Plainfield Symphony Orchestrates 100th Anniversary

Director Charles Prince describes his musicians as “unparalleled and extraordinary.” 

Plainfield Symphony Orchestra
Music director Charles Prince conducts the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy of David Beverly and the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra

Charles Prince has conducted the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and the Operetta Summer in Vienna, Austria, but, in Prince’s estimation, neither can compare with the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra. The very first time he led the PSO as guest conductor, he thought, this is the greatest orchestra ever.

Since 2009, Prince, 56, has served as music director for what he calls an “incredible artistic jewel.” Founded in 1919 by a small group of amateur musicians, the 70-piece orchestra now comprises professionals and community members, all of whom are volunteers. The group, which kicked off its 100th-anniversary celebration in October, is New Jersey’s oldest community orchestra and the third oldest continuously operating community symphony in the nation.

On January 25, the PSO brings its annual, free family concert to the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church in Plainfield, its home for all recitals. The orchestra will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; Tim O’Connor and Timothy Priano will narrate the tale. “It’s an incredible outreach program,” says Prince. “I think it inspires a lot of kids to come to concerts.”

The spring show on March 21 will feature the music of German composers Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann. The final concert of the season, April 25, is dedicated to Gustav Mahler, Prince’s favorite composer. Tickets for each are $30–$65 at

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Prince’s admiration for Mahler dates to the master classes he took at the Tanglewood Music Festival with West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein. “It infected me in a very wonderful way,” says Prince.

Vienna, where Mahler spent the latter part of his life, is also special for Prince. In 1982, he spent six weeks in the Austrian capital while his father, 21-time Tony-winning Broadway director Hal Prince (who died in July), directed a production of Giacomo Puccini’s Turnadot at the Vienna State Opera. Prince now lives in Vienna and New York City, where he grew up.

Prince’s passion for the PSO is just as strong as when he first encountered the group.

“The musicians of this orchestra are unparalleled and extraordinary,” he says. “It’s an honor for me to work with them.”

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