By Margaret Morton
This year will be special for the Waterford Concert Series, as it kicks off its 25th anniversary season with a performance by the stirring string quartet Brooklyn Rider on March 17—the first of the season’s five concerts.
Over its quarter century of existence, the organizers have brought some highly sought after groups and soloists to audiences in Waterford, including the Guarneri Quarter, pianist Angela Hewitt and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, to cite just a few.
Celebrating 25 Years of Success
Founded with high hopes and a big vision in 1994, the concert series has determinedly followed a path committed to bringing a first-rate classical music series to the small, western Loudoun village.
Many of those who’ve been involved with the series from the beginning look back with satisfaction at the progress, which has followed a steadily upward path, both artistically and financially, to the point where it is acknowledged as a “regional gem,” according to board member David Robinson.
The progress has not been without challenges, including the devastating 2007 fire that destroyed the Waterford Old School auditorium, the series’ performance venue, and then the somewhat uneasy breakup with its original partner—the Waterford Foundation—in 2015.
After the fire, help was quickly at hand. It was a difficult time financially, as audiences and profits were small. But the series found a welcome temporary home at the Lucketts Community Center, whose manager Hilary Cooley had been among the very first to call offering to help. The series continued in Lucketts until it returned to Waterford in 2012. In the meantime, the foundation began the long process of planning and rebuilding the auditorium—emerging with a state-of-the art performance venue that is the concert series’ permanent home once more.
Today, despite some ruffled feathers during the breakup, leaders of both the concert series and the Waterford Foundation acknowledge that their separation has moved both organizations onto better footing as the series grows in maturity and reputation.
To an extraordinary degree, many of those involved with the concert series in the beginning remain deeply involved alongside an equally dedicated cadre of concertgoers.
The series came about, in part, because of the interests of a group of longtime village residents with strong interest in classical music and drama. The Old School, owned by the Waterford Foundation, served as the village’s community center and its large auditorium was regularly used for classes, plays, concerts, public events and other community activities.
It is hard to pinpoint the actual time when those interested in starting a classical music series brought their ideas together—rather there was a group of people living in and around the village heading for the same outcome from slightly different positions. Some wanted opera, some were more focused on chamber music, some wanted both. They formed what would be known as the Waterford Concert Series as a committee under the aegis of the Waterford Foundation. The foundation was then, and is today, the leading preservation organization dedicated to protecting the National Historic Landmark District village and surrounding farmland.
Charlotte Gollobin, Eleanor Adams and Marie and Chuck Anderson formed the core of those working on establishing a classical music series in the early 1990s. At that point, “we were just saying we should start something,” Gollobin recalled.
Chuck Anderson later was responsible for obtaining the first official sponsor for the series, while his wife, Marie, would go on to write the series’ highly regarded and articulate “Concert Notes.”
The unofficial start to the series came through a request in 1994 to Gollobin, from a group looking for a venue in which to perform. She contacted then-Waterford Foundation Executive Director Linda Cox, who approved a performance in the Old School. Tickets were sold for $7. That concertwas a success and out of it the Waterford Concert Series was born. The first official concert of the new organization was held in 1995, featuring world-renowned clarinetist Gervase de Peyer.
Gollobin, who would go on to be a backbone of the organization, chairing it for the first five years, said part of the timing of the series and its eventual success was because “there were sufficient people in the area with the resources and willingness to support the series.”
Adams, who is the only one of the four still living in the area, has seen it all the way through—an experience she treasures.
She is struck by the strong rapport between the musicians and their audience.
“Sitting in the auditorium as the light changes outside, hearing Beethoven or another great composer, watching music being made, then being part of an audience rising up in spontaneous applause—you don’t forget that,” she said. And that evidence is confirmed by so many requests by the musicians to come back.
Particularly, in the beginning, when audiences were small, although fervor was high, it was all hands on deck.
Grandchildren were brought in to help hand out programs, while their elders would set up the chairs. Adams recalled the work of Margareta Blitz, now back in her native Sweden, as a successful fundraiser. She would host dinner fundraisers, sometimes at her house, or sometimes at larger venues, inviting various musicians to play. Subscriptions reached their highest peak just after her term on the board ended, just before the 2007 fire.
Former board member Bonnie Getty got involved during the period after the fire. To Getty, “the intimate venue at the Old School and and the acoustics make a performance significantly different from a concert in a large hall.” The performers also seem to pick up energy from their audience in the smaller venue.
She noted that performers will often speak about their personal connections to the works, recalling one conductor who spoke about Shostakovich’s visiting his house to play chess with his father. “He then described what we we’re about to hear; in particular, thumps from the bass that mimicked knocks on the door by the Stalin-era KGB,” Getty said. “That was a very powerful performance.”
Jill Beach has been a constant patron, who has loved seeing the audience enthusiasm for the performances grow, and having top-notch performers each year. “I’ve never been disappointed,” she said.
She has been involved for most of those years, inviting musicians to stay at her house and sponsoring individual concerts.
Ed and Margaret Good have been concert attendees from the beginning. Ed Good was attracted because one of the first concerts featured the Metropolitan Opera regional finalists. “That was a big draw for me,” he said. He said he is amazed by the “world-class quality of performers that the series is able to attract out here in the boonies.”
And for Margaret Good, “What’s not to love about a musical series right on our doorstep, of such high quality—that can’t be beat.”
A Bright Future
The concert series has been fortunate in having a strong financial sponsorship from the beginning. Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company, headquartered in Waterford, joined as the founding sponsor for the first concert in 1995.
“We and Waterford were founded by this community; our histories are entwined,” Loudoun Mutual President Chris Shipe said. “It was a no brainer.”
Along with others, Shipe noted how the series has evolved, and with it brought bigger names to Waterford.
Bruce Cleveland, president of Presidential Bank, joined Loudoun Mutual as a major sponsor of the series in 2012. He and his wife, Beth, are dedicated concertgoers.
Susan Sutter has presided over the series for a number of years, including when the program separated from the Waterford Foundation. She is proud to see that the concerts have developed a regional reputation—allowing the series to bring in nationally recognized artists and sponsors, and draw enthusiastic patrons from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
“Artists love the intimate venue, and they love the village. They’re very positive about performing here,” she said.
Robinson, who is a more recent member of the series’ board of directors, echoed the Goods’ comments about the high quality of music available through the series. He also is among those who are working to provide for the future of the series as the most faithful fans are getting older.
“It’s a big challenge, we haven’t cracked that nut yet,” he said. But organizers are looking for ways to bring in more young patrons—through adding younger artists, discounted rates, and special, interactive, events for young concertgoers.
For subscription rates, ticket prices and student rates, go to waterfordconcertseries.org.
Waterford Concert Series: The Silver Anniversary Season
March 17 Brooklyn Rider
April 7 RCO of Amsterdam
Sept. 22 The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists from the Washington National Opera
Oct. 20 Pianist George Li
Nov. 10 The American Brass Quintet
Performances begin at 4 p.m. at the Waterford Old School, 40222 Fairfax Street.