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John Lamb, Published June 05 2013

VIDEO: F-M Symphony names Zimmerman next conductor

FARGO – The baton has been passed.

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra named Christopher Zimmerman its next conductor at a news conference Wednesday at the Ramada Plaza Suites here.

He takes over the podium for the upcoming 2013-14 season.

“It really is an honor to be chosen to be the next music director,” Zimmerman said at the announcement.

When asked what the season would hold, Zimmerman was coy, but said there would be an English/American theme throughout.

Now in his 50s, Zimmerman was born just outside of London but has been living in the United States for 20 years.

He said the first piece would be “Sinfonia da Requiem,” by British composer Benjamin Britten, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year.

The conductor will stay on as the music director with the Fairfax (Va.) Symphony, where he lives with his wife and two children.

The announcement follows a two-year conductor search that attracted 140 applicants. Each of the five finalists led the symphony through a concert this past season, with Zimmerman appearing at the second concert in November.

Previous musical director Bernard Rubenstein left the FMSO after nine years at the end of the 2011-12 season.

“You probably don’t remember when I was here,” Zimmerman quipped at the news conference.

But he remembered Fargo and particularly the musicians, with whom he felt an instant “rapport.”

The feeling was mutual, says violinist Mary Weisser, one of the symphony musicians at Wednesday’s event.

“He hit the podium, hardly said boo,” she says. “We just read the first piece, and it was just magic.”

Weisser says the working relationship between the musicians and Zimmerman was immediate and naturally collaborative. She says the concerts were among the top three musical moments in her life.

Zimmerman called the orchestra “great,” adding, “there are things to work on, but I’m happy to do that.”

The new maestro is getting put to work right away. He spent the rest of Wednesday meeting symphony patrons at the organization’s annual fundraiser, Wine & Beer on the Red, at the Ramada.

Today and Friday he officially meets the symphony board of directors and staff as they work to put the final touches on the upcoming season.

After a lengthy search, symphony executive director, Linda Boyd said she was already having fun working with the conductor.

“I feel really good about it. He’s great to work with already,” she said.

Boyd added that the season lineup will be announced by the end of the month and the first concert will be in late September.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533