Symphony returns to the Endless Mountains

Alex Gundling, left, an Elk Lake grad, of Tunkhannock practices a little bit beforehand during Sunday’s Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. STAFF PHOTO/VIRGINIA CODY


The Endless Mountains will once again be alive with the sound of classical music when the Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra has a concert on Nov. 26 at the Tunkhannock Area Middle School.

The orchestra, made up of musicians from near and far, will present five pieces this time around:  Von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture, the Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A by George Enesco, Morton Gould’s American Salute that is based on themes like When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Adagio by Aram Khatchurian, and the Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky.

Conductor Robert Helmacy, who also conducts the South Orange Symphony Orchestra inNew Jersey, said that he was very pleased to have found so many talented musicians inNortheastern Pennsylvania.

Many of his musicians are people who came to the area when their spouses got employment locally. Others, like James May of Falls, are retired military band members.   Some are students, many of whom come fromMansfieldUniversity.

“We also have three high school musicians,” he said.  “Two on violin, one on oboe.”

Musicians come from as far away asBinghamtonandSouth Orange,N.J.or from right down the street in Tunkhannock.

MaryAnn Yonchiuk, a physical education teacher for theScrantonSchool District, lives onSusquehanna Avenueand plays trumpet.

Yonchiuk said she doesn’t consider herself a professional musician.

“I’m a hobbyist,” she said.

But, she’d started playing trumpet when she was in the fifth grade.

Then, after taking some time off away from the instrument, she started up again, playing with several people in small combos.

“I’m not first chair,” she said, “but I can keep up with them.”

Yonchiuk said that her first experience playing with a professional orchestra occurred when she was in high school and she had the chance to play with the Northeast Philharmonic Orchestra.

“It was a high school dream come true,” she said.

Alex Grundling, 26, plays principle snare in the orchestra.

A graduate ofElkLakeHigh School, he now lives in Tunkhannock.

Getting involved with the orchestra was something he hadn’t ever really planned on.

“I did a lot of music in high school and played at music festivals,” he said.

But that was really as far as it went until he met Colleen Helmacy ofLathropTownship, who plays cello and contra bassoon, and she invited him to audition for the orchestra she and her husband were forming.

“When we retired and moved here within the last 10 years, we met so many musicians,” she said, explaining why she and her husband started the orchestra.

“We realized there was a huge audience (for classical music).

“It’s turned out very nicely,” Robert Helmacy said.

Advanced tickets for the Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra concert on Nov. 26,8 p.m.are $8 for adults, $4 for students.  Tickets at the door are $9 for adults, $5 for students.

A second concert will be presented atTowandaHigh Schoolon Dec. 11 at3 p.m.

Tickets are available at Greenwood Furniture.