Members of the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra pay to play -- and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Correction: The print and earlier online version of this story gave incorrect information about the founders of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

Members of the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra pay to play -- and they wouldn't have it any other way.

The dues-paying amateur musicians "rehearse and perform music for the enjoyment of our audiences and ourselves," according to the website of the organization, which was co-founded in 1979 by Clintonville resident Ann Elliot.

"It's just because we love it," said oboist Janet Dahlstrom, a resident of northwest Columbus, who joined the orchestra 24 years ago. "A lot of us grew up playing in high school and listening to orchestras, and it's nice to be able to continue that."

"It's very inspiring and great for the soul, getting united to make music together," said Luis Biava of Clintonville.

Biava, the principal cellist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, is in his 18th year as conductor for the chamber group, which has about 50 musicians.

These string, horn, wind and percussion musicians, some of them "rank beginners," said Elliot, and some experienced, are rehearsing for two upcoming concerts.

The first is at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1479 Morse Road. Ascension Lutheran has been the orchestra's base since the 2013 season.

The second concert will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at Highlands Presbyterian Church, 6909 Smoky Row Road.

The concerts are free, but donations are accepted and are tax-deductible.

The Rev. Tim Muller of Ascension Lutheran recalled that Janet Dahlstrom, a member of the church and orchestra, helped bring about the musicians making the Northland church their home.

"We're happy and we're proud to have such an orchestra connected with us," Muller said. "I think maybe it's a hidden treasure that there are these free concerts. Oh, they take donations, but otherwise it's free. It's a good venue to come to."

The Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra was founded by Elliot and the late Marjorie Brundage with about 30 members, most of whom had been in the Jewish Orchestra. Timothy Russell, now director of orchestras and professor of music at Arizona State University, was the group's first conductor, Elliot said.

"It just grew," she said.

Russell departed after five years and has been succeeded by Timothy Muffitt, Steve Wedell, Kenchiro Matsuda, Richard Cioffari and, since 2000, Biava.

"We were all scared stiff that he would not take the bait and conduct us, and he has said he was just shaking in his boots that we wouldn't have him," Elliot said of Biava.

Biava, who is in his 11th season conducting the New Albany Symphony, has improved the talent level of the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, Dahlstrom and Elliot said.

"Before Luis came, we were pretty much a chamber orchestra so we did smaller works," Dahlstrom said. "He's expanded us into a full orchestra ... so we do more big pieces. He's pulled us more toward opera than other conductors in the past."

"He is demanding and exacting but also has immense patience for a group of players possessing a wide range of ability," the orchestra's website states. "Ultimately, he is somehow able to coax the orchestra into creditable and well-received performances."

"I don't know how he does it, but he just manages to pull us through," Elliot said.

Elliot said she takes some pride in having established the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra with Brundage, who also launched the recital series Sunday at Central for Columbus Symphony Orchestra and who died in January 2017.

"I'm just a caretaker for this orchestra now," Elliot said. "I pick up the pieces and send out the programs. I am proud of it, but it's not to do with me. It's more Luis and the others."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1