[One of my rare adult excursions into news reporting, helped out by the experience I got as a regular contributor to the newspapers at Wingate High School and Brooklyn College. The orchestra eventually emerged from bankruptcy and is still performing at a high level.]

The Hudson Valley Philharmonic has been forced to suspend its concert season by a bizarre financial disaster.

Last summer the orchestra put on a highly successful series of six outdoor summer concerts at the Island Green Country Club in Amenia. The orchestra had previously done several indoor concerts under the sponsorship of the same organization, American Pastime, and its owner Frank Zarro. According to the HVP’s Merrilee Sweet, the success of this relationship led to the summer concerts, which drew substantial attendances. They also served the purposes of publicizing the orchestra and extending its season.

The orchestra’s expenses for putting on the concerts amounted to slightly over $600,000. Although payment was due for $561,366 by October 15, and was guaranteed by Zarro, none of the money has been received.

Faced with the massive debt, the orchestra had no choice but to cancel the concerts scheduled for this weekend–an unusual program in which the composer Joan Tower was to conduct her own Violin Concerto along with music of Beethoven and Haydn. The orchestra is also canceling its Holiday Pops concerts of December 19 and 20, and its Symphony Series concerts of January 29-31.

According to Sweet, Zarro has told the orchestra that he will pay the money he owes, and that they still believe he will make the payments. “We don’t know the details of his business,” she added, “or how he handles his money.” Sweet does not know of any similar experience suffered by any other orchestra.

Within a few days the orchestra will be releasing information on emergency fundraising activities to revive its operations. A new Christmas CD by area performances, including members of the HVP, goes on sale November 27th at the Poughkeepsie Galleria, where it will be offered through the weekend. (It can also be ordered through the orchestra, 454-1222, at $12 per copy.) Other fundraising activities will be attempted to meet the orchestra’s ongoing expenses.

As the orchestra’s press release stated, “The Hudson Valley Philharmonic Society is not out of business. The HVPS has to solve a problem that it did not cause. That problem will be solved and the HVPS will be here to celebrate the new millennium.”

–Leslie Gerber

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