Introducing Alexander Shelley

Conductor Alexander Shelley’s impact on the National Arts Centre Orchestra is already being heard.  

The 38 year old British conductor took the position of Music Director of Canada’s national orchestra in 2015 and since then the orchestra has embarked on some remarkably ambitious projects.  Shelley’s first move was to commission four new works for the program Life Reflected.

NACO’s visit to Saskatoon marks Shelley’s first visit and performance to Saskatchewan.

Alexander Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in September 2015. The ensemble has since been praised by the Ottawa Citizen as “an orchestra transformed […] hungry, bold, and unleashed” and Shelley’s programming credited by Maclean’s Magazine for turning the orchestra “almost overnight […] into one of the more audacious orchestras in North America.”

Born in London in October 1979, Shelley, the son of celebrated concert pianists, studied cello and conducting in Germany and first gained widespread attention when he was unanimously awarded first prize at the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition, with the press describing him as “the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality.” He has been Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra since September 2009 where he is credited with transforming the orchestra’s playing, education work and touring activities. These have included concerts in Italy, Belgium, China and a re-invitation to the Musikverein in Vienna.

In January 2015 he assumed the role of Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he curates an annual series of concerts at Cadogan Hall and tours both nationally and internationally.

Described as “a natural communicator both on and off the podium” (Daily Telegraph) Shelley works regularly with the leading orchestras of Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. This season sees him returning twice to Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, as well as to the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, DSO Berlin, Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Frankfurt Radio, Gothenburg, Melbourne and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. Forthcoming debuts include Bergen, Helsinki and Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestras and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra.

In January 2017 he again leads Germany’s National Youth Orchestra on an extensive national tour, with performances in the Philharmonic Halls of Berlin (broadcast live on Digital Hall), Cologne and Essen, as well as Hamburg Opera and the Semperoper Dresden. This follows a similar tour in 2014, which included a collaborative concert at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival with Sir Simon Rattle and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Shelley’s operatic engagements have included The Merry Widow and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Royal Danish Opera); La Bohème (Opera Lyra / National Arts Centre), Iolanta (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), Cosi fan tutte (Montpellier) and The Marriage of Figaro (Opera North) in 2015. In 2017 he leads a co-production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel with the NACO and Canadian Opera Company.

Possessing an “uncanny gift for looking past but not indiscriminately discarding accumulated traditions and forming his own interpretations of familiar pieces” (Voix des Arts) Shelley’s first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, an album with Daniel Hope and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, was released in September 2014. Shelley’s second recording for Deutsche Grammophon, “Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood” is a brand-new adaptation of the Prokofiev children’s classic recorded with the Bundesjungendorchester. Available as both an album and app, it also features in DG’s ground-breaking interactive digital storytelling project, developed with the celebrated New York production company Giants Are Small.

Shelley enjoys a close relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, with whom he performs regularly both in their subscription concerts and around Germany. In 2013 he led the orchestra on tour to Italy with a signature programme of Strauss, Wagner and Brahms. He is Artistic Director of their Zukunftslabor project – an ECHO and Deutsche Gründerpreis winning series which aims to build a lasting relationship between the orchestra and a new generation of concert-goers through grass-roots engagement and which uses music as a source for social cohesion and integration.

Through his work as Founder and Artistic Director of the Schumann Camerata and their ground-breaking “440Hz” series in Düsseldorf during his studies and through his leadership of outreach projects in Nuremberg, Bremen and Ottawa, inspiring future generations of classical musicians and listeners has always been central to Shelley’s work. He regularly gives informed and passionate pre- and post-concert talks on his programmes, interviews and podcasts on the role of classical music in society and has a wealth of experience conducting and presenting major open-air events. In Nuremberg alone he has, over the course of eight years, hosted more than half a million people at the annual Klassik Open Air concerts – Europe’s largest classical music event.

Don’t miss Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra on October 23rd at TCU Place.
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Jan Lisiecki – Artist Profile

Just 22, Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki has won acclaim for his extraordinary interpretive maturity, distinctive sound, and poetic sensibility. The New York Times has called him “a pianist who makes every note count”. Lisiecki’s insightful interpretations, refined technique, and natural affinity for art give him a musical voice that belies his age.

Jan Lisiecki was born to Polish parents in Canada in 1995. He began piano lessons at the age of five and made his concerto debut four years later, while always rebuffing the label of “child prodigy”. His approach to music is a refreshing combination of dedication, skill, enthusiasm and a realistic perspective on the career of a musician. “I might be lucky to have talent, but it is also about dedication and hard work,” says Jan.

