As orchestras around the country are struggling and, too often, failing to survive, there is a ray of hope in Savannah, Georgia with the formation of the new Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under Artistic Director and Conductor Peter Shannon. An Irishman, Shannon arrived in Savannah in 2008, after spending ten years as the Conductor of the Collegium Musicum Orchestra in Heidelberg, Germany.
The Savannah Philharmonic Chorus made its debut in October 2008, followed by the Philharmonic Orchestra in January, 2009. Despite the difficult economic conditions around the country, the Philharmonic has consistently performed before packed houses in the Lucas Theatre, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and other venues around Savannah.
Since its founding, the Philharmonic has presented a wide range of concerts, including fully-staged operas, several oratorios, pops concerts, chamber concerts, classical symphonies and concerti by beloved composers including Beethoven, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Abba, Elton John, McCartney, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Schostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and many others.
Australian David Pratt, with management experience at the Sydney Symphony, was appointed Executive Director in October, 2010. Mr. Pratt has brought his years of experience in managing arts organizations to bear in increasing the stability of the Philharmonic’s balance sheet and dramatically increasing the number of donors to the organization.
Under his direction, the season 2011-2012 sold 94% of all available concert seats, and the Philharmonic opened Season 4 in September, 2012 with another sold-out performance at the Lucas. Subscriptions for the 2012/13 season have more than tripled over the previous season.
As part of its community outreach, the Philharmonic is proud to be an integral part of the Integrative Medicine Program at The Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial Hospital in Savannah. The organization provides musicians to play for patients and staff and the program reflects the desire of the Philharmonic to bring the joy and healing powers of music to as many members of the community as possible. In 2011/12 the orchestra began a new and effective educational program, bringing students to rehearsals and providing master classes to talented young musicians in the area by visiting soloists.
During the 2011-2012 season, a new series of pre-concert talks by conductor and author John Canarina began (Canarina was assistant to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic) sponsored by “Savannah Friends of Music.” This series continues in the 2012-2013 season.