More than 100,000 tickets have already been sold for the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra's upcoming fifth season.

"These are just subscriptions," says conductor and artistic director Peter Shannon. "The success of the season is already referenced in ticket sales long before the first concert. A seal of approval is already reflected in the box office."

The 2013-14 concert schedule contains seven full-scale concerts and five chamber performances. Because this is the philharmonic's fifth anniversary, the new season will include several references to the number five.

The opening concert on Sept. 21 will feature Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony," Leonard Bernstein's "Candide Overture" and the American premiere of Irish composer John Buckley's "Violin Concerto."

October's concert will be presented in memoriam of Dick Platt, the philharmonic's first chairman of the board. The Philharmonic Chorus will perform Fauré's "Requiem."

Things will get lively in November, when the Fabulous Equinox Jazz Orchestra joins forces with the orchestra to present big band rhythm and hits. The orchestra's most popular concert, the Holiday Pops, will be presented in December at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

In January, the orchestra will work with VOICExperience to present Puccini's "La Bohème." The orchestra and chorus will present Handel's Messiah in February.

The Messiah will be especially notable because musicians and soloists from the State Opera House of Halle, Germany, will participate. The season finale concert will be presented April 26 with Mahler's "5th Symphony."

"A massive Mahler symphony, 'Beethoven's Fifth,' a big band pops concert à la Sinatra and a concert version of 'La Bohème' make this one of the most diverse seasons to date," Shannon says.

"I'm delighted with it and know that every concert will show the orchestra and chorus in a different light," he says. "It's fun being versatile, and I'm looking forward to the challenges that the season will bring. I just hope I don't break into a verse of 'My Way' when I'm supposed to be conducting opera."

The philharmonic will partner again with the Savannah Friends of Music to present educational pre-concert talks. Designed to enhance the listener's understanding of the music they are about to hear, the talks are free to all ticket holders.

"The modus operandi has been to get the season together with a little bit something new, some older stuff and something that is going to be as much variety as possible," Shannon says. "This is stuff Savannah knows.

"I'm particularly happy about 'Beethoven's Fifth' at the first concert and the end of the season concerto with my wife playing piano," he says. "Mahler is going to rock everybody's world at the last concert in April."

"The Messiah" with the visitors from Halle also will be a unique experience, says Shannon, who conducted two concerts in Halle last year. "La Boheme" also will be a highlight.

"It's a chance for Savannah to experience high opera and grand opera in its own city," Shannon says.

"The variety in the upcoming season is very obvious," he says. "We go from grand opera to 'Frosty the Snowman' to 'My Way' and 'New York, New York' to classical symphony.

"All genres of music are represented in this season. We've been fortunate to get it right again this season."

Melissa Emery, chair of the philharmonic board, also is excited about the number of tickets already sold.

"I think we have a really good mix of programs, from pops to classical, even including a brand-new piece that will be having its American debut," she says.

Emery also is excited about the program with Halle.

"Halle was Handel's birthplace, so it is very fitting," she says. "It's a beautiful city, very quaint."

But for Emery, the most exciting aspect of the upcoming season is the fact that it's the fifth. "A lot of people didn't think we would last this long," she says.

"We do have some wonderful soloists coming next season, both local and international soloists," Emery says. "Something Peter has been very good at has been getting international soloists at a bargain rate and giving world-class performances."

While David Pratt, the executive director of the Philharmonic, also is excited about the upcoming season, he says the orchestra still has a long way to go.

"We're not selling every concert out," he says.

"It takes a number of years to infiltrate the community in a deep way," Pratt says. "We are beginning to reach a lot of people in the Lowcountry and South Carolina."

The programs are designed to get people into the Philharmonic's venues, Pratt says.

"We're not taking huge artistic risks," he says. "We're programming things we know people like."

But there is some excitement in the mix. "There are some things in there that will challenge the musicians, orchestra and conductor," Pratt says. "We have a contemporary piece in the first concert, wedged between Bernstein and 'Beethoven's Fifth.'"

Even the risky pieces will be crowd pleasers.

"Sometimes Mahler can polarize people," Pratt says. "This is a beautiful piece of music, so we're not taking huge risks.

"Our partnership with VOICExperience to do 'La Boheme' is not the fully staged version, but we're excited about it," he says. "Some things are exciting and new but we're ensuring we're not taking too many risks because we can't afford to.

"The community should be really proud about what has happened in the last four years going into our fifth season," Pratt says. "The community has been a big part of that and we're very grateful."


Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra fifth anniversary season concert calendar

⢠7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, Lucas Theatre, Opening Night: Bernstein, Buckley & Beethoven

⢠5 p.m. Oct 20, Lucas Theatre, Fauré's Requiem

⢠5 p.m. Oct. 25, Telfair Academy, Chamber Music Concert No. 1: Die Winterreise

⢠7:30 p.m. Nov. 21, Lucas Theatre, Big Band Pops

⢠5 p.m. Nov. 24, Telfair Academy, Chamber Music Concert No. 2: American Influence

⢠7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Holiday Pops

⢠5 p.m. Jan. 18, Telfair Academy, Chamber Music Concert No. 3: Trout Quintet

⢠7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Lucas Theatre, Scènes de La Vie de Bohème

⢠5 p.m. Feb. 2, Telfair Academy, Baroque Hour

⢠7:30 p.m. Feb. 21, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Handel's Messiah

⢠5 p.m. March 9, Telfair Academy, Chamber Music Concert No. 5: Brass Recital

⢠7:30 p.m. April 26, Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, Season Finale: Grieg & Mahler

Subscription packages are now on sale and may be purchased by calling the Savannah Box Office at 912-525-5050. Individual tickets for single concerts will be available starting July 29.