Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Emeritus Chamber Orchestra, an orchestra of retirees, rehearses in Tel Aviv and performs five concerts each season

Some years ago, Sam Zebba founded the Emeritus Chamber Orchestra with the idea of creating a platform for retired orchestral musicians. Consisting of about 40 musicians - retirees from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, plus a few other players, the orchestra performs four or five programs each season. On May 21 2008, the orchestra, conducted by Sam Zebba, performed works by Gluck, Haydn and Beethoven at the opening concert of the Bellapais Festival in northern Cyprus.

“ECO rehearsals are in our Ramat Aviv apartment” Sam Zebba tells me. “ It’s a bit of a squeeze, with the first violin section spilling out into the kitchen. Luckily, the neighbors do not object to our music-making! The ECO meets on consecutive Friday mornings to rehearse for an approaching concert. Following each concert (or concerts) we take a break of two or three weeks. We are then always overjoyed to meet up again to rehearse the next program.” The ECO plays music of the classical period. It has a full complement of wind instruments plus a timpanist, but is not a large enough orchestra to play Romantic symphonic music. Zebba conducts most concerts but, occasionally, he invites a guest conductor. Some guest soloists are established artists; many are young, gifted musicians at the start of their careers. The ECO performs a series in the Einav Cultural Centre in Tel Aviv, at the Chess Centre in Ramat Aviv and has performed in Nazareth and Keshet Eylon. The ECO has no financial support; indeed, players come to make music for the enjoyment of it.

Sam Zebba came to Israel as a child from Latvia and did not make his living from music. He had played the piano from a young age and began studying conducting in his 50’s, taking courses in Europe and at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. “ I formed a community orchestra and worked with it for twenty years, deriving much experience there as a conductor. We performed in South America, Korea and India. It was amazing to see the growing interest the developing world had in classical music. The Emeritus Chamber Orchestra, however, is my crowning project”.

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