Queens Symphony reborn for 50th season

By Daniel Massey

Queens is once again alive with the sound of music.

After being forced to cancel its last two concerts as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Queens Symphony Orchestra is tuning up for a Feb. 10 program called “Doomed Love.”

The orchestra, which relies heavily on money from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and other government sources, had its funds frozen after the World Trade Center collapse.

“We could not go ahead and do the next concert without knowing whether we were going to get funding for it,” said the group’s executive director, Sophia Foglia. “We weren’t sure what was going on.”

With its funds recently restored, orchestra officials have turned their attention to solving another problem facing the group in its 50th anniversary season: lack of support from borough residents.

“There has been a drop-off in attendance,” Foglia said of recent concerts. “We have been addressing those issues with programming. We’re trying to put together programs people would like to see.”

“Doomed Love” is one such attempt. The concert will feature Tschaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” overture and selections from Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” as well as Broadway musicals “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

Borough residents flocked to an Israeli-themed program last season, selling out the Queens College concert, Foglia said.

“Obviously, if the programming is what people want, they will come to it,” Foglia said. “We have surveys that we give out. We’re trying to broaden appeal to the audience.”

The Feb. 10 concert will be the Queens Symphony Orchestra’s first concert in its new home on the Bayside campus of Queensborough Community College.

In one of her final moves as borough president, Claire Shulman announced she had directed $300,000 in discretionary funds to improve lighting and acoustics in the 875-seat QCC auditorium where the orchestra will now play.

City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), whose father David Katz founded the orchestra in 1953, said she was pleased the Queens institution was back in service.

“The Queens Symphony Orchestra is an integral part of our borough,” she said. “It proves that you never have to go over bridges or through tunnels to appreciate the arts.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.