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The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra History - 1919

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The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra is New Jersey’s oldest community symphony. In 1919 a small group of amateur musicians met in a parlor at Grace Church in Plainfield to organize a community orchestra. The founders engaged the services of noted Dutch conductor Christiaan Kriens, and rehearsals began. With a small orchestra of fifteen to twenty members, the group offered its first private performance later that year.


The Society was supported only by the small weekly donation of $.50 paid by its members, the income from its public concerts, and donations from public spirited citizens.

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The debut public concert held on May 28, 1921, included works by Wagner, Haydn, Liszt, Donizetti, Von Suppe, and two pieces composed for the orchestra by Kriens. The orchestra for this first concert presaged the blending of community and professional players that has characterized the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, with seventy-five community members and ten professionals brought in from New York. The evening also featured an address by John C. Freund, editor of Musical America, who predicted “the Plainfield Symphony has an undoubted future if it continues to progress as well as it has since its organization a short time ago.”


Kriens served as conductor until 1928. He was followed by Louis Bostelmann, who remained as conductor until 1952. Other notable conductors over the years include Jose Serebrier, George Marriner Maull, and Sabin Pautza. Concert premieres include Serebrier’s “Nueva,” a piece written for the 50th anniversary of the Plainfield Symphony, and the “Rita Dove Triptych” by Pautza, in which he set poems of this U.S. poet laureate to music. Pautza also composed and conducted the “Ode to Hope” for the 80th anniversary of the Plainfield Symphony.


Through the years, the Symphony has shared the stage with other musical groups, including the New Jersey Lyric Opera, the New Jersey Schola Cantorum, the Crescent Avenue Oratorio Choir, and the Plainfield Choral Society. Noted soloists also brought their talents to the concerts, including violinists Joseph Knitzer, Louis Persinger, Franz Kneisel, John Corigliano, Sr., and Peter Winograd; pianist Leonid Hambro; double bassist Gary Karr; and cellist Percy Such.


With the signing of Charles Prince as musical director in 2009, a new musical era began. Now in his ninth season, Prince has conducted his signature programs of Mahler, Viennese waltzes, and Broadway show tunes to overflow crowds.

1919   Plainfield Symphony Orchestra is formed
1921   First public performance under the direction of noted Dutch conductor Christiaan Kriens in the Plainfield High School                               Auditorium
1922  Plainfield Symphony orchestra performs at Carnegie Hall
1928  Louis Bostelmann is named conductor and begins his 24-year tenure, making him the longest-serving PSO conductor 
1928   Percy Grainger, the Australian composer, appears as piano soloist and guest conductor to lead PSO in the pre-miere of                             his composition “Bridal Song,” a short version of his orchestral work “To a Nordic Princess” 
1948   Guest conductor Paul Whiteman leads PSO and other area orchestras in an outdoor concert at the Plainfield High                                     School football field

1967   The young Uruguayan composer Jose Serebrier is named musical director and conductor, while also serving in those                                 capacities for the Cleveland Philharmonic. Today Serebrier is a multiple Grammy award winner and has been called “the                           world’s most frequently recorded conductor”

1971   Gary Karr performs in the world premiere of Sere-brier’s “Nueve,” written for Karr as a commission from the Plainfield                               Symphony in celebration of its 50th anniversary

1975   PSO presents its first collaboration with the Princeton Regional Ballet
1984   Peter Duchin and his Orchestra perform at PSO’s 65th Birthday Celebration Gala
1988   Sabin Pautza, a Rumanian-born composer and conductor, begins a twenty-year run with the Symphony as musical                                       director and conductor
1994   U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove appears with PSO to recite her poetry as part of the world premiere of Pautza’s 
           “Rita Dove Triptych” 
1997   PSO premieres Pautza’s “Saxophone Concerto” with Paul Cohen (who commissioned the work) as soloist.
1999   PSO celebrates its 80th anniversary season and per-forms for the first time at the newly renovated Union County                                         Performing Arts Center
2000   Christopher Johnson, PSO’s first artist-in-residence, presents a solo concert
2009   Charles Prince appointed as Music Director

2019   Peter Duchin and his Orchestra perform at PSO’s 100th anniversary, the Centennial Celebration Gala


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