Southern Delaware Orchestra seeks to expand after Saturday performance

By Craig Horleman
Posted 4/10/24

In a little more than two years, what was just an idea by Steve Greifer has shifted into an arrangement bigger than he could have imagined.

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Southern Delaware Orchestra seeks to expand after Saturday performance


REHOBOTH BEACH — In a little more than two years, what was just an idea by Steve Greifer has shifted into an arrangement bigger than he could have imagined.

In February 2022, Mr. Greifer reached out on local social media sites seeking folks with whom he could play chamber music when he moved to Milton that April. He hoped to play some duets or perhaps as part of a string quartet.

Prior to a 30-year career as a lawyer in New Jersey, he spent much of his youth in Rockland County, New York, as a violinist, so he was seeking to get back into music during his retirement.

“I thought I was lucky if I found one or two people who wanted to play music, and we ended up getting 30-plus people who were interested, and it ballooned from there,” he said.

Enter Eva DelGallo, a Lewes violinist and retired school orchestra conductor, who responded to Mr. Greifer’s first postings with a much bigger vision than a quartet. Seeing the enthusiastic response from the string-playing community, she saw an opportunity to bring to life her longtime dream of an orchestra in the lower part of the state.

Thus was born the Southern Delaware Orchestra, also known as “SODELO.” The all-strings ensemble started as a come-one, come-all, no-audition effort.

“First, we filled the stage internally, and then, from there, we’ve filled every place that we’ve played all six of our concerts,” said Mr. Greifer, who is now the group’s board president.

And, not satisfied with that, SODELO will now turn into a complete symphony orchestra this summer, with a full complement of brass, winds and percussion.

Its final concert as a strings-only band will be 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach. The program will include works by Felix Mendelssohn, Edward Elgar and Jean Sibelius.

Upon starting SODELO, Mr. Greifer and Ms. DelGallo reached out to James Allen Anderson, head of orchestral studies at the University of Delaware, to be its musical director.

“Thank God that Jim likes to drive. We have rehearsals every week (at Sussex Academy in Georgetown), and he drives 90 minutes each way to conduct us,” Mr. Greifer said.

“For us, it was almost like getting the Division I football coach to lead our team down here. And he’s been terrific. We thought maybe he would introduce us to some of his students, and we ended up with the coach.

“In fact, Justin Chou is our concertmaster and was Jim’s first concertmaster when he joined the University of Delaware 11 years ago. And SODELO has really been an excuse for those guys to get back together. So, every week, Justin drives from Philadelphia to (the Wilmington area), and then, they drive down together.”

By May 2022, the as-yet-unnamed orchestra of 30 string musicians held its first rehearsal. Two months later, the ensemble had a moniker, and the Southern Delaware Orchestra played its inaugural concert at Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes, entertaining a capacity audience.
Sold-out shows have continued at places such as Camp Arrowhead in Lewes, the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, Mariners Bethel Global Methodist Church in Ocean View and even The Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

“We’ve gotten the capacity audiences. We’ve gotten the standing ovations, the encores. It’s really a thrill for a community orchestra to do that. And our percentage of people who we know personally continues to go down, as our audiences continue to grow,” Mr. Greifer said.

“Ultimately, we would love to have three-quarters of the people in the house be people who just know SODELO but don’t necessarily know Steve Greifer or the other people in the orchestra. We’re looking to serve that second community who just want to hear music in southern Delaware.”

To that end, the expansion into a symphony orchestra will start after Saturday’s show. SODELO has featured a full ensemble in the past, but this will make it permanent.

“As we want to be a bigger service to the community, part of that is looking at the Rehoboth Concert Band or Delaware Winds or even people who play winds, brass and percussion and aren’t in any of those. There is no other place for them to play in a full orchestra. Just like there’s no place for us to play in a full orchestra, until we brought all of this together,” Mr. Greifer said.

“We ended up doing it more quickly, I think, than we expected to because AARP approached us, and they had an event planned with a Broadway singer (at The Grand Opera House), and they wanted full orchestral support for that. So, we were a 40-piece string orchestra after our summer concert last year, and by the time we got to our fall concert with AARP, we added 25 winds, brass and percussion to become a full orchestra.”

Mr. Greifer said any musician who played then can audition to become a full-time part of the new group. He also welcomes other performers from across the area who want to audition to email

He notes that former members of the Dover Symphony Orchestra, which has been defunct for the past few years, have joined SODELO, as well.

“I played in a Westchester, (New York,) orchestra, ... and I lived in northern New Jersey and drove over an hour every week to do it. And it was just so different than everything else in my life. And it was a revival of something that was really who I was.

“So, a bit of a drive out of your routine on your way to play music is not such a bad thing. And I’m hoping that some people will consider doing it. I know that, in our last list of orchestra members at the end of last year, we did have people from outside the Sussex area. So, we want people who are passionate about playing, and we want the best people in those groups, and we are open wide in terms of where they come from.”

The first performances with a permanent, full symphony orchestra will take place Aug. 10 and 11, with details to come.

Meantime, Saturday’s concert in Rehoboth Beach will feature the talents of two of SODELO’s principal musicians, in a program filled with classical favorites.

Mr. Chou — who has been studying violin since age 3 and hold’s a master’s degree in violin performance — will stage the first movement of Mr. Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E Minor.”

Also on tap is “Cello Concerto, Op. 85,” which was finished at the conclusion of World War I in 1919 and is Mr. Elgar’s last completed major work. Tony Gizzi, SODELO’s principal cellist and founder of the Shrewsbury String Quartet in 1998, will be the soloist performing the first movement of the piece.

Tickets for the concert are available at, at $20 for adults and $10 for students. Epworth United Methodist Church is at 19285 Holland Glade Road.

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