Lisiecki was brought to international attention in 2010, after the Fryderyk Chopin Institute issued a recording of Chopin’s piano concertos, performed live by Jan at age 13 and 14. BBC Music Magazine wrote of the “mature musicality” of his playing and commended the “sensitively distilled” insights of his Chopin interpretations; the release was awarded the prestigious Diapason Découverte. Confirming his status among the most imaginative and poetic pianists of his generation, Deutsche Grammophon signed an exclusive contract with Jan in 2011, when he was just 15 years old. Lisiecki’s first recording for DG, released in 2012, features Mozart’s Piano Concertos K. 466 and 467. It was followed in 2013 by Chopin’s Etudes Op. 10 and 25, praised by Gramophone magazine for being “played as pure music, given as naturally as breathing”.

His latest album, issued in January 2016, presents Schumann’s works for piano and orchestra, and as ClassicFM wrote, “he may be young but Jan Lisiecki plays Schumann like a legend”.

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.”

In March 2013, Lisiecki substituted at short notice for Martha Argerich, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in Bologna with the Orchestra Mozart under Claudio Abbado. He crowned that season with a sensational account of Schumann’s Piano Concerto at the BBC Proms. The following year he performed three Mozart concertos in one week with the Philadelphia Orchestra, making his debuts as concerto soloist with the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala in Milan, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, and with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. The same season, Jan gave debut recitals at Wigmore Hall, Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and in San Francisco. The pianist’s development has taken place in company with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Orchestre de Paris, New York Philharmonic, and BBC Symphony, at venues such as Suntory Hall, the Kennedy, Lincoln, and Barbican Centres, and Royal Albert Hall. Jan has cultivated relationships with prominent conductors including Sir Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Daniel Harding, and Pinchas Zukerman.

The remarkable 20-year-old musician made his debut in the main auditorium at New York’s Carnegie Hall in January 2016. In its rave review, the New York Times noted that it was an “uncommonly sensitive performance”. Other significant dates in his 2015/16 schedule include performances with the Bamberger Symphoniker in Lucerne, subscription series debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and multiple tours, including one of Europe with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, which Jan is leading from the piano.

Foremost radio and television networks in Europe and North America have extensively broadcast Lisiecki’s performances, he was also the subject of the CBC National News documentary The Reluctant Prodigy. In 2013 he received the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and was also named as Gramophone magazine’s Young Artist of the Year.

Jan is involved in charity work, donating his time and performance to such organizations as the David Foster Foundation, the Polish Humanitarian Organization and the Wish Upon a Star Foundation. In 2012 he was named UNICEF Ambassador to Canada having been a National Youth Representative since 2008.

“Jan Lisiecki. Remember the name.” – The Financial Times.

NACO’s I Lost My Talk

I Lost My Talk is based on the poem by Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. Rita Joe penned her poem to express not only the pain and suffering she experienced at Schubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, but also her hope and conviction that her words could guide and inspire indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada to journey to a place of strength and healing. NAC award composer John Estacio has created a lush musical score which is performed in synergy with a film by world-renowned director Barbara Willis Sweete.

The film, shot in High Definition on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, features 10 First Nations dancers moving in choreography created by Santee Smith Tekaronhiáhkhwa, Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Rita Joe’s poem is narrated by Guna and Rappahannock actor Monique Mojica. Visual designers Normal bring the film to life on screens that immerse the orchestra and audience. (This work premiered January 14, 2016). Duration 20 minutes.

Commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Right Honourable Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E. by his family.

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe

I lost my talk
The talk you took away.
When I was a little girl
At Shubenacadie school.

You snatched it away:
I speak like you
I think like you
I create like you
The scrambled ballad, about my word.

Two ways I talk
Both ways I say,
Your way is more powerful.

So gently I offer my hand and ask,
Let me find my talk
So I can teach you about me.

Alexander Shelley reflects on the creation of I Lost My Talk

In a way, we spend our lives searching for our sense of self. For most of us it is a slow burn, an adventure explored on our own terms, in our own time. For others, the sense of self is challenged brutally and abruptly – violently even. We see it across the world on a daily basis – peoples torn away, displaced, their cultures threatened as they yearn for a home that no longer exists.

This powerful performance explores the themes of exile, resistance and displacement and ultimately celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

The great Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. – as with the other composers on our program – faced an insidious attack on her identity and did so with honour, wisdom, integrity and enormous compassion. Her powerful message of hope encourages peaceful reconciliation and was the inspiration behind this unique symphonic experience that combines music, motion and film.

