All about that Bass-Baritone Brenden Friesen

Tonight is the night for Bach’s Magnificat! We have a busy day getting ready for the dress rehearsal and finishing final details for tonight’s concert. If you don’t have your tickets yet you should get them ASAP! We will also have tickets at the door and as with every SSO concert #TD25Below tickets are available!

Originally from Langham, Saskatchewan, Brenden Friesen is back home on the prairies to be a part of our concert and to work with our friends at the Saskatoon Opera!

Holding a MMus Opera degree from the University of Toronto, Saskatchewan born bass-baritone Brenden Friesen has captured audiences with his exceptional diction, enormous comedic presence, and incredible interpretation of text (Opera Canada). Brenden recently performed the roles of Leporello and Il Commendatore in UofT Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni , directed by Marilyn Gronsdal, as well as Masetto in Don Giovanni (Saskatoon Opera), the title role in Händel’s Imeneo (UofT Opera), The Police Chief in the UofT Student Composer Project opera Vengeance, and Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers (UofT Opera) under the baton of sensational baritone Russell Braun.

Brenden is very excited to be home on the prairies performing the role of Colline in Saskatoon Opera’s production of Puccini’s La bohème in June 2018. Following this performance, Brenden will be again performing the role of Colline with Highlands Opera in Haliburton Ontario in July 2018. In August 2018, Brenden is pleased to be continuing his operatic career as one of the young artists in the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and making his Montreal debut as Count Ceprano in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Getting to Know Magnificat Soprano Casey Peden

Did you know that there are five soloists in Bach’s Magnificat? One of the very talented artists joining us Saturday (7:30 pm @ Knox United Church) is soprano Casey Peden! Two sopranos!! Now there won’t be any duelling divas on stage but there will be some incredible music making that we know you must see/hear. We love having  Saskatchewan connections on stage with us and Saturday’s concert is full of prairie artists!

SSO: Where is your hometown and where are you based from now?
CP: Stony Plain, Alberta and now based out of Glaslyn, SK.

SSO: What is your favourite music-based memory?
CP: Watching my dad make music at family gatherings at my grandparents.

SSO: How do you deal with nerve?
CP: I don’t have a concrete answer for that ~ it’s an ever-changing path I am navigating as I go.

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
CP:  I would love to have lessons with Barbara Bonny.

SSO: What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
CP: Northern Saskatchewan Lakes ~ I love being near the water.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
CP: SSSV in North Battleford in July.  It’s a fantastic vocal summer school and its right here in Saskatchewan!

Getting to know Stephanie Unverricht

While Saturday’s concert is titled Bach’s Magnificat, our Principal Bassoon Stephanie Unverricht is actually the featured guest artist on a different piece in this concert. Stephanie will be showing us a more serious side of the bassoon instead of the comedic/character instrument we tend to think of from film. By having Stephanie perform Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in e minor  it is a chance for us to showcase the incredible talent of one of our own who usually uses her talents to help others make beautiful music! It is certainly going to be an amazing concert and we think you should get tickets for Saturday now before it’s too late!

As we are with all our soloists this concert, we sent Stephanie some questions to get to know her a little better.

SSO: Where is your hometown and where are you based out of now?
SU: Saskatoon and Saskatoon J (I feel pretty lucky to be able to have a life as an artist in the same place where I grew up!)

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
SU: My best defense against nerves is to tell myself that I’m not nervous! My dad taught me to calmly look at my music and say to myself “Hey, I can play that note! And I can play that note too!” until it’s all done.

(Yes Stephanie! You are more than fine!)

SSO: Was there an aha moment that made you realize music was the path for you?
SU:  I started taking music lessons when I was 4, but never thought it would be my career. I suppose my “aha” moment was in grade 12 when I decided I couldn’t NOT play music for the rest of my life.

SSO: What made you choose the bassoon?
SU: My first instrument was the violin, but in grade 6 I had to pick an instrument for school band. I tried the bassoon and found my true love!

SSO: Why do you enjoy playing Vivaldi?
SU: When I chose the bassoon in grade 6, my dad bought me some CDs to listen to. One was a collection of Vivaldi concerti and I remember listening to this CD often before bed and wondering if my fingers would ever be able to move that quickly! (Dear reader, we assure you that they can!) Vivaldi for me is fun and flashy. Even though this concerto is in E Minor, there’s nothing sad about it.

