Long Bay Symphony a musical-cultural gem for the region

By the Editorial Board

Many new Grand Strand residents, accustomed to attending performances of symphonic music, are delighted to discover the Long Bay Symphony, the region’s largest professional orchestra.

Learning of the symphony orchestra typically is a discovery, with the reaction of “Oh, I had no idea we had a professional orchestra,” music director / conductor Charles Jones Evans says. And concertgoers are delighted, interim Jane Williams adds.

On Saturday at the Myrtle Beach High School Music and Arts Center, the symphony concludes its 29th season with “Some Enchanted Evening,” including classic songs from famous composers such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Saturday’s concert includes the Carolina Master Chorale. Guest artists are Anne Runolfsson and Sal Viviano. Runolfsson recently completed performing in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. Viviano has performed in pops concerts with more than 120 orchestra, LBS says in an announcement about the concert.

The auditorium, seating just under 2,000, is perfectly designed for LBS, Evans says. “It really is a rewarding experience to hear music there.” Evans is in his 20th season with LBS. He was in similar roles with several U.S. orchestras, including Pine Bluff, Ark., Memphis and the Eastman Philharmonia, Rochester, N.Y. Under Evans’ leadership, LBS has grown from an orchestra of volunteer musicians supplemented by paid professionals to an orchestra of all musicians paid at the same rate.

Evans recalls that 20 years ago, weekly rehearsals often were missing many absent volunteers, which creates artistic difficulties. Now, rehearsals are before performances and musicians are paid on a “per service” basis. Some larger areas’ symphony orchestras are salaried, and some of those have run into financial difficulties and have stepped back to pay musicians per service.

LBS has a total operating budget of approximately $450,000, with about 35 percent of revenue from ticket sales, so fundraising is vital as are business and individual giving and grants, including accommodations tax money from Horry County and the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. The symphony is also supported by the S.C. Arts Commission.

The number of musicians in LBS orchestras depends on the type of performance. The major season concerts might have 75 to 80 musicians plus the chorale singers. Smaller performances have orchestras of 35 musicians. LBS performs about 15 concerts a year. Musicians include teachers in area schools or Coastal Carolina University as well as musicians who regularly perform with orchestras in Charleston, Columbia or Wilmington, N.C.

Long Bay is that part of the Atlanic Ocean along the region’s beaches. “The name really represents our service area. We are that area’s professional orchestra,” Evans says. “we’re not just Myrtle Beach or the Grand Strand.”

The LBS Guild plans and operates at least four fundraisers a year, Williams says. These include the upcoming 14th Annual Fiddler on the Green Golf Classic on June 11 and a new event on April 17 in Murrells Inlet. The 2016-17 subscription season, “A Symphonic Journey: The Music of Life,” will begin Sept. 25 with a Gershwin Celebration, “a concert dedicated to the music of this great American icon, the creator of symphonic jazz.”

Beethoven, Blue Jeans & BBQ fundraiser April 17 in Murrells Inlet

A new Long Bay Symphony Guild fundraiser for couples, single men and women is set for April 17 starting at 5 p.m. at Inlet Affairs in Murrells Inlet. LBS interim executive director Jane Williams says “we invite everyone” to the party. The event will benefit both the symphony and the Youth Orchestra. Other annual fundraisers include a tea and a fashion show.

Williams joined the symphony late in 2015 after working in fundraising at Coastal Carolina University for several years.

“Beethoven, Blue Jeans & BBQ” features the Legendary Dave O and dancing with a menu including pulled pork BBQ and chicken bog. For reservations or more information:

Phone | 843-448-8379 or 843-503-2794

Online | www.longbaysymphony.com