2008 was a very special year for The Bahamas Concert Orchestra. On September 3, this orchestra, which has been entertaining audiences with a wide variety of musical genres from classical to contemporary and jazz since 1991 was awarded the honour of being recognized as a national entity by the Government of The Bahamas, thus becoming �The Bahamas National Symphony Orchestra �.
This honour followed on the heels of a very successful gala concert on May 3 in the Atlantis Theatre, Paradise Island. The forty four member Bahamas Concert Orchestra was joined for the concert by sixteen young Canadian violinists and their teachers from the Academie Du Jardin Des Violons as the beginning of an exchange programme between the two countries. The ambitious programme began with the Vivaldi Concerto for two violins in A minor featuring Alexandre Da Costa, renowned international soloist, playing the 1667 �Dubois� Stradivarius violin, and Martine Cardinal, Director of Le Jardin Des Violons also a recognized violinist. The programme also featured the forty member Bahamas Concert Orchestra Chorus performing extracts from Vivaldi�s �Gloria� in concert with the orchestra. The second half of the programme provided the audience with a little light relief in the performance of �Peter versus the Wolf�, a courtroom comedy for orchestra and five actors, written by Justin Locke and based on the characters and music of Sergei Prokofiev�s �Peter and the Wolf�. Mr. Locke, a former bassist with the Boston Pops Orchestra, attended and filmed the performances.
In December the Bahamas National Symphony Orchestra performed in its first official capacity at a festive Tree Lighting Ceremony sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Division of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture at the Carmichael Road Post Office.
Also in December members of the orchestra participated in several other Christmas programmes assisting where there was a need for strings and/or other instrumentalists who are well trained to be able to perform with only a couple of rehearsals.
? December 14. Members drawn from all sections of the orchestra performed with the Ebenezer Church Choir in their Christmas concert.
? December 7. BNSO members performed at the St. Andrews Kirk with the Seventh Day Adventist Men�s Chorale.
? December 4. Violinists from the BNSO performed in �Handel�s Messiah� with the Regency Singers at the Church of the Ascension in Freeport for the second year in a row.
? November 29. BNSO members performed at the St. Andrews Kirk for Christmastide 2008 under the patronage of the Governor General, the Honorable Arthur D. Hanna.
At the end of the year the conductor�s baton passed to Douglas Turnquest who is now working with the orchestra towards a full programme for 2009 which will include a gala concert in addition to other community events. A highlight will be the visit of sixteen members of the Bahamas National Symphony Orchestra to Canada on the return half of the exchange begun last May where they will perform with the members of Le Jardin des Violons at St-Louis de Terrebonne Church in June. A fund raiser concert was held at the St. Andrew�s Presbyterian Church on March 1 towards the Canada trip. Several members of the orchestra performed as soloists and were joined by those who will be travelling to Canada in a group finale.
The BNSO is also working towards preparing a programme to, hopefully, take to Abaco next Spring at the request of the residents who greatly enjoyed the orchestra�s previous three visits to that island and are longing for the orchestra�s return. A major event towards which the orchestra will also be working 2010 is the Carifesta conference which will be hosted by The Bahamas and at which the orchestra will be showcased. Qualified musicians from all of the Family Islands are invited to be a part of the BNSO and currently players participate from Abaco and Freeport.
The Bahamas National Symphony Orchestra takes seriously its commitment to young musicians and to this end guides its young apprentices in both orchestral and chamber music playing. In addition to weekly full orchestra rehearsals the sixteen young musicians who will be travelling to Canada meet weekly in a chamber music programme. They presently rehearse specific repertoire to be performed in the June 21 concert in Canada under the guidance of senior members. This enables the musicians to become familiar with playing in a smaller group in which they work on texture, accurate bowing and tone quality. This programme will be continued next year with the possible addition of soloists.
Two students are presently being sponsored by the BNSO to attend a Suzuki violin workshop in Florida. These students and others will continue to attend workshops in Florida until arrangements can be made for instruction to take place in Nassau at a future date. The nurture and musical training of young players will ensure the growth and continuation of the orchestra and it is hoped that these young persons will themselves become teachers for the next generation of musicians.