The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra came home on Saturday night.
For decades, the JSO performed inside Greater Johnstown High School’s Cochran Auditorium before moving to the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, which opened on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus in 1991.
But, for one night, the symphony returned to Cochran for the celebration of its 90th anniversary with a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the Resurrection Symphony.
“This is where the symphony started 90 years ago, here at the Cochran Auditorium, and we wanted to make it really special for the community to come back,” Beverly Feldman, president of the Johnstown Symphony Auxiliary, said.
The performance concluded a season of music and events that brought attention to JSO’s impact on the community.
“I think it’s really important because it enhances the quality of life for all of the residents,” said Ed Sheehan, president and chief executive officer of Concurrent Technologies Corp., a sponsor of the symphony. “I think it’s an indication of how vibrant our community is because we have a symphony. We have some of the most talented musicians throughout Pennsylvania and probably the Mid-Atlantic. I think we’re very fortunate, very lucky.”
Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic said the event provided an example of “the old mixing with the new and rejuvenating Johnstown.”
Maestro James Blachly chose the Resurrection Symphony, which, in his words, shows the “heavenly realm of what music can be.”
Rosemary Pawlowski, a longtime supporter of local art, called the work “a monumental piece and it is something that is really universal.”
Mahler wrote Resurrection between 1888 and 1894 with his mother, father and sister dying in 1889, the same year a flood killed more than 2,000 people in the Johnstown area.
“He takes you from the depths, which is where he brings you in the first movement and some of the fifth, and we go to the absolute highest heights of joy, of hope, of new life. … 1889 was the most devastating year in his life and it just so happens that 1889 was the most devastating year in Johnstown’s history,” Blachly said.
“This piece is about new life. This piece is about rebirth. This piece is about taking something that was devastated and making it beautiful, and making it triumphant and making it live again.”