A Retrospective of the Philharmonic and its Orchestra
The New Hampshire Philharmonic is heir to a tradition of civic-minded music-making dating back to 1895. The following timeline, while not comprehensive, is intended to provide a flavor of the proud lineage of this community orchestra:
The New Hampshire Philharmonic Society is founded.
Miss Mary D. Fife, a musician, businesswoman and Penacook native, upon returning to New Hampshire from musical study in Chicago, gives impulse to the formation of a group that would bring fine orchestral music to New Hampshire. Initial meetings are held in January 1895 at the home of Mrs. Arthur Clarke. The first formal meeting of the New Hampshire Philharmonic Society is held on Feb 11, 1895, with the Hon. G. Byron Chandler of Amoskeag Bank presiding. A large number of prominent civic leaders make significant financial pledges to guarantee the first concert.
At its initial performance, on Friday evening, May 24, 1895, the orchestra performs Haydn's "The Creation." The Manchester Union of May 25, 1895 described the scene: "The exterior of Mechanics' Hall presented an animated scene about 8 o'clock in the evening. The evening was packed solid with humanity, and a stream of hacks deposited their gaily gowned "fares" to add to the surging throng." The article gave a positive review of the concert: "It was a magnificent performance, given before an audience inspiring in point of numbers and enthusiasm, and closed a day abundant with good things in the musical line." The orchestra was led at this first concert by Mr. Henri G. Blaisdell.
The orchestra, now established as an on-going performance vehicle, is active as an amateur arm of the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences, giving regular concerts as the Orchestra of the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences, under the musical direction of Professor Rudolph Schiller. The Jan 4, 1909 program features Schubert's "Rosamunde" overture and selections from Wagner's "Tannheuser", conducted by Rudolph Schiller in the High School Hall.
The Mindt String Quartet begins its third season, with Rudolph Schiller and Alfred Engel on violin, Paul LeBlanc on viola and Frederick Mindt on 'cello.
On Jan 28, 1920, Mr. Schiller leads the orchestra in the Andante from Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 5 in the Institute Hall. Performing under Mr. Schiller as the Manchester Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra quickly establishes its long history of playing Dvorak, presenting Dvorak's Symphony "From the New World", op. 95 on April 29, 1923.
Concerts continue, with the Brahms Academic Festival Overture on May 28, 1930.
The orchestra of the Manchester Institute becomes a separate entity.
The new entity performs two concerts under the direction of Frederick Mindt (with program books proclaiming "Organized 1905 - 54th season.")
Later in the year, a group of civic leaders (including Dr. Hermann Sander, Maurice Hoffmann and Dr. Robert Lord) reorganizes the entity, adopting as its historic name the New Hampshire Philharmonic Society. Initial funding is provided by a grant from the Frederick Smyth Trust. The orchestra chooses as its conductor Rolland "Tap" Tapley, a Boston Symphony violinist.
The first concert of the newly named New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra takes place on February 14, 1960, in the Practical Arts Auditorium in Manchester, at the corner of Beech and Concord streets.
The orchestra frequently hosts musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra as soloists, including Karle Zeise, Fredy Ostrovsky, Marylou Speaker, Doriot Dwyer, and Joseph Silverstein. Between 1960 and 1972 some sixteen BSO artists solo with the Philharmonic Orchestra. Other soloists who go on to win renown include violinist Lynn Chang and composer John Adams.
A grant is received from the Huntley N. Spaulding Trust for the purchase of a music library.
Arthur Fiedler guest-conducts a benefit concert at the Crotched Mountain Center.
The orchestra continues presenting a rich assortment of classical and popular works. Concerts take place primarily in Manchester and Concord, with occasional concerts in the towns of Bedford, Peterborough, Jaffrey, Dublin, Swanzey and Portsmouth, and at the St. Paul's School and Phillips Exeter Academy.
The late 1970s and early 1980s are a challenging time for the orchestra. The spring 1980 concert is cancelled from a lack of funds, and new pressures are felt from the newly formed New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, ably staffed by Boston-area professional musicians.
In 1986 beloved conductor emeritus Rolland Tapley dies. Continuing his memory, the Tapley music library is donated to the Philharmonic.
Late 1980s and 1990s
The orchestra grows in size and stature under conductors Robert Babb and Patrick Botti. The orchestra locates its offices and rehearsal space in 1992 to one of the historic buildings on Hanover Street in downtown Manchester.
The Philharmonic begins to call Manchester's Palace Theatre its primary performance home. Concerts also take place in Concord, Portsmouth, Amherst, Loudon, and Kingston.
Anthony Princiotti becomes the eleventh Music Director of the orchestra of the Philharmonic.
The orchestra achieves an ideal balance of the finest student, amateur, and professional musicians. The orchestra continues to present compelling concerts to the public and engaging programs of educational outreach.
The Philharmonic reestablishes a recital series for chamber music, performing at the Currier Museum and other significant local venues.
The Philharmonic establishes an annual youth concerto competition, drawing finalists from across New Hampshire.
An annual collaboration with schoolchildren, Drawn to the Music, is established. The Philharmonic establishes a formal endowment, managed by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
Mark Latham is named Conductor of the New Hampshire Philharmonic.
The New Hampshire Philharmonic moves from its home at the Palace Theatre in Manchester to its new home at the Stockbridge Theater at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH. Rehearsals and performances take place here year round.
The New Hampshire Philharmonic is invited to move to the recently opened and state-of-the-art performance space in Salem, NH. The Seifert Performing Arts Center opened in January 2017 and has provided space for a variety of school district events as well as outside dance competitions. The NH Philharmonic will be the first performance group to "reside" at the Seifert -- and it is there that the Orchestra will both rehearse and perform.
Miss Mary D. Fife (1895)
Photo courtesy of the Manchester Historic Association
Mindt String Quartet, 1918
John Adams with Rolland Tapley, Dec 1964
Photo courtesy NH Union Leader
Mark Latham conducting, 2016
The Philharmonic gratefully acknowledges the work of Robert Craven, Jane Glennan, and staff of the New Hampshire Historical Society and the Manchester Historic Association as sources for this timeline.