The Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras (GBYO) celebrated 50 years of existence Sunday, March 11, with a Gala Concert performed by alumni, followed by a reception, all at UB’s Arnold Bernard Arts Center. In addition, the GBYO Concert Orchestra (one of 5 ensembles comprising GBYO) also performed. Thus, attendees had a chance to see and hear both former members and part of the next generation of GBYO.
Alumni covering the entire time spectrum, i.e., going back to March 1961, came from places as far away as California and Canada.
From the Andrew Warde Class of 1976, string bassists Tony Procaccini and Stephan Lang participated in the two-day marathon. A rehearsal took place in Fairfield on Saturday, March 10, followed by the Sunday main event at UB. The two had not played bass side-by-side in roughly 38 years. Lang traveled from near Toronto for this unique opportunity. The photo below was taken before the concert on-stage at Mertens Theatre.
"I couldn't wait for this weekend, as I have many fond memories and recollections of my years with GBYO," says Procaccini. "It was also a challenge to play string bass for so many hours without having practiced it for all those years." Procaccini and Lang are pictured below with Erin O'Connor Mancino.
Three people in particular deserve the line’s share of the credit for the day’s success: GBYO Executive Director Barbara Upton, Music Director Chris Hisey and GBYO Board President Mark Halstead. Their many months of tireless effort made the event possible.
In addition, two long-time previous music directors were honored. Dr. Harrison Valante, former chairman of UB’s Music Department, pictured below with Procaccini at the reception, was mobbed by his former musicians as if he was a rock star. He retains his usual pleasant manner, and spoke glowingly of his time with GBYO, UB and the Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra, GBYO’s sponsor in his day.
Robert Genualdi, former headmaster of Warde High School starting in our senior year of 1976, followed Valante in the early 1980s and expanded GBYO from one to four ensembles. He conducted the Alumni Orchestra for one piece despite physical ailments which impede him presently. He, most deservedly, was given a long standing ovation for his 26 years with GBYO.
The two-day event was a great way to celebrate music and see old friends. "I would not have missed it for anything," quips Procaccini.