The Philharmonic Society of Arlington: Celebrating 75 years

The organization began as a community symphony orchestra in the fall of 1933 and presented its first concert, conducted by Leonard Wood, in January 1934. In its early years the orchestra combined forces with the community chorus, high school chorus, and Friends of the Drama to present two annual concerts. The group adopted its current name, the Philharmonic Society of Arlington in April 1940. Leo Litwin was the conductor who followed Leonard Wood. By 1957 Paul Bauguss conducted both the orchestra and chorus in four concerts each year, including Messiah and a Pops concert.

John Bavicchi became conductor of the orchestra and chorus in 1968 and continued in that role until 1980, when he relinquished the job of orchestra conductor to Walter Pavasaris, who continues in that role today. When John Bavicchi retired from conducting the chorus in 2003, the current conductor, Barry Singer took over as chorus conductor. Over the years a number of people have served as assistant conductors in the Philharmonic Society. Today James R. Russell is assistant conductor of the orchestra, and Julia O'Toole is assistant conductor of the chorus. The Philharmonic Society of Arlington now presents eight concerts a year among its three performing groups, the orchestra, chorus, and chamber chorus.

Every 25 years the Philharmonic Society has celebrated in two ways, by performing Handel’s Messiah and by throwing a party. As part of the 75th anniversary celebration the orchestra and chorus combined with soloists to perform major sections of Messiah on December 14, 2008.

The anniversary celebration continued with a 75th birthday party, held on March 28, 2009 at the Arlington First Parish Unitarian-Universalist. More than one hundred members gathered for a potluck dinner, performances by small groups of musicians from the orchestra and chorus, and a computer slide show of archival and current photographs of the group through the years. Now it’s on toward the 100th for the Philharmonic Society of Arlington!