Saenger repairs force Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra to new venue for 2018-19 season

Gulfport's First United Methodist Chuch to host 2018-19 season for Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. (Photo source: WLOX)
Gulfport's First United Methodist Chuch to host 2018-19 season for Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra opens its 57th season, it will be in a new location at the First United Methodist Church in Gulfport.

"The Saenger Theater is going to be under repairs for at least a year from what we're told, and that's our normal venue for the Gulf Coast Symphony," said incoming President John McFarland. "So, we had to go some place, and we looked at a number of venues. And the one that the conductor and the then board President Shelia White, and really everybody else got excited about was this place."

McFarland admits, while the move to First United Methodist Church in Gulfport is difficult, it's also exciting.

"The acoustics are so good here that that really plays to those string instruments. So, the conductor has put together a program for the year that matches this environment," McFarland said.

Reverend Claire Dobbs saw the opportunity to host the orchestra before that option became a necessity.

"Peter Rubardt had spoken at the Rotary Club of Gulfport, and after it was over I just approached him and said, 'Hey,if you ever need a venue, our church is open to host the symphony.' And so, a year later, he gave me a call, and here we are," Dobbs said.

She thinks her church is a perfect fit.

"This will be sort of a natural evolution for us," said Dobbs. "Our church has a long history of supporting music and the arts. We have a concert series called Arts Under the Dome. We have had that series for over twenty years."

McFarland sees it as an opportunity to get back to basics.

"It kinda takes symphonies back to their roots," he said. "This is where, centuries ago, orchestras played in cathedrals and buildings like this. It's a very comfortable, very warm place, I think, to be in. And then, like I said, with a program that's geared to take advantage of that."

All four concerts for this season will be held at First United Methodist Church. The annual Peppermint Pops holiday concert will be held at the Hancock Performing Arts Center.

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