Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra performs at PAC  

The Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center kicked off its 2022 performances with the world-renowned Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27, at the FMU Performing Arts Center (PAC) in downtown Florence.   

The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra originated in Poland in 1944 after Warsaw freed itself from Nazi control. Based in Poland, the orchestra has toured across Europe and parts of Asia, but they have never performed in the United States prior to this show. Starting in Southern Florida, Florence was one of their first stops on the longest tour in the orchestra’s history.  

Conducted by Maestro Wojciech Rodek of Brzeg, Poland, and featuring a solo by 21-year-old violinist, Sara Dragan, the group started the concert off with Giachino Rossini’s “Overture to La gazza ladra,” followed by Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D major.” After a brief intermission, they played a beautiful rendition of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 in C minor,” ending the show with a performance of John Philip Sousa’s famous “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”  

With such a background, some might wonder why the group chose to play in Florence, SC, which holds a population of fewer than 40,000 people. As it turns out, FMU was the first to approach.  

“We chose them,” said Bud Simmons, director of the PAC. “We had an opportunity to engage them to come here and play for the audiences of the Pee Dee region and Francis Marion. We decided to bring them here and have a fully professional, world-renowned orchestra play on our stage. We have a perfect stage for orchestras, just like we have for the Florence Symphony Orchestra, the concert shell is perfect for this, and we like to show it off.”   

The FMU PAC claims state-of-the-art acoustics, creating a space for bands of any kind to come and be heard. Sound traveled so easily throughout the venue that members of the audience claimed to have heard the band warming up backstage as if they were playing just before them.  

According to its mission statement, one of the goals of the PAC is to enrich the lives of local audiences by continuing to provide culturally and ethnically diverse performances. Five more of such performances are slated to appear in February 2022.   

“We have a lot going on throughout the year for people to come and see,” Simmons said. “We have the South Carolina Chamber Music Festival that goes on at the end of February, and the Florence Symphony Orchestra will be back here on February 14 for a Valentine’s Day concert. Throughout the spring, the fine arts music ensemble will perform here, and Francis Marion choruses will perform here, so there are lots of student activities as well as community activities.”  

All upcoming events in the PAC can be found on their official website at www.fmupac.org where tickets can also be purchased, or by calling the number for the ticket office at (843)661-4444.