SSO: We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
SU: I play bassoon and other things 🙂

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
SU: I’d love to work with Beethoven. I think his intense passion would be exciting. He wrote so many great lines for the bassoon in his symphonic works, I’d love to try convince him to write a solo piece for bassoon.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?SU: When I’m not playing in the orchestra, I spend my time teaching lessons and playing with my band Minor Matter. We recently did a show at the UofS in Gallery 2 where we each chose a few works of art from their collection that spoke to us, then performed in the space. I love projects that involve the collaboration of different artists and art forms and look forward to more projects like these. Minor Matter has 2 albums released, an EP “Concept of a Knife” from 2012 and a full length self-titled album recorded in 2016 that are available on iTunes, Spotify and through our website

See Stephanie this Saturday (7:30 pm) at Knox United Church! Tickets are available online or at the door. It’s going to be an incredible night and it is our last concert of season 87!


Getting to Know Soprano Allison Walmsley!

We are delighted to have soprano Allison Walmsley join us for Bach’s Magnificat! 

Currently living in Toronto, Allison is coming home to Saskatoon to have her SSO debut. We asked her some questions to get to know some things that are not usually in an artist’s bio.

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
AW: There are too many favourite music memories to choose from!!! But I’ll never forget singing Daniel Kantor’s Night of Silence every Christmas for 10 years with the Saskatoon Children’s Choir.

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
AW: I try to embrace nerves as much as possible. Their existence, for me, is an indication that I really care about the work I do and the music I help create.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
AW: It’s genius. So simple and clean, but every time you come back to it you find something new!

SSO: We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
AW: Enthusiastic, Positive, Passionate, Empathetic, Hardworking, Honest.

SSO: If you could perform any piece, regardless of voice type, what would you pick?
AW: Se vuol ballare from Marriage of Figaro, or maybe the Diva Plava Laguna’s song from the Fifth Element.

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
AW: Mozart!

SSO: What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
AW: I love the prairies, because having lived away from home for 3 years, prairies means family to me.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
AW: I’ll be performing in Waterloo in Opera Vera Causa’s Canadian Opera Fest as Kate in The Covenant, and Luna in Padajuca Zvijezda. Both operas will be premiers of female Canadian composers! In July, I’m looking forward to singing Adina in Donizetti’s classic, The Elixir of Love, with Opera By Request in Toronto. I’m also very excited to be returning to Saskatoon in December to sing Messiah with the SSO!

Getting to know Magnificat soloist Spencer McKnight

Originally from LeRoy, Saskatchewan, tenor Spencer McKnight is well known to SSO audiences for his Messiah performances. His eloquent ornaments and crystal clear sound are loved by all! We asked him some questions recently to get to know him a bit better before his performance this weekend at Bach’s Magnificat.

SSO: You’re originally from LeRoy, but where are you based from these days?
SM: Outlook

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
SM: One of my favourite memories is getting to perform my first hour long concert at Third Ave United Church in Saskatoon. I learned a lot from that recital!

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
SM: Being really well prepared tends to help get rid of nerves. Before a show I might get some nerves, but if you realize that it’s just adrenaline you can use for the performance it’s less scary.

SSO: Was there an aha moment that made you realize music was the path for you?
SM: Yes, I decided to drop out of political science and focus on music. Within 6 months of that decision I was representing Saskatchewan at nationals where I won an award – and I was happier than I’d ever been. So I knew I was on the right path.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
SM: Bach is great because his music is so well written that it still sounds fresh today, and figuring out where you fit in all the moving pieces is always a challenge and great fun!

SSO: We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
SM: ”He was there, now he’s here” (We at the SSO office think this one is a winner!!)

SSO: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
SM: “If you can picture yourself doing anything other than music, do that. If not – it’s worth all the hard work and heartache.”

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
SM: Cecilia Bartoli… I would sing anything with her. She is just such a consummate artist. 
(For those of you who follow our Executive Director on social media you know that Mark Turner recently saw Bartoli in performance!!) 

SSO:What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
SM: This will be a very pedantic answer…but the skies. When I lived in Toronto I missed looking up and seeing the huge cloud banks we have here. When I moved back home I found myself staring at the horizon and taking pictures of every single cloud and sunset.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
SM: Over the past two years I’ve been developing a concert of music from the Great War with Mark Turner. We toured it to a few communities last fall – and are planning on touring it to more communities this fall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of armistice. It has been such an amazing artistic experience crafting the show and sharing it with audiences.

Join Spencer and all our guests at Bach’s Magnificat – Saturday, May 26, 7:30 pm at Knox United Church. Tickets are available at the door or you can buy them here.

Getting to Know Contralto Lisa Hornung

We are quickly approaching our performance of Bach’s Magnificat and thought it would be fun for you to get to know our guest artists a bit better!

