WESTFIELD, NJ — The audience stood and cheered Saturday after the New Jersey Festival Orchestra kicked off the season Saturday in a new venue.

“I have long wished to perform at First United Methodist Church whose acoustics are ... well, heavenly,” Conductor and Music Director David Wroe said recently. “Resonant, lush and warm, they remind me of the great cathedral spaces in Europe.”

The program included George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess Fantasy, Max Bruch’s violin concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 featuring Slovak-American Violinist Filip Pagody as guest soloist and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. After a standing ovation from and continued applause from the crowd, Pagody returned to the stage to play a solo by Bach.

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The program will be repeated Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Drew University in Madison.

 The 2018-19 season is about people who came here and were changed by all that embodies the American experience, according to Wroe.

“Lazarus' poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty cries ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...’” Wroe quoted. “In this spirit, our 2018 to 19 season celebrates composers, artists and themes that found inspiration through their uniquely American experience.”

Coming up, the NJFO will hold the Return of the Three Holiday Tenors featuring John Easterlin and Friends. The annual holiday concerts in Westfield and Morristown often sell out.

For more information about the NJFO and to buy tickets, click here.