The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Symphony will remember philanthropist Rich DeVos at season-opening concerts Friday, Saturday

Philanthropist Rich DeVos will be remembered with remarks and special music at the Grand Rapids Symphony's season-opening concerts Sept. 14-15.
Grand Rapids Symphony opens its 2018-19 season on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15 in DeVos Performance Hall.

Grand Rapids Symphony opens its 2018-19 season on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15 in DeVos Performance Hall. /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

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Your guide to great seats at the Grand Rapids Symphony

Tickets for Grand Rapids Symphony's Beethoven’s 7th  start at $18 for adults, $5 students.

Full-time students of any age can purchase tickets for $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Tickets program, sponsored by Calvin College. Discounts are available to members of MySymphony360, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s organization for young professionals ages 21-35.

Tickets are available from the Grand Rapids Symphony box office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, located across the street from Calder Plaza.

Call (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online at GRSymphony.org.

Philanthropist Rich DeVos will be remembered at the Grand Rapids Symphony's season opening concerts.

Philanthropist Rich DeVos will be remembered at the Grand Rapids Symphony's season opening concerts. /Photo courtesy of Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation

Violinist Karen Gomyo will be soloist in Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto in DeVos Performance Hall.

Violinist Karen Gomyo will be soloist in Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto in DeVos Performance Hall. /Photo by Gabrielle Revere

Rich DeVos, businessman and community leader, philanthropist and patron of the arts, was a dear friend and stalwart support of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

In memory of DeVos who died last week at age 92, the Grand Rapids Symphony will remember him with remarks and special music at its season-opening concerts on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15.

Both Rich DeVos and his wife, Helen DeVos, who died in October 2017, believed in the power of music to sustain and nurture the soul.

“Rich and Helen DeVos’s vision for the Grand Rapids Symphony gave us the orchestra we have today,” said Peter Perez, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony. “Their guidance and support truly was transformational.”

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 for the first concert of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series. Violinist Karen Gomyo, one of the most celebrated soloists of her generation, will join the orchestra to perform Samuel Barber’s neo-romantic Violin Concerto to open the orchestra’s 2018-19 season on in DeVos Performance Hall.

Associate Conductor John Varineau, who is in his 34th season with the Grand Rapids Symphony, will offer brief remarks on the second half of the concert. Afterward, Lehninger will lead the orchestra in Maurice Ravel's Pavane, a brief, beautiful work that lies somewhere between a hymn and a folk song.

A moment of silence will follow, leading to the performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, a piece that accompanied the climactic scene of the 2010 film “The King’s Speech,” As actor Colin Firth, as King George VI, overcomes the stammer he's had since childhood to announce to the British people on radio that his country was now at war with Nazi Germany, the allegretto movement from the symphony lends gravitas to the moment.

“It’s such a wonderful way to start a season,” Lehninger said. “Not only with Beethoven, but with that Beethoven Symphony.”

In 1974, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation provided the initial funds to hire five full-time musicians – two violinists, a violist, a cellist and a double bassist, beginning the process of transforming the Grand Rapids Symphony from a community orchestra to a professional orchestra. Four of the five were organized as the DeVos String Quartet. Today, the four principal players of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first and second violins, viola and cello sections continue to perform as the DeVos String Quartet.

The couple were instrumental in building DeVos Performance Hall, the orchestra’s principal performance venue, which opened in October 1980 as part of the former Grand Center Convention Center.

Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 10-concert classical series is known as the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

In 2001, the Grand Rapids Symphony presented a Bravo Award, its highest honor, to Rich DeVos. In 2007, the orchestra awarded a Bravo Lifetime Achievement Award to Helen DeVos, the only such honor the orchestra has ever bestowed.

Rich and Helen DeVos guaranteed that their vision for the future growth and success of the Grand Rapids Symphony would live on into the future. In 2012, the orchestra launched its $40 million Legacy of Excellence Campaign to build a permanent endowment to secure its future.

The DeVoses led the campaign with a $20 million leadership gift. Within four years, the Grand Rapids Symphony met its goal, securing an additional $20 million in cash, gifts, ongoing pledges and estate plans from more than 150 individuals, couples, corporations and foundations.

“Helen’s love of music drew us into the organization, and we’ve experienced the Symphony’s growth into an orchestra recognized nationally for the quality of its concerts and educational programs,” said Richard DeVos at the conclusion of the campaign in April 2016. “We’re glad to help preserve and sustain our orchestra, which helps create a positive atmosphere for growth in our community.”

Rich and Helen DeVos often were seen in the audience at Grand Rapids Symphony concerts. They were together at a concert in DeVos Performance Hall just a couple weeks before Helen’s death last October.

Music director Marcelo Lehninger first met and had dinner with Rich and Helen DeVos shortly after he was appointed Music Director in 2016. Both were keenly interested in his career and his background.

“They were very kind, both of them,” Lehninger recalled. “And they were people of such great faith. That was very powerful.”

“We talked about the power of perseverance,” Lehninger said. “Rich said he accomplished all he did because he was perseverant.”

“They loved this community, and they invested in this community,” Lehninger said. “The fact that they invested in the Grand Rapids Symphony made it possible to have the symphony orchestra we have today.”

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