Gaillard Center opening gala concert set Oct. 18

Yo-Yo Ma is the soloist for the Gaillard Center’s opening gala concert on Oct. 18. He will play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, accompanied by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

The Gaillard Center presents its first performance in the newly constructed Martha and John Rivers Performance Hall on Oct. 18, an event many concertgoers have been anticipating since the city first announced its $142 million renovation project in 2009.

And for the first show, organizers have booked superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Ma will play the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, led by its new music director Ken Lam.

The concert is part of a gala fundraiser for the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation’s capital campaign, which continues to raise money to pay the construction bills. The 70-minute program will begin with Handel’s Coronation Anthem, “Zadok the Priest,” featuring the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, followed by Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” a colorful work meant to draw attention to the hall’s acoustics. Some orchestra players will be stationed in the balconies to create the surround-sound effect the piece calls for, Lam said. The program will conclude with the Dvorak concerto.

“We are beyond excited for an artist of Yo-Yo’s stature to come and grace our stage for the opening,” he said.

“It’ll be a concert to remember,” added Concertmaster Yuriy Bekker.

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra had been hoping to be part of the opening concert in the new hall, but scheduling uncertainties caused by construction delays left this unclear for months — until today.

“It sends the right signal to the community” about the importance of the hall and the role of the local orchestra, Lam said. “We’re glad to be part of it, glad it worked out.”

Tom Tomlinson, executive director of the Gaillard Center, said it was “most fitting” to combine an internationally recognized virtuoso musician with the local orchestra, which has been flourishing in the years since it ran aground financially in 2010.

“This will be a perfect way to highlight the features of this incredible new performing space for Charleston, and an example of the performance quality Charleston audiences can come to expect in its new Gaillard,” Tomlinson said.

The public dedication of the Gaillard Center, which includes the 1,800-seat concert hall, multi-use exhibition hall and city offices, is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Oct. 9.

The invitation-only opening concert is 4 p.m. Oct. 18 and will be followed by a gala supper. Invitations will be extended in the next few weeks, according to organizers. For information about becoming a donor, or to receive an invitation, call the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation at (843) 718-1578, or go to

“The opening events of the Gaillard Center will mark the culmination of a world-class project for the people of Charleston,” Mayor Joe Riley said in a statement. “Being among the first to experience the Gaillard Center and its world-class performance hall is an opportunity that is unique in our lifetime.”

Additional opening festivities are planned for Oct. 19-21, and will include an array of ticketed and free events, inside and outside the building.

Information about the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s 2015-16 season lineup will appear in The Post and Courier’s Arts & Culture section next Sunday. The new “Gaillard Presents” series, which features classical music, ballet, Broadway and family programming, will be announced in the coming days. The Gaillard Center, which is both a venue and a presenting organization, is planning much more programming — including comedy, country music, R&B and jazz — for the 2015-16 season and subsequent seasons.

Spoleto Festival USA had expected to put the new concert hall to use this year, but construction delays made that impossible. The festival was forced to make last-minute program changes, moving some performances to other venues and postponing at least one large production until 2016.

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