see members of the Grand Rapids Symphony perform in the Cook-DeWitt Center.

“It’s a professional-level orchestra right in our own building,” said Henry Duitman, director of the GVSU orchestra. “It’s great stimulation and encouragement for our students and for the community too. They get to hear a short concert and a free concert. For some senior citizens, it’s great because it’s in the middle of the day. They don’t have worry about going downtown at night (to hear the GRSO).”

The string members of the GRSO performed “Serenade for Strings, Op. 11” by Dag Ivar Wirén and “Serenade for Strings, Op. 48” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for the Arts at Noon series.

Steve Brook, assistant principal second violin, said Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings, Op. 48” is one of the greatest pieces ever written.

“The Tchaikovsky is well-written for strings, it’s an amazing sound,” Brook said. “The music is enjoyable, beautiful melodies, great rhythms, great movement to the piece. It takes you different places: You can feel excitement; you can feel reflection; you can feel joy; you can feel power. The (“Serenade for Strings, Op. 11” by Wirén) piece is also just delightful.”

Conductor John Varineau said he chose these pieces to accommodate the space in the Cook-DeWitt Center and because of the composers’ origins.

“I chose these pieces because the stage in Cook-DeWitt is not that big so I have to program for a small orchestra,” Varineau said. “After doing these concerts for a number of years, I know what sort of music works really well and this string music just fits the acoustics of this hall really perfectly. Other than that, both composers were from northern, cold, rainy climates and I knew it would be like that in Grand Valley this week.”

In between pieces, audience member Gladys Aalbers was honored for her 100th birthday. Varineau congratulated Aalbers and lead the audience in singing “Happy Birthday,” while the orchestra played along.

Aalbers said at first she was hesitant to come to the concert that day, but ended up enjoying herself.

Enjoying performing for all audiences, Aalbers said he hopes the audience at Arts at Noon enjoyed listening to and experiencing live music.

“I love to play for anybody who enjoys listening,” Brook said. “I love to engage audience of all ages. I hope (the audience) takes away a greater, deeper love and appreciation for music and really interacting with real people.”

Varineau said he wanted Arts at Noon to show audience members the skill level of the GRSO and hoped that it would encourage more people to see the symphony perform their regular season concerts in Grand Rapids.

“I hope that the audience saw today that Grand Rapids is a top-flight professional orchestra,” Varineau said. “We come out to play for Grand Valley students and their audience, and I hope that they come into town and hear us at our hall. (The GRSO is) just all about bringing great music wherever, but maybe this will entice Grand Valley students to come and hear us downtown.”

Varineau said that he hopes students will take advantage of the “Student Passport” program, which allows students to purchase tickets to many of the GRSO performances for $5.

“We do a whole series of classical concerts and pops concerts,” Varineau said. “Grand Valley students get into our concerts for $5. That’s cheaper than a foot-long (sandwich), and it’s way cheaper than a movie.”

For more information about upcoming GRSO concerts and tickets prices, visit