As soon as I read “I Lost My Talk”, I knew that I wanted to engage with it, that I wanted it to be part of our creative lives, that I wanted us to carry her beautiful and dignified message to our audiences both nationally and internationally. Importantly and poignantly, her message also transcends its Canadian roots at a time when more and more people of different heritages are having to learn to listen and to understand

Donna Feore shares her experience with producing and directing I Lost My Talk

Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk is mother to all the creative collaborations that make up this performance. It was my goal to unite each artist through their unique response to Rita Joe’s words — Rita’s language. No matter how disparate their disciplines, we would find ways to communicate, to inspire. Music is a language. Dance is a language. Film is a language. All three are universal. Rita’s is not. Rita’s is intensely personal and painful. And yet her story must be told and retold for it touches us, universally. Rita Joe is our Elder. I hope what follows proves with what devotion we have begun to listen.

John Estacio describes his composition I Lost My Talk

In fifteen lines of poetry, Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk captures the discombobulating fear of being forced to leave one’s culture. Just as the poem is divided into four stanzas, the composition is divided into four uninterrupted movements.

A bucolic flute solo captures the narrator’s life prior to attending Shubenacadie Residential School. Strings play a hymn that suddenly transforms into a harsh musical environment; the flute melody is now fractured and lost within a foreign tonal soundscape.

Throughout the second movement, as shattered musical themes recover, the percussion and lower brass frequently interrupt, forcing the melody to regroup and move forward into an atmosphere that becomes relentlessly oppressive.

With the words “you snatched it away,” an aggressive third movement begins; the solo flute returns, swept up in frantic momentum. A percussion solo ushers the return of the hymn, now fraught and anguished. With the text “two ways I talk,” the hymn is played in two different keys simultaneously.

With “I offer my hand,” the noble fourth movement begins; here, an anthem for reconciliation soars as the narrator finds the courage to act as an ambassador, bringing peace and understanding to two different cultures as well as her own life.

Introducing Janna Sailor

Janna Sailor returns home to Saskatchewan to make her conducting debut with the SSO in the opening night of our Pops Series, Stardust – the music of David Bowie.

Conductor and violinist Janna Sailor is firmly established as a conductor, violinist, and musical innovator of extraordinary scope and versatility.  Originally from rural Saskatchewan, she began her musical studies at the age of three and performing with professional orchestras at the age of thirteen.

In June 2016, Janna founded the Vancouver based Allegra Chamber Orchestra, one of the only all-female classical orchestras in the world; an ensemble dedicated to creating opportunities for women and minorities in the music industry, with a mandate of social action through music. The orchestra has been featured on CBC Radio,German Public Radio, Radio ICI, the Strad magazine, The Violin Channel, The Walrus, The Hub magazine, as well as other publications and media outlets across North America and Europe.  Janna has conducted major orchestras and ensembles including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Vancouver Bach Choir, among others. Janna has held conducting positions with the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, and the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra. 

In addition to conducting, Janna enjoys a diverse career as violinist, delving into contemporary, world and early music, jazz, and classical crossover, in addition to chamber and solo engagements. Ensembles she has performed with include the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Tafelmusik.  Janna has served as concertmaster with both the Montreal based l’Orchestré de la Francophonie (2011) and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada (2014).  

In 2012 she co-founded Cordei Contemporary Harp and Violin Duo, one of Vancouver’s premier new music ensembles. Since its inception Cordei has commissioned numerous works from Canadian composers including chamber operas, award winning scores for silent film, works for multimedia and electronics, in addition to collaborations with dance companies and visual art installations.  The duo was awarded a Jessie for Outstanding Artistic Achievement for their work on the Patrick Street Production of The Light in the Piazza, and SOCAN Award (2014) for Best Original Film Score for their collaboration on the silent dance film, Zyra.

In addition to being active in the TV and movie industry, she has performed alongside artists such as Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Kenny G, Mary J. Blige, Chris Botti, The Canadian Tenors, Il Volo, Frank Sinatra Jr.,  Mary Margaret O’Hara and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. She has performed on two of Michael Buble’s Christmas Specials on NBC, and performed for heads of state including Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan, the Korean Consulate, and members of the Senate of Canada.

Janna completed her studies in violin and conducting at the Brandon School of Music and the University of British Columbia, and currently resides in Vancouver, Canada.

