The maestro and his musical colleagues of the late Long Island Philharmonic are returning for a pair of summer concerts — at least.
David Stewart Wiley, music director of the Philharmonic for 15 years before it disbanded in February, said Tuesday that he again will be conducting musicians who played for the Island’s only fully professional classical symphony orchestra.
Lynda Moran, executive director of the Islip Arts Council, and John Chicherio, performing arts director of the Huntington Arts Council, confirmed that the concerts are set for July 16 at Heckscher State Park in East Islip and Aug. 13 at Heckscher Park in Huntington.
Both events, previously booked with the Philharmonic, are free.
“I contacted David directly within hours after we heard they were closing,” said Moran, referring to Wiley and the Philharmonic.
But there’s also a movement by a core of supporters to re-establish an Islandwide symphony orchestra. Moran said a group she wouldn’t identify is “trying to put together a new board to find if there’s a way to keep it going.”
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“This was a cherished institution,” Chicherio said. “What I’m hoping for is the emergence of a new classical music organization to carry on its legacy. I understand it may be called the Concert Orchestra of Long Island,” he said, adding that the name has not been finalized.
Wiley, who spoke by phone from Virginia, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a new orchestra. “Because of the positive outpouring of people who feel the need for a classical music presence, I remain committed to conversations exploring that prospect.”
The freelance musicians who played for the Philharmonic will be paid union scale by the two arts councils for the upcoming events. “It’s all on the up and up,” Moran said, noting that the concerts were arranged through negotiations with the Local 802 AFM, Associated Musicians of Greater New York.
With the East Islip state park being such a large venue, the July 16 concert will feature 44 former Philharmonic musicians and a soprano in a program of patriotic tunes, marches and pops, culminating in fireworks.
Chicherio said the Aug. 13 Huntington concert will have “a chamber-sized orchestra of 17” playing an all-classical program.
After hanging on through years of concert cutbacks to reduce its debt, the Philharmonic called it quits when New Jersey-based Valley National Bank rejected a proposed loan restructuring.
“I think what happened is a travesty,” said John Russell, president of the former Philharmonic board. “If [the orchestra] can be successfully resurrected, that would be wonderful.”
Lawrence Levy, a former board member, said that “a number of economic and development planners recognize that the arts are an important asset to the region. And particularly with the Philharmonic’s history of drawing from across the Island, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason that a symphony orchestra couldn’t thrive here. But the time to step up is now, when there’s still all this energy and anger about losing such a vital institution.”