“Which of these two powers, love or music, can elevate man to the sublimest heights? Why separate them? They are two wings of the soul.”

I truly appreciate those words of the great composer Hector Berlioz. As the Peoria Symphony Orchestra enters its 106th consecutive season, those two components of love of music seem inseparable to our musicians, our directors and staff, and indeed, our audience.

The desire of our community to create and appreciate great music has been the lifeblood of the PSO for more than a century. The histories of the Symphony and Peoria are harmoniously intertwined, and our 2003-2004 season will not only extend, but amplify, that wonderful relationship.

Those of you who attend the Symphony are well aware of its outstanding quality. Music Director David Commanday and the musicians of the PSO routinely excel in the most challenging selections of their programs, and our choice of guest artists rivals that of the finest symphonies anywhere. Which leads me, of course, into touting the musical treasures in store for our coming season.

Our opening gala concert features an appearance by the renowned violinist Hilary Hahn. A prodigy who made her orchestral debut at age 12, Hilary is now a seasoned, Grammy Award-winning artist—at age 22. This young lady’s performance of Elgar’s “Violin Concerto” will set the stage for the following powerful concerts.

The orchestra jazzes it up in October with Roaring ‘20s, a program featuring works by Poulenc, Milhaud, and Copland. We’ll then present a soaring program in November with the gorgeous Brahms “Requiem,” featuring soprano Oksana Krovytska and baritone Lester Lynch. We’re very please to welcome back the Peoria Area Civic Chorale and the Bradley Community Chorus for this performance.

What could warm up the month of January better than a concert devoted to the magic of Mozart? For this special evening, Eric Hoeprich, a master of 18th century music, will fly in from the Netherlands to perform the composer’s “Clarinet Concert.” And those who saw the gifted pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi perform Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” in January will certainly appreciate his return in February, when he’ll play his personal favorite, Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4.”

The title of our March program, “The Virtuoso Orchestra,” says it all. The orchestra is the star of the evening, playing well-known favorites by Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, and Bartok. The season concludes in May with an exciting Scandinavian evening highlighting the musical artistry of Sibelius and Nielsen. Guest soloist Thomas Jensen of Denmark will perform Nielsen’s “Flute Concerto.” Although that will end our regular season, another surprise is in store.

Few could argue the greatest superstar of any musical genre is the incomparable Yo-Yo Ma. This master cellist, the winner of 14 Grammy Awards, has enthralled audiences worldwide with popular, Appalachian, Asian, and classical music for the past two decades. He’ll make his first appearance in central Illinois with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra May 24, 2004. That date can’t get here soon enough for us, and we know music lovers across the area feel the same. While not part of our regular season, season subscribers can reserve tickets early for this sure-to-sell-out concert.

The Peoria Symphony Orchestra continues to grow, improve, and please. This couldn’t have happened, however, without a core group of musical artists who have devoted countless hours to the Symphony over the years, and one of them deserves special mention. After 58 years with the PSO, violinist Allen Cannon is retiring at the end of the current season. The former PSO Concertmaster and Concertmaster Emeritus has been a stable force in the Symphony’s growth and excellence for nearly six decades.

As PSO Executive Director Judy Furniss said, “In my 12 years with the Symphony, Allen Cannon has been one of the best possible ambassadors for music in this community. Not only has Allen played in the orchestra for 58 years, he’s been a soloist with the Symphony, the Municipal Band, and many other performing arts groups. Allen also gives his time and talent performing for retirement centers, hospitals, and wherever music makes a difference in someone’s life. Thank you, Allen, for your devotion to music, our area, and music education.”

Our upcoming season promises to be unlike all others. Please join us on this exciting and adventurous musical journey. Take advantage of this great community treasure—-your Peoria Symphony Orchestra. AA!