See the Grand Rapids Symphony 30 years ago in WGVU broadcast

The fall of 1985 was a busy time. 

In September, the wreck of the RMS Titanic finally was discovered in the North Atlantic; Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds belted his 4,192nd major league hit to become baseball’s all-time hit leader; and the first Nintendo home video game console was released in the United States along with the debut of Super Mario Bros. 

In October, the space shuttle Atlantis made its maiden flight into outer space, and the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked in the Mediterranean Sea by terrorists. In early November, 22-year-old Garry Kasparov defeated Anatoly Karpov to become the youngest-ever, undisputed World Chess Championship. 


In Michigan, the Grand Rapids Symphony was busily engaged in a search for a successor to its recently departed music director, Russian-born Semyon Bychkov, after five years in Grand Rapids. 

In mid-November, the orchestra welcomed guest conductor Paul Polivnick to DeVos Performance Hall for concerts on Nov. 16 and 17. The recently appointed music director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra led the Grand Rapids Symphony in Ottorino Respighi’s tone poem, “The Fountains of Rome,” and Paul Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.” 

WGVU-TV Channel 35 and 52 recorded the performances, airing the concert in the evening on Nov. 27 as well as in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. Violinist Dmitri Sitkovetsy, who would, 14 year later, be a candidate during the next Grand Rapids Symphony music director search in 1999, was soloist in Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor

The concerts opened with Hector Berlioz' Overture to "Le Corsaire."

No fewer than 23 musicians currently with the Grand Rapids Symphony also were on the roster during the 1985-86 season, including principal violist Leslie Van Becker, assistant principal second violinist Steven Brook, assistant principal clarinetist Michael Kornacki and principal percussionist William Vits. 

The entire flute section – principal flutist Christopher Kantner, assistant principal Ruth Bylsma and piccoloist Judith Kemph – were on stage 30 years ago and still are today. 

See how many you recognize in this video produced and directed by Marcia Simmons, with assistant director Lynn Asper, audio recordist Scott Hanley, and executive producer David Fant.

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 8:00 AM
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