The Return of James Ehnes


There has always been something special about the way James Ehnes plays the violin.  The clarity of sound, the elegant phrasing, and his heightened attention to detail have made him a performer in a class unto himself.  

James Ehnes was born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. He began violin studies at the age of four, and at age nine became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music and from 1993 to 1997 at The Juilliard School, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music upon his graduation. Mr. Ehnes first gained national recognition in 1987 as winner of the Grand Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Competition. The following year he won the First Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Festival, the youngest musician ever to do so. At age 13, he made his major orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

In the 2016-2017 season James continues his cross-Canada recital tour in celebration of his 40th birthday, performs the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas in Stresa, Montreux, Los Angeles, Liverpool, and Amsterdam, and joins the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on a tour of China and the National Arts Centre Orchestra on a tour of Eastern Canada. James also holds artist residencies with the Melbourne Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the Scotia Festival, undertakes two tours with the Ehnes Quartet, and leads the winter and summer festivals of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, where he is the Artistic Director.

New and upcoming CD releases include a disc of works by Debussy, Respighi, Elgar and Sibelius as well as a recording of Beethoven’s Sonatas Nos. 6 and 9 (“Kreutzer”) with pianist Andrew Armstrong, the Sibelius and Schubert “Death and the Maiden” quartets with the Ehnes Quartet, and the complete works of Beethoven for violin and orchestra with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Andrew Manze. His recordings have been honored with many international awards and prizes, including a GRAMMY, a Gramophone, and 11 JUNO Awards.

His Opening Night performance with the SSO marks his return to the orchestra’s stage for the first time in over 15 years.

Dvorak’s 8th Symphony

Dvořák kept the typical format of a symphony in four movements, but structured them in an unusual way. All movements show a remarkable variety of themes, many of them based on Bohemian material. Occasionally the development of the themes seems like improvisation.[3]

The first movement is a powerful and glowing exposition characterized by liberal use of timpani. It opens with a lyrical G minor theme in the cellos, horns, clarinets and bassoon with trombones, violas and double basses pizzicato. This gives way to a “bird call” flute melody, reaching the symphony’s key G major.[1] Writing about a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra, Peter Laki notes that the development section “works up quite a storm.” In the recapitulation, the second main theme is played by the English horn, two octaves lower than in the exposition. The movement ends with a “short but very energetic coda”.[3]

Despite being marked Adagio, the second movement moves along at quite a reasonable speed. It begins with a typically beautiful clarinet duet and ends quietly, but contentedly. Similar to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the music is inspired by the tranquil landscapes, depicting a summer’s day, interrupted by a thunderstorm.[1]

Most of the third movement is a melancholy waltz in 3/8 time. Near the end, the meter changes to 2/4, and the music ends in a manner not unlike that of the second movement. The first notes of the Trio section (G major) are used in the Coda in 2/4. The movement is not the typical minuet or scherzo, but an “intermezzo” akin to the third movements of the First and Second Symphony by Brahms. In contrast to the “sweet and languid waltz” of the first theme, the second, “functioning as a ‘trio,’ sounds more like a Bohemian folk dance”.

The finale, formally a “complex theme-and-variations”, is the most turbulent movement. It begins with a fanfare of trumpets. Conductor Rafael Kubelik said in a rehearsal: “Gentlemen, in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle – they always call to the dance!”[1] The music progresses to a beautiful melody which is first played by the cellos. The tension is masterfully built and finally released at approximately two minutes into the piece, with a cascade of instruments triumphantly playing the initial theme at a somewhat faster pace. A central contrasting episode is derived from the main theme. From there the movement compellingly progresses through a tempestuous middle section, modulating from major to minor several times throughout. After a return to the slow, lyrical section, the piece ends on a chromatic coda, in which brass and timpani are greatly prominent. Laki summarises: “Dvorák’s handling of form is indebted to Beethoven and Brahms, but he filled out the form with melodies of an unmistakably Czech flavor and a joviality few composers at the time possessed. The variations vary widely in character: some are slower and some are faster in tempo, some are soft (such as the virtuosic one for solo flute), and some are noisy; most are in the major mode, though the central one, reminiscent of a village band, is in the minor. The music is always cheerful and optimistic.”

Hear it live with the SSO on Opening Night of Season 87!

The State of the SSO

Each fall as we’re getting ready to launch a new season, I get to take some time to look back at the past year and reflect on the “state of the SSO”.  I have to admit that this is always a great chore – but particularly with this past season, there was much to be proud about.

