Something old will become something new for our City when Sinfonietta Dallas performs its first concert of classical music next month under the leadership of founding director and neighborhood resident James Rives-Jones.

Rives-Jones, who recently left the Dallas Symphony Orchestra after serving as resident conductor for 12 years, says it’s time for Dallas to have a professional chamber orchestra.

“Most cities the size of Dallas have a chamber orchestra,” Rives-Jones says.

Chamber orchestras, which average about 35 musicians, are considerably smaller than symphony orchestras. But they are just the right size for performing music by Haydn and Mozart because “the size of the orchestras of the 18th century (when many of the chamber pieces were written) was the size of the Sinfonietta,” Rives-Jones says.

“I think people who come to hear us will find out that even though they’ve heard the music before, it will sound different because it will be in a different context,” he says. “It won’t be on a program with large symphony pieces.”

Rives-Jones, who taught in SMU’s orchestra division for 12 years before joining Dallas Symphony, is no stranger to new endeavors. While at SMU, he founded the successful Dallas Civic Symphony.

Because Sinfonietta Dallas will have only a handful of performances each year (Oct. 6, Dec. 1, Jan. 12 and May 4 in its 1996-97 season), the musicians won’t be full-time employees of the group. This arrangement, combined with a careful choice of performance dates, will enable professional musicians from the Dallas Symphony and elsewhere to participate.

Performances are scheduled in the main sanctuary of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, which seats about 850 people and has wonderful acoustics, Rives-Jones says.

If you love music, regardless of your knowledge about chamber music, you should feel comfortable at a Sinfonietta performance, Rives-Jones says. The Sunday evening events (all concerts are scheduled at 7:30 p.m.) will have no dress code and no assigned seating. In addition, anyone willing to arrive early can hear a 30- to 45-minute talk by Rives-Jones about the night’s music and its composers.

“This is an opportunity for people to further enrich their listening experience,” he says. “It will be much more relaxed than the Meyerson (symphony hall).”

Rives-Jones, who graduated from Richardson High School and SMU, has lived in Lakewood with his wife, Sonja Staron, since 1973.

An award-winning conductor, Rives-Jones also studied at Boston University and the Academy of Music in Vienna.

Chamber music has been one of his passions since the early days of his career, but only after he began putting together the musicians and board members for Sinfonietta Dallas did he realize the growth in the music’s popularity in Dallas.

“I’ve been very gratified by the support and enthusiasm we have received in such a short time,” he says.

Tickets to Sinfonietta performances will be sold on a single-event ($25) or season ($80) basis. Special prices are available for students and senior citizens.

To keep ticket prices reasonable, Sinfonietta Dallas also is raising funds through memberships, which are fully tax-deductible, Rives-Jones says.

For details about tickets or membership, call 522-9898.

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