WESTFIELD, NJ — The New Jersey Festival Orchestra (NJFO), formerly the Westfield Symphony Orchestra, is gearing up for its first season under the new name.

“I am thrilled about the launching of our new name—the New Jersey Festival Orchestra,” said Music Director David Wroe. “It is a moment of departure for our orchestra, both in our new form as an expanded and state-wide organization, and as a newly diversified orchestra offering a whole host of contrasting programs from classical to Broadway to opera to pop.”

It all begins on Oct. 12 in Westfield with an in-concert performance of Verdi's Aida featuring stars from the New York Metropolitan Opera, as well as a massive collaboration of New Jersey’s finest organizations, Opera at Florham and the dramatic double chorus of Coro Lirico and Summit Chorale.

Sign Up for E-News

On Nov. 1, audiences are invited to celebrate Halloween in style with a showing of the classic movie Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney with a live soundtrack provided by the NJFO.

“I believe 'Phantom' is for everyone,” said Maestro Wroe. “Firstly, the music is masterfully crafted, utilizing the dynamism of the orchestra to create a myriad of orchestral colors to match the drama. Secondly, the movie itself is not only iconic, but thrilling, and portrayed in the grand 'silent movie' style with larger-than-life gestures, stark dramatic contrasts and the classic characters that include the hero, the 'femme fatale,’ the dastardly villain and funny sidekick characters all rolled into one. The kids will love the antiquated spookiness of it all, and the adults will appreciate the timeless artistry of a bygone era.”

In February, the NJFO will present The Gypsy Spirit, a celebration of high-spirited folk and ethnic dance rhythms of Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov and more. The season will conclude in June with Mahler's monumental 2nd Symphony.

Other highlights include a holiday concert with The Three Irish Tenors on Dec. 6 in Morristown and a partnership with Natalie Merchant, former lead vocalist of 10,000 Maniacs, who will perform with the NJ Festival Orchestra Ensemble on March 22 to for a mix of old favorites and new songs.

Wroe credited the NJFO’s professional quality for attracting stars like Merchant.

“The NJ Festival Orchestra is the second largest professional orchestra in the state, and recognized by the Star Ledger and others as the leading freelance orchestra, period,” he explained. “So when an international star like Natalie Merchant needs a quality partner, the NJ Festival Orchestra is a natural fit. Secondly, we have already had a successful relationship with Natalie and word of mouth in the business travels fast that NJ Festival Orchestra is ideal for a diverse array of stars, resulting in partnerships with luminaries such as Joan Rivers, the 3 Tenors and  Peter Rubick, to name but a few.”

The upcoming season will also include perennial concert favorites such as Home for the Holidays (Dec. 7 in Westfield) and the always popular New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31 at Westfield High School.

For more information about the orchestra and to purchase tickets, visit www.njfestivalorchestra.org.

Click here to like the NJFO on Facebook and enter their contest to win two free tickets to Aida.