SSO audiences are well acquainted with the incredible voice of contralto Lisa Hornung. Originally from, and still based out of North Battleford, Lisa has continued to make the drive to Saskatoon for many years to be a part of our Messiah performances among others. She is known for her warm smooth sound and her beautiful smile.

We asked Lisa a few questions. See what she has to say below!

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
LH:Family sing-songs – around the campfire or in the basement around the piano.

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
LH:Practice a lot. Delve into / discover / enjoy the text-music relationship.  Remind myself it is not about me.

SSO:Was there an aha moment that made you realize music was the path for you?
LH: Honestly, I don’t remember a time without music.  I have not always loved it (sometimes music is frustrating and unpredictable, especially as an asthmatic with severe allergies) but I have always needed it. Music makes me whole – not sure if there was ever a time I didn’t know that somewhere in my soul.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
LH: It’s beautiful, challenging, playful, whole.

SSO:We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
LH: Hmmm, didn’t know how to answer this so I asked my husband.  His six words for me are:  passionate, fun-loving, optimistic, committed, thoughtful.  Yes, I am married to a saint 🙂

SSO: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
LH: Enjoy today.

SSO: If you could perform any piece, regardless of voice type, what would you pick?
LH: The Lakes of Cool Finn – really, all Irish folk music. Oh! Big Band anything too 🙂

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
LH: Janet Baker 

SSO: What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
LH: My Family is here.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
LH: Summer School for the Solo (and choral) Voice July 7-14 .  Great time of learning, music making, collaborating, visiting….fun 🙂


You can get tickets to Bach’s Magnificat and read Lisa’s full bio here.

Share in the Future with Executive Director Mark Turner

Executive Director Mark Turner is away in Rotterdam at Classical:NEXT. In between meeting, collaborating, and learning with his counterparts from across the globe he took a moment to reflect on Share in the Future.

I’ve always been fascinated with the wonderment we experience when hearing live music.  A magic spell that’s cast by artisans and captures the hearts and souls of an audience.  We all sit together, and no matter what our day has held or how much we know about what we’re hearing, in-spite of our differences and because of our ears, we can all fall under the spell.

Even more fascinating is that being spellbound can happen on music you’ve heard 100 times or something you’ve never played before.  It is the truest way that we can all be understood and understand – and because of that live music needs to be fostered and protected and worked at.

As Glenn Gould used to say, music is not a momentary inspiration but rather a life long pursuit of hard work and serenity.  It takes thousands of hours for each concert to come to life so to that the audience can feel the magic.  It’s a labor of practice, research, planning, rehearsing, decision making, perseverance, and a drive to do it.  It takes a lot of time, and a lot of money, and nerves of steal.

But truly, it all comes down to one thing: passion.  The passion of a soloist to suggest a concerto, the passion of our musicians who sacrifice their time for more practice, the passion of producers to take risks and give of their energy, and the passion and audacity of a concert goer who could have stayed home and streamed something.  It takes passion to move us all to the hall for each and every concert – and that is why we can feel the magic.

This year we’re again asking you to make a donation to the SSO before our year end.  The economy is hurting, which means tickets sales are down – it also means that your money is more precious than ever.  So I ask with the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to ensure that your donation to the SSO is put to the best possible use.; whether that’s through investing in our musicians, creating more opportunities for you to come to concerts, or giving our region’s young people a chance for their imagination to collide with live music.

Running an orchestra is difficult work, and while I love my job, it takes a remarkable amount of work from many people – and with four seasons under my belt I can honestly say that some days i feel like I might give up.

But like a musician who is finding one small run of notes nearly impossible, there’s something that keeps us all working towards a remarkable goal – passion.  Eric’s passion for beautiful music, my team’s passion for their work and their orchestra, our musicians’ passion that causes them to need to make music not just listen to it, a subscriber who cannot wait for our next concert.  It defies logic and economics that orchestras still exist and still play music live, but I guarantee you it’s the passion that keeps feeding us to make magic.

So please support your orchestra this May.  Be part of that magic.  And if you’re reading this thinking you that it’s been too long since you’ve been to the symphony, then you need to stir up the bravery to leave the house and be part of magical concert moments.  Trust me, your life is so much deeper when you live passionately.

To make a gift to share in the future click here.

The Happiest Birthday of All

Even though the days are finally getting longer, January is still a dark, cold time. Thankfully there is a special day a the end of the month to bring us all hope. That day is January 27th.

There are many fantastic figures born on this auspicious day, some notable people include actor Alan Cumming (1965), astronomer Beatrice Tinsley (1941), musician Hot Lips Page (1908), author Lewis Caroll (1832), and on a very cold day in 1989, our very own Director of Communications.

