It all started back in 1957 with a trio of musicians wanting to bring a little culture to their small hometown. A few years down the road, the group had grown into an ensemble of 24 members playing local churches.
Now with a multigenerational membership of 50 amateur and professional musicians, the Richey Community Orchestra is preparing to roll out a new season with a few new twists.
Among the changes for the 2013-2014 season — a third dinner show added to the lineup, an added concert venue and the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance online with a credit card. Violinist Emiko Wennerholt, who has played with the St. Petersburg Opera Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra and other orchestras internationally, will move into the position of concert master.
"We're offering a large variety of music, which is a real accomplishment for this group," said executive director and clarinet section leader Denise Isaacson. "We're bringing in a lot of great talent to the area, so I'm hoping people will come out."
Think jazz, blues, classical and American songbook favorites such as Fly Me to The Moon performed by rising jazz vocalist Whitney James. She has been touted as one of NPR's rising stars and will perform as a guest artist in February after a scheduled appearance at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Another "must see" is Las Vegas trumpeter Charly Raymond, who will be heralding the New Orleans blues sound with selections such as Sugar Blues, Java and Tiger Rag at the Mardi Gras dinner show in March.
Also of note, said Isaacson, is a Palm Sunday concert featuring Christmas and Easter selections of Frideric Handel's Messiah, held on April 13 at First Baptist Church in Elfers. The church, which has been the orchestra's rehearsal home, will serve as a new concert venue for this particular performance.
"This is the anniversary of the first production of Messiah, which was held in Dublin on April 13, 1742," Isaacson said, adding that the concert will feature a full choir along with solo performers. "I think that's a pretty cool coincidence."
Richey Community Orchestra 2013-1014 lineup
• Born in the USA, 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. A tribute to American composers such as George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Aaron Copland, John Philip Sousa and Leonard Bernstein, with guest performers Randi Olsen and Jason Yungmann. $15.
• Christmas Time Is Here Dinner Concert, Dec. 1 at Spartan Manor Restaurant. Featuring the high energy musical repertory trio, Cover to Cover. Cocktails start at 1 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is served at 1:30 p.m. The show starts at 3 p.m. $40. Advanced reservations are required.
• The Wild Blue Yonder — Music That's Out of This World, 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. An imaginative show featuring rising singer Whitney James. $15.
• It's Mardi Gras Time Dinner Concert, March 9. Featuring trumpet virtuoso Charly Raymond and an afternoon of New Orleans style jazz, blues, and Dixieland music. Cocktails start at 1 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is served at 1:30 p.m. Show starts at 3 p.m. $40. Advance reservations required.
• Handel's Messiah, 3 p.m. April 13 at the First Baptist Church of Elfers. Featuring selections from George Frideric Handel's most popular work, sung by the newly formed Richey Community Chorus. $15.
• Sinatra Salutes the Ladies Dinner Show, May 11 at Spartan Manor Restaurant. Entertainer Andy Stefano performs selections such as Summer Wind, My Way, Nice and Easy, Witchcraft, New York, New York and more at this special Mother's Day Show. Cocktails start at 1 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is served at 1:30 p.m. The show starts at 3 p.m. $40. Advance reservations required.