Original Composition Honors Quincyan George Irwin

QSOA - George Irwin - Historical PhotoThe Quincy Symphony Orchestra has commissioned former QSO conductor Thom Ritter George to compose an overture in honor of QSO founder, George Irwin. The special composition, “Song of the Harp,” will debut at the QSO Legends concert on April 12.

Irwin, known affectionately the godfather of Quincy arts, founded the Quincy Choral Society in 1946 and was its first conductor. In 1947, he founded the nation’s first arts council, the Quincy Society of Fine Arts. That same year, he formed the Quincy Little Symphony. The Orchestra was expanded in 1952 and re-named the Quincy Symphony Orchestra. Irwin served as the conductor for the organization from 1947 to 1964. The orchestra and chorus organizations he created are now part of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association which expanded to include both youth orchestra and choruses.

Irwin helped found and lead the Community Arts Councils, Inc. in 1960 and subsequently the Illinois Arts Council in 1963. He is also a former chair of the American Council for the Arts and one of the founding members of the Business Committee for the Arts.

Also a champion of historic preservation, Irwin renovated the deteriorating bank building at 428 Maine Street, which currently houses the Granite Bank Gallery and was part of the group formed to save the Dr. Richard Eells House, a nationally recognized historic site for the Underground Railroad. He has been active in numerous area arts organizations, business developments and preservation groups.

Composer Thom Ritter George discovered his great interest in music, particularly composition and orchestral conducting, as a boy growing up in Detroit, Mich. He wrote his first composition when he was 10 years old and conducted his first orchestral concert at the age of 17.

After earning Bachelor’s (1964) and Master’s (1968) degrees from the Eastman School, Thom Ritter George accepted an appointment as Composer/Arranger for the United State Navy Band in Washington, D.C. During his military service, he also conducted the United States Navy Band. He was a frequent performer at The White House during the Lyndon Johnson administration.

After completing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Catholic University of America in 1970, Thom Ritter George was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra. While serving in Quincy, George did advanced conducting studies and continued writing compositions including the two ballets “Four Games” and “Erica,” and “Brass Quintet No. 4.”

Thom Ritter George left Quincy in 1983 when he became the conductor of the Idaho State Civic Symphony. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the orchestra commissioned George to create his “Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra” which was premiered in April 1995 under the composer’s direction. Other works from his Idaho period include “Suite for String Orchestra,” “Six American Folk Songs” and “Westward Journey.”

Thom Ritter George has composed more than 350 works, many of which are recorded. His compositions have been played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Eastman-Rochester orchestras, and other major ensembles in the USA and abroad. Since 2007, George has been engaged solely in orchestral guest conducting and composition.

The Quincy Symphony Orchestra will honor founder George Irwin by performing the world premiere of “Song of the Harp” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12 in Morrison Theater at Quincy Junior High School. More information about this concert is available at www.qsoa.org.