Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra

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The logo of the Pierian Sodality of 1808

The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) is a collegiate symphony orchestra comprising Harvard students and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in March 1808 as the Pierian Sodality, the orchestra is considered by some to be the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States. This is disputed by others because of the organization's somewhat informal beginnings (the original charter states that the intent of the Pierian Sodality is to "perform music for the enjoyment of others as well as serenade young women in the square"), and as a result, some consider the New York Philharmonic to be the oldest American orchestra. The HRO assumed its current form as a modern symphony orchestra during the first half of the 20th century, and was, for a brief time, the nation's largest collegiate orchestra.

The orchestra currently contains over 100 members, and is the largest of the orchestras at Harvard University (though at one point during its history, the orchestra contained only one member, a flautist named Henry Gassett). In general, only students of Harvard College are eligible for membership, though this rule is not absolute and has occasionally been waived when necessary, allowing students from the other Harvard schools to participate. The orchestra plays four season concerts every year in Sanders Theater on Harvard's campus. It also sometimes gives children's concerts and regularly participates in the annual Arts First arts festival at Harvard. Its alumni board is still known as the Pierian Sodality of 1808.

From 1964 to 2009, the orchestra was led by James Yannatos, a composer and member of the music faculty at Harvard. He retired after the 2008-2009 school year, and Federico Cortese assumed the post of Music Director as of July 1, 2009.

HRO has toured various places throughout its history, including South Korea, Brazil, Washington, D.C., Mexico, Canada, Italy, Soviet Union, Asia, Europe, and most recently, Cuba. HRO has also performed in Carnegie Hall, and in 1978 placed third in the International Festival of Student Orchestras.

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