The SSO is in a state of growth – measured and steady, but still rapid growth.  In Season 86 we added two new series to our programming, we embarked on a collaborative week of Mozart Festival-ing, and we continued to grow our subscriber base.  This is remarkable news…we are making more music, and bringing it to more people, and engaging with more of our community.  We have used what we do as a means for dialogue about how we can connect more, and I think we’re doing a very good job of that.  We’re always striving to improve the lives of our musicians, so last season our spending on artistic expenses went up – a great reason for a growing budget.  The growth at the SSO is driven by a growth in our music community.

We formed a lot of great relationships that will play a big role in the future of music in Saskatoon – the most important of which is the Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the University of Saskatchewan.   This one-of-a-kind partnership outlines the common goals and aspirations the two institutions have for the province.  While the musical intersection of the SSO and U of S has always been evident, we’re going to strive to see how we can connect music with the University’s wider search for knowledge.  While its too early to say much, we are excited about a medical research project that involves the SSO in the upcoming year.

Share in the Future was again a resounding success – with donations and the generous support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, the campaign raised more than $240,000 in just two months.  This not only paves the way for the SSO to continue embarking on its dreams, but allows for some very cool projects that we get to announce before too long!

With the AGM this week we’re announcing that I have officially signed on for four more years as Executive Director at the SSO.  In my time with the orchestra I have come to be so immensely proud of the work we do, both on and off stage.  I am grateful for exceptional staff who are at the ready when I walk in and say “I have an idea”.  We are all grateful for the incredibly generosity of our volunteers – from the board, to the concerts, to the amazing Book and Music Sale…the volunteers of the SSO show that making music together is more than just playing an instrument.  It is their dedication that keeps the orchestra playing.  I’m thrilled to work with such amazing musical colleagues who have such a love and passion for what they do – and continually grateful to have Eric, a musical partner in crime that likes to dream as much as I do.

To our audience and supporters and fans – thank you.  You seem to have decided that coming along for this ride is worth it.  It is an honour to bring concerts to the stage for an audience who will take risks, knows great music when they hear it, and will support it with their generosity.

What’s next in the new age of the SSO?  We have more expanding to do – we want to connect more young people with live music, we want to create more opportunities for our musical community, we want to give patrons a chance to get the music they need.  We want to keep connecting with the community in different and hopefully get out to perform across our region again!  We need to keep working harder to ensure that the SSO is artistically and fiscally sound – we finished season 86 with a significant surplus of approximately $60,000…I’d like to do that for a few years in a row!

And we need you to come to concerts, to get lost in sweeping symphonic works, to get inspired by breath taking soloists, and to hear music that is going to make you feel alive.  We want you to feel special about a night at the symphony.  And we want our musicians to play to packed houses – this orchestra is something we should all take pride in.

I’d like to invite you to join us to celebrate the new year ahead – we couldn’t have a bigger star for opening night than James Ehnes.  A super star violinist to share in a night with Saskatoon’s orchestra….its only fitting if you’re there to celebrate with us!

See you at the symphony,

Mark Turner
Executive Director

5 Must Hear Concerts This Fall

Over the summer months music lovers have been coming by the office to get their season tickets for the upcoming year.  While following ticket buying trends, and listening to the excitement of our patrons, we’ve compiled a list of the concerts that are going to be remarkable musical experiences this fall!

People are excited that we have some of the greatest living musicians performing with us this fall; there’s excitement about new works that you’ll get to hear for the first time in the west; there’s a buzz around some of the SSO’s trademark unique programming…so, in no particular order, here’s the top five most buzzed about events this fall.

The Return of James Ehnes

The great gentleman of the violin hasn’t performed with the SSO in far too long, so its about time!  Ehnes will be performing Beethoven’s iconic Violin Concerto paired alongside Eric Paetkau leading the SSO through Dvorak’s passionate 8th Symphony.

It’s a season kick off worthy of the excitement of an opening night.
Opening Night with James Ehnes – Sept 23rd

Jan Lisiecki’s Schumann

When the 22 year old released his recording of the Schumann Piano Concerto, critics around the globe wondered if it might indeed be the best recording ever of the work.  Jan is out on tour this fall with Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and with tickets ranging between just $30 and $50 this is the not to be missed concert of the year.

A Saskatchewan audience favourite playing one of his favourite concertos!
Jan Lisiecki with NACO – Oct 23rd

A Tango Four Seasons

If you love a tango, we have a concert for you!  Our first Baroque Series concert of the year takes a twist and turn with renowned violinist Pascale Giguere.  Pascale is our guest concert master for our Baroque Residency this year, and while her Vivaldi will be worth more than the price of the ticket, its her Piazzola you do not want to miss.  The Argentine composer’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is sexy, passionate, filled with drama and Latin rhythms.


