Utah Symphony Invites the Community to a Virtual 80th Anniversary Celebration Filled with Musical Performances, Surprise Guests – and Cake

SALT LAKE CITY, (May 18, 2020) – Utah Symphony is inviting the community to join in a free virtual birthday bash in celebration of its 80th anniversary on Tuesday, May 19 at 8 PM (MST) streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.

Back in 1935, what would later become Utah State Symphony Orchestra was created as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) Orchestra under Roosevelt’s New Deal, offering five concerts with 52 part-time musicians.

The Utah State Symphony Orchestra gave its first concert in Salt Lake City on May 8, 1940, conducted by Hans Henriot. Mr. Henriot lead the orchestra as Music Director until the end of World War II, followed by the brief tenure of Werner Janssen (1946–1947). The orchestra’s name was officially changed to the Utah Symphony in 1946.

The Utah Symphony became recognized as a leading American ensemble largely through the efforts of Maurice Abravanel, its Music Director from 1947 to 1979. During his 30-year tenure, the orchestra undertook four international tours, released over 100 recordings and developed an extensive music education program. The current day home of the orchestra, Abravanel Hall, opened doors in September 1979 and was renamed Maurice Abravanel Hall in his honor in 1993.

The 80th anniversary celebration event will be hosted by the Utah Symphony’s Ghost Light podcast co-anchor, Jeff Counts. Tune in for special musical performances with orchestra musicians, including the first performance from Abravanel Hall since it shut down in March. There will also be interviews with Music Director Thierry Fischer, violinist Augustin Hadelich, and more. And of course, there will be cake and surprise guests popping in to share their well wishes. Patrons are invited to join the event starting at 7:30 PM for a “virtual lobby fest” to show off their best birthday-bash clothes, chat with members of the Utah Symphony and get some behind-the-scenes secrets while getting ready to party.

Anyone who misses having a fancy night out are invited to dress up for the birthday bash for a chance to win a pair of premium FlexPasses to a future Utah Symphony or Utah Opera performance. The contest involves patrons taking a photo at their viewing party, and posting the photo to social media by Tuesday, May 19 at 9 PM. Details here.

If circumstance allows, Utah Symphony is asking people to consider making a donation to support Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. Canceling and postponing performances between March and May has resulted in a significant loss of ticket revenue while expenses have remained. Fun giving incentives for various tiers of donations include a “thank you video” from a musician for $25 donations, to exclusive access to selected archive recordings from Utah Symphony past and present music directors for $250+ donations.

In response to recommended Utah state COVID-19 health and safety precautions, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera (USUO) cancelled the remainder of the orchestra performances in the 2019-20 season, including an 80th anniversary gala concert with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, in late March. It announced the postponement of the summer Deer Valley Music Festival on May 12, 2020. USUO is working closely with local government officials and the health department to determine when it is safe to resume performances. No full orchestra performances are scheduled until September.