As wonderful as all of us Jan 27 babies are, the SSO is paying tribute to one in particular.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27th in 1756. Christened as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theopilus Mozart it’s understandable that this prolific composer went with the shortened name.

Having an incredibly musical family father Leopold, sister Nannerl (a nickname for young Maria Anna), and Wolfgang would tour across Europe.Composing and performing before european royalty by age 5, it is no surprise that young Mozart was engaged as a musician in the Salzburg court by age 17.

Sadly Mozart passed away at age 35, leaving behind his wife Constanze, two children, and an amazing amount of music. You can see a list of his works here. One can only image what masterful works Mozart would have created had he lived longer!

In honour of the 225th anniversary of Mozart’s death, and his 261st birthday, we have partnered with Saskatoon Opera and the University of Saskatchewan to present Mozart week.

Mozart Week events include:

Music of Mozart
Sunday Chamber
Sunday, January 22, 2pm
Delta Bessborough Hotel

The Genius of Mozart
Music Talk at McNally Robinson
With Guest Panellists
Tuesday, January 24, 7pm

Special one time screening
Wednesday, January 25, 7:30pm
Roxy Theatre

Saskatoon Opera Performance
January 26 & 27, 8pm

Mozart’s Violin
With the University of Saskatchewan
Friday, January 27, 12:30pm
Quance Theatre, UofS

Mozart Festival
With Timothy Chooi
Saturday, January 28, 7:30pm
TCU Place

Mozart Festival with Timothy Chooi is the jewel to top the crown of Mozart Week. Timothy is an incredibly talented (and young!) violinist who is swiftly carving out a career for himself that rivals older bother Nikki. Described as “Le miracle”, Timothy has performed with symphonies across North America. He makes a conscious effort to make music more accessible through social media and by promoting causes that further music education.

Timothy will treat us to Mozart’s Concerto for Violin No. 5 in A Major, and then Eric Paetkau will masterfully take the SSO on a wonderful musical journey to Mozart’s Jupiter.

After our Saturday concert for Mozart Festival please join us for a birthday party across the street at the Hub! There will be a chance to visit with other patrons, our guest artist, musicians, and best of all, birthday cake.

So come help us celebrate the life and sounds of Mozart (and all the other excellent people that happen to share his birthday).



Top 5 SSO Gift Ideas

Christmas time is here! Happiness and cheer don’t necessarily go hand in hand with gift buying this season, so we’ve put together our top 5 SSO gift ideas. You can shop from the comfort of your own home, support the SSO, and give the gift of music to your loved ones.

Number 5: Brahms’ Violin Concerto in Feburary

Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster Jonathan Crow will be joining the SSO on February 25th to play Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major. It has been ages since the SSO has played this piece! We were certainly overdue and we found a fantastic soloist to join us. Jonathan Crow is an incredible musician and teacher. Since 2011 Jonathan has been the Concertmaster for the TSO and was at one time the youngest Concertmaster in North America (between 2002 and 2006 he was Concertmaster of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal). He is currently an Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Toronto and is a founding member of the New Orford String Quartet.

Also on the program is Valse très lente – Massanet, and Sybelius Symphony no. 5.  You can find out more and buy tickets here!


Number 4: Careless Whisper – the SSO does the 80s

Feel like your best years in fashion are behind you? Do you miss the glory days of the 80s? It’s Alright, we Feel For You. We are Head Over Heels for this pops concert. Jeans ‘n Classics returns to the SSO for big hair, parachute pants, and neon to spare. On Saturday, March 11 wear your Diamonds and Pearls and your favourite 80s inspired outfit to the Symphony as you Walk Like an Egyptian over to TCU for this fun night! (Just make sure to look both ways before you cross the street).

The program includes one of the our favourite numbers for 2 o’clock dance party. How can you sit still to Earth, Wind, & Fire?

Tickets and a full list of songs that make These Dreams come true are available here!


Number 3: Mozart Fest 

A whole week of Mozart is coming your way in January (January 22-28 to be exact). Beginning with our Chamber Concert on Sunday, a music talk Tuesday, Amadeus screening Wednesday, LovePlay with Saskatoon Opera, and a lecture from Mozart Project’s founder and Artistic Director David Bowser, it already seems like a full week. The cherry on top of this fantastic week is our Mozart Fest Concert on Saturday with violinist Timothy Chooi. Known as “le miracle” this young artist will blow you away with his performance with the SSO. Timothy will be treating us with Mozart’s Concerto for Violin No. 5 in A Major, K 219, on his 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius (on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts). At age 23, Timothy uses social media as a tool to reach out to his audiences across the globe. He shares bits of music and humour across facebook, instagram, twitter, and youtube.


