The New England Repertory Orchestra prepares for the inaugural season



There is a new orchestra in the valley.

NERO, the New England Repertory Orchestra, is founded and directed by Cailin Marcel Manson, and its inaugural season begins Friday, October 22 at 7 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in South Hadley.

Manson and his colleagues will perform Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Four Novelletten, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor.

NERO’s webpage calls the orchestra “An Inclusive Symphony, Born In Our Times”. Its mission: “The New England Repertory Orchestra strives to dismantle the exclusivity of symphonic music as a discipline and to create pathways whereby all can find a real place in the performance, study and support of this art form. NERO seeks to empower, present and champion artists of color, and focuses on the presence of our orchestral musicians and their work in the larger community. “

In a recent interview, Manson explained his intention to start a new orchestra in the Pioneer Valley.

“While we may operate in the same area (like other orchestras in the region), our goal is not simply to organize concerts or present an educational talk related to our prescribed programming. We realize that we only have a very small piece of work that is much bigger than us. In order to live out our mission specifically, we must engage others; we must actively engage the community, question it, collaborate and find solutions. We need to make sure our mission is visible in what we do and what / who we support, and in the art, stories and people we raise. “

Regarding the “dismantling of the exclusivity of symphonic music,” said Manson, “We aim to consistently program works by composers of all identities in juxtaposition to the standard repertoire, so that these composers and the repertoire which is their artistic legacy are no longer seen by our audiences as a specialized repertoire; there are also many living composers of color in our region, both emerging and long established, whose works have been underperformed.

The acronym NERO was born out of a conversation about the name and renaming of classical music organizations, according to Manson. The conversation grew out of his idea, born during the pandemic, to create an umbrella organization for orchestra, opera and choral music that “… could be a link for local artists and could provide a space to host artists. colored classical music and maybe give them the opportunity – or a reason – to put down roots here.

“Once the name NERO was mentioned in the conversation,” Manson recalls, “the ‘O’ stood for opera, orchestra, organization – but it became clear that the orchestral part of that vision would be the part most likely to go on. show up early. “

“I stressed that I liked the name because of its Italian meaning,” said Manson (nero is Italian for black), “and ALL the other connotations. orchestra and I decided to incorporate, we made sure our image and branding boldly indicated these layers. The NERO logo features a violin on fire, referencing the popular myth that the Roman Emperor of the first century Nero played the violin while Rome was on fire.

According to Manson, NERO currently has 28 musicians. Some of them include clarinetist Hannah Berube, oboist Kirsten Lipkens, French horn player Jean Jeffries, trumpeter Haneef Nelson, percussionist Rocio Mora, violinist Romina Kostare, violist Ucee Nwachukwu, cellist Wayne Smith and bassist James MacDonald. 6 other musicians will be engaged for the opening concert.

“Of our starting core of 28 players,” Manson said, “19 identify as female (68%) and 9 identify as people of color (32%). While the numbers are small, the proportion is telling and far greater than the proportion of such diversity represented in many orchestras in our field – especially those that have full seasons throughout the year. NERO aims, as it grows, to be primarily an orchestra of colors.

“There are festival orchestras like the incredible Gateways Music Festival and the Color of Music Festival, which proudly showcase and display the talents of black classical musicians,” Manson continued, “but there are still very few orchestras around. the year nationwide – the Black Pearl Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta to name a couple – who aim specifically in their mission to be diverse in their staff. What is most important to note here, is that the two aforementioned orchestras were founded with a black maestro / maestra at the helm.

Manson, CEO and Artistic Director of NERO, and originally from Philadelphia, studied vocal performance at Temple University, as well as opera performance and conducting at the Univerista and Mozarteum Salzburg. He has toured as a soloist and master teacher in major concert halls in the United States, Europe and Asia, and has been a cantor and guest soloist in some of the most famous cathedrals in the world, most notably Notre Dame. , the Sacré-Coeur and La Madeleine in Paris, San Marco in Venice and Santa Maria della Fiore in Florence.

He has served as Music Director of Voralberger Musikfest, Music Director and Laureate Conductor of the Chamber Symphony of Atlantic City and many other organizations. He is currently Associate Professor of Music Practice and Director of Musical Performance at Clark University, Music Director of the Keene Chorale and Music Director of Barn Opera. With all of these responsibilities already on his plate, why did he want to add an orchestra’s musical director to the list?

“Experience has taught me that often the fate of the world is decided by those who come forward and escalate,” Manson said. “I am also extremely grateful for the many opportunities I have had throughout my career, and for the mentors and supporters who do this job – the good job. [This is] an opportunity not only to see my vision take shape, but to do my part to uplift others and care for many of my colleagues through the art form that we have all dedicated our lives to.

NERO’s inaugural season is ambitious and fascinating. Following the opening concert on October 22, NERO joined the Clark University Chamber Chorus in Worcester on November 12, performing Funeral Music for Queen Mary by Henry Purcell, Symphony No.2 by Joseph Bologne and Psalm 42 by Mendelssohn. On December 11 and 12, NERO joins forces with the Keene Chorale at Jaffrey NH’s Park Theater for two performances of Handel’s Messiah.

On March 19, 2022, NERO celebrates the female composers with Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, featuring soloist Leonard Hayes, Overture in C major by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Symphony No. 3 in G minor by Louis Farrenc. On April 27, NERO joined the Clark University Chorus and Sinfonia at Mechanics Hall in Worcester to perform Mendelssohn’s Overture to the Hebrides, Beethoven’s Meeresstille und Glueckliche Fahrt and Choral Fantasy with pianist Yelena Beriyeva. On May 1, NERO, the Keene Chorale and the Clark University Chamber Chorus perform Robert Nathaniel Dett’s 1932 oratorio, The Ordering of Moses. The season finale takes place on June 4, featuring harpist Jordan Thomas in Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto and Brahms’ Symphony No.1 in C minor.

NERO even innovates in financial matters by adopting a “pay what you can” ticketing model.

“We felt that a suggested minimum donation ($ 5), a payment model that you can, was consistent with NERO’s mission and purpose,” Manson said. “Giving even a little to the orchestra to attend an event allows the audience to directly engage in supporting and investing in the future of the orchestra, but the cost should not preclude someone to appreciate this art form. “

Expanding on the subject of finance, Manson added, “NERO is a paid orchestra. We are not currently involved in any musicians’ union. While it may happen in the future, our goal is to have no membership or initiation fees – and none of the usual industry entry points other than training and the ability to play the repertoire. at a professionally viable level – to be a barrier for an artist to become a member of our organization. Our leadership comes from the orchestra itself, and it’s deliberate. No decision is taken unilaterally.

Tickets for the inaugural concert are available online at and via EventBrite. There is a suggested minimum donation of $ 5 per person, but participants can pay anything above. All participants must register separately online before the concerto. Reservations end October 20. In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, each participant will be required to register and present proof of vaccination, as well as to remain masked for the duration of the show.

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