Constantine Kitsopoulos leads gala fund-raiser for Queens Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday, May 12th 2010, 4:00 AM

Music Director for the Queens Symphony Orchestra, Constantine Kitsopoulos, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Farriella for News, Christie, M.

Music Director for the Queens Symphony Orchestra, Constantine Kitsopoulos, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

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Broadway stars performing tunes from "Evita," "Man of La Mancha" and Stephen Sondheim's Company provided a sonic call to arms for the Queens Symphony Orchestra's first gala in five years.

Constantine Kitsopoulos, the orchestra's music director, pulled out all the stops for Saturday's fund-raiser at Terrace on the Park in Flushing.

It was an opportunity to court donors amid a Great Recession, when many arts groups are feeling the pinch.

"This to me feels like a new beginning," said Kitsopoulos, 51, a veteran of Broadway as well as classical music recital halls.

The guests included a healthy showing of potential corporate and individual donors. The 57-year-old orchestra currently relies on public funds, but is trying to broaden its base and attract more private donors.

"Since we haven't done a gala in five years. I feel that we've been off the radar of corporations who give every year," said Lynda Herndon, the orchestra's executive director.

The gala was a way to remind private donors and community members that the orchestra still serves the borough as its only professional orchestra, she said.

The gala was the first since Kitsopoulos came onboard in 2006 and will continue now as an annual event, officials said.

Herb Chain, the orchestra's board president, said that when it comes to cutbacks, arts organizations are often the "first to feel the pain."

One of the orchestra's signature masterwork concerts can cost $50,000 to $75,000 to produce, Chain said, while generating at best about $5,000 in ticket sales.

Planning for the 2011-12 season is already underway and Kitsopoulos, known as an innovator, will be commissioning a work called "A Thousand and One Voices, A Symphony for Queens." The work traces how various immigrant groups got to Queens and looks at the process of starting over and creating new communities.

"Ultimately, the exploration of all of these elements can lead to better understanding between people," Kitsopoulos said.

It is just this kind of creative vision that has earned the admiration of people such as City Controller John Liu, the gala's honoree and a former orchestra board member.

"I just love this organization, it is always looking to use the universal language of music to bring people together," Liu told the Daily News.

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