Editorial in The Independent
Friday, November 7, 2003

THE SWAN-SONG CONCERT of the Columbia Festival Orchestra at St. James Church in Chatham last Saturday left us both saddened and enthusiastic.

The orchestra, under the gifted leadership of Gwen Gould, is “suspending” operations, ending school programs as well as its concerts after 15 years of continuous operation. Times are tough for organizations like the CFO. Public support has dwindled and private funding has tracked the economic downturn. The demise of this remarkable enterprise is a significant loss to the county.

The audience for classical music in Columbia County (and nationwide) skews decidedly toward middle-age and older judging from Saturday’s crowd. Not many kids have Bach on the Walkman…or would admit to it if they did. Now, even fewer young people will hear this music, so central to our cultural roots. They’ll miss out on the joy from watching as well as hearing symphonic music performed.

It’s not our place here to act as music critic, but we found the farewell concert so sublime we’re tempted to call it way cool. That makes us hope the creative people behind CFO can resurrect the orchestra’s school programs along with some concerts, perhaps on a more limited scale, perhaps in conjunction with some other organization, but somehow.

Whether or not that happens, the Columbia Festival Orchestra has enriched the life of Columbia County. Ms. Gould, the musicians and the board deserve every measure of the standing ovation they received Saturday night.