Piazzola’s take on the seasons has to be heard!
Pascale Giguere with the Four Seasons – November 4th

Three New Pieces

We have a passion for new music in this town…so this fall you have the chance to hear three of the most talked about new Canadian works.  John Estacio’s I Lost My Talk is based on the poetry of Rita Joe and has become a trademark of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s Canada 150 tour.  Tanya Tagaq’s last SSO performance was one of the most talked about musical performances in Saskatoon in 2016…she returns to the SSO stage with two new works.  Cristos Hatzis’ Thunder Drum has had rave reviews in its first performances, and a collaboration between Tagaq, Christine Duncan, and Christopher Mayo Quiksaatuq is a musical dialogue about Missing and Murdered Women featuring powerful strings, improvised brass, and Tagaq.

These pieces have deep stories to tell and will shake you to your core.
Tanya Tagaq and Thunder Drum – November 18th

Our Jazzy Nutcracker

Two years ago we had an idea…what if we put the SSO on stage alongside the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra and pair Tchaikovsky’s seasonal classic Nutcracker Suite with Duke Ellington’s jazz take on the work.  The result of the collaboration was incredible.  This time we have a few surprises up our sleeve…and did we mention the concert is being filmed?!


A orchestral classic with a big band twist.
Duke Ellington Meets the Nutcracker – December 2nd

…..and then we have a few surprises in store…

You know the SSO likes to keep some surprises in store for its audience…well this fall has two epic surprises. All we can say for now is that you need to make plans with the SSO for Friday, October 6th – we’re throwing a concert that night with some classical music superstars as a fundraiser for a new education initiative.
And we say that the season starts on September 23rd…..but like, maybe there’s going to be a special something the weekend before that.  It’s no House of Cards cliffhanger, but it will get your political juices flowing!

What does being Canadian mean to you?

If you weren’t born Canadian, would you chose to be?

Over the last few years we’ve taken Canadian new music very seriously – concertos, symphonies, chamber music, and brand new works.  Each and every one of them has been memorable: Mozetich’s Affairs of the Heart, Estacio’s Farmers Symphony, Charke’s Cercle du Nord III with Tanya Tagaq, Hatzis’ timeless Lamento with Sarah Slean.  These pieces have made a remarkable imprint on our audience and our orchestra. 

We are in a golden age for Canadian orchestral music.  Each year there seems to be new music being written that touches us profoundly…and I believe it’s because at their root, Canadian composers are expressing those things that speak to us as a people; our commonalities and our differences that have made us a great country.

We are a people who understand the meaning of cold.  We’re a people who love our vast and scenic country with its mountains and rivers and and forests and tundra and plains.  We love our double-doubles, Canadian Tire, holding the door for anyone, and gravy with curds on fries.  We are a patch work quilt of people who have come from all over to a land that has been entrusted to a people who have been here since the raven put the sun in the sky.  We’re not always good to the land, and not always good to its people.  We have some rich and wonderful history, and some history that is so embarrassing.  We try to come to the aid of our neighbours, trying to protect the freedom that we hold incredibly dear.  And we welcome new Canadians with open arms. We’re fascinated by our skies. 

This weekend is going to fill you such incredible pride.  Derek Charke’s new fanfare Elan is pure celebration.  Vincent Ho’s The Shaman is powerful and gripping and showcases one of the best percussionists in Canada, our very own Bryan Allen.  John Oliver’s The Raven Steals the Light, with actress Carol Greyeyes, shares the West Coast First Nation story of the raven placing the light in the sky.  And John Burge’s Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag explores the most basic connection of all Canadians….the weather! 

The music will be profound and wonderful.  But there’s another reason that this concert will be so memorable, and it has nothing at all to do with music.

We become the very first orchestra to host a citizenship ceremony.  At the start of the concert, 15 new Canadian citizens will join the SSO on stage to take their final oath, and sing their new national anthem.  Is there anything like a room full of music lovers singing O Canada, accompanied by an orchestra, to welcome their new neighbours?

It’s going to be an emotional moment that will remind you why it’s important to share the collective experience of our nationality in a setting that is all about being present and connected through music. 

I didn’t have to chose to be Canadian, but if I did I think I’d want to do it where I have a room full of strangers singing O Canada with me.

See you at the symphony,

Mark Turner