After more than 60 years, the Chappaqua Orchestra is rebranding and will move its home base to Pleasantville for the start of the upcoming 2021-22 season.
Co-executive Director David Restivo said the decision to call itself Orchestra 914 is to broaden its base of support and remove any misconception that the group isn’t a fully professional orchestra. He said it hopes to perform in venues throughout Westchester, including the Tarrytown Music Hall, the Capitol Theater in Port Chester and the Paramount in Peekskill, where it gave its season-ending performance on June 11.
By moving to neighboring Pleasantville, Restivo said it will also join a community that has become a local hub for the arts, which includes the Jacob Burns Film Center, Arc Stages, the Pleasantville Music Festival and regular music performances at the village’s farmers market.
Restivo said he and Co-executive Director Amy Harter hope to raise the level of community support to something similar to the Ridgefield Orchestra.
“Every show was so well supported by the local people and the surrounding people in Connecticut and I said, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Restivo said of the Ridgefield Orchestra. “So the idea was we didn’t feel like, and for whatever reason, we weren’t getting that kind of support in this town. So we felt like we needed to find a town that really was in Westchester, that was really kind of like Ridgefield, that supported the arts, and Pleasantville really does that.”
The changes will coincide with the anticipated announcement in the next couple of weeks of the orchestra’s new music director and conductor. It has been without a permanent leader since longtime director Michael Shapiro left the orchestra several years ago after a 16-year run. Shapiro was able to attract top-flight talent from New York City to Chappaqua.
Restivo said it had been Shapiro’s goal to bring the highest quality performances to the Chappaqua Orchestra. When Shapiro departed, Restivo said he pledged to him that work would continue.
The annual schedule will continue to include a children’s concert, the Together in Music family concert suitable for special needs children and its concerto competition.
He and the board of directors also need to make sure that Orchestra 914 has progressed to the point where sufficient funding is in place to present consistent high-quality programs.
“We won’t do it unless the funding is there and the orchestra quality is there,” said Restivo, a violinist who has been with the orchestra for eight or nine years. “Hopefully, we can get the supporters and the funding we need to make that happen.”
While Pleasantville doesn’t have a large venue for the full orchestra to perform, he said partnerships are being worked on, particularly with Arc Stages, which has a smaller 99-seat theater and has plans for a larger 200-seat auditorium at its site, he said.
“They don’t have a venue,” Restivo said. “We would like to work on developing some sort of venue there. But in the meantime, because of our name, we feel like we can be anywhere in the county and perform.”
He said the orchestra plans to schedule at least one performance a year in the village, most likely one of its smaller chamber music quartets. There have also been rehearsals at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which can also be used for smaller performances.
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said he was “delighted” to have heard from Restivo about the orchestra moving their base to the village and he believes the community will embrace it.
While there may not be a permanent place to perform, he’s optimistic that their presence will create synergy with the village’s other arts organizations, which can provide greater opportunities for all.
“So I’m delighted to think that Pleasantville is a good place for that and we’re also delighted to think that over time there’s going to be some opportunities with all else that goes on here,” Scherer said.
Restivo said New Castle officials had hoped to make the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, formerly the Wallace Auditorium at the former Reader’s Digest site, into a venue that could support its needs, but the acoustical challenges in the facility were too great.
Internal discussions within the orchestra had been occurring for several years about broadening its base, but plans were waylaid by the pandemic. With the area having emerged from the emergency and a new director coming aboard, Restivo said Orchestra 914 needed to make its move now.
For more information, soon look for Orchestra 914’s new website at www.orchestra914.org.