Tickets for this amazing concert are available here.

Number 2: Star Wars – The music of John Williams

Joined onstage by the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra we will be a mighty force, of sound that is.

It’s no big secret that we are all music nerds at the SSO, but not just for classical. John Williams has composed music for over 120 films, several tv shows, and important events including a presidential inauguration, royal weddings, and fanfares for many a celebration including Leonard Bernstein’s 70th birthday. In his spare time, Williams also composes concertos for Boston Pops and his friend Yo-Yo Ma. With such an exceptional array of works, it would be impossible to do the complete works of John Williams in one concert.


We decided to focus on the music of Star Wars. It will be 40 years since the release of A New Hope, and what better way to celebrate than dressing up in our best Jedi outfit, and have a concert filled with selections from all the Star Wars films!

Tickets are available here. Join us April 22nd for a concert fit for a young Jedi (and those that are young at heart).


Number 1: Jan Lisiecki – An Encore

Described by the New York Times as “a pianist who makes every note count”, Jan Lisiecki is no stranger to Saskatoon. He is a true virtuosi and plays with maturity and talent that seem well beyond his 20 years. It’s exciting to know that Jan is just at the beginning of what we hope is a long life and incredible career!

The concert Jan played with the SSO was one that our audiences still talk about. This time we thought it would be wonderful to have Jan on his own in a more intimate setting. For two nights, February 21 and 22, Jan will fill Convocation Hall with the music of Bach, Schubert, and more. As there are only 350 seats available in Convo, we thought it was only fair to have Jan give two recitals (with the same program) so more people could enjoy what is certain to be a magical night! This recital is sure to be a much needed mini staycation in the middle of winter, as Jan will warm our hearts and distract us from our winter woes.

Jan says his aim is to always perform in a way that carries forward the beauty and brilliance of the original work. He has demonstrated that he is capable of rendering compositions remarkably close to the way they were intended. “Going into a concert hall should be like going into a sanctuary. You’re there to have a moment of reflection, hopefully leaving feeling different, refreshed and inspired.”

Just take a listen to Jan now and let him soothe your holiday stress away.

Tickets for this amazing recital are available here.

There are several other great concerts this season so take a look at what the SSO has to offer. There is certainly something for everyone!

We hope this holiday season is full of good food, family, friends, and most of all, good music.

From all of us at the SSO – Merry Christmas

Sing-Along Messiah FAQ

Messiah time is almost here! We love putting together and performing Handel’s Messiah each year. If it were possible we would fit every one from Saskatoon’s large choral community on stage with us for one amazing choir. Since there isn’t nearly enough room up front (and scheduling rehearsals would be a nightmare) we have the Sing-Along Messiah the afternoon after the Messiah performance. Choral professionals and enthusiasts alike join in singing beloved Messiah choruses as one huge choir.

Always wondered about the Sing-Along but you’ve never taken the leap? Have no fear! Here are some answers to the frequently asked Messiah Sing-Along questions.

Where and when is the Sing-Along?

The Sing-Along is Saturday December 10th at 2pm in Knox United Church. This is the same location for the Friday night performance. Doors open at 1 pm so come early to get your seat (and perhaps do a warmup or two)!

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available online and at the door. Tickets are $40 ($35 for seniors) and our #TD25Below is in effect at the door! ($15 for anyone 25 and under with id at the ticket table)

Do I have to sing?

No! We do not force everyone to sing. If you want to come enjoy our soloists, and an incredibly large choir, come watch and listen. We recommend you sit in one of the balconies at Knox to have the full experience.

Where do the singers sit?

We divide the main floor in to sections (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) so you can sit with your voice type (your people!). This way it is easier for those sight reading or experiencing their first Sing-Along. Confidence in numbers!

How do I know when to sing?

Our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus Conductor Duff Warkentin and Music Director Eric Paetkau will be there to lead the charge! Keep you eyes on the baton as there are changes in tempi. All sing along portions are bolded in the program with page numbers.

Can I sing the soloists part?

We invite you to sing along with our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus. Our soloists will be there for the recits and arias. In this relaxed setting they might try out a  few new ornaments! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful sounds of our special guests.

What if I don’t have a messiah score?

Not to worry. We will have several copies (at least 50) that we lend out for the performance. Please make sure to return them after as they belong to the University of Saskatchewan Music Department!


See you Saturday!