Handel’s Messiah – soloist Allison Walmsley

We’re thrilled to have soprano Allison Walmsley returning home to perform with the SSO for our Messiah performances.

Allison Walmsley is a Toronto-based soprano acclaimed for her “extensive upper register and resonate bottom” and is known to be a “natural and alluring actress” -Ludwig van Toronto. Hailing from Saskatoon, Sk, Allison completed her Bachelor’s degree in voice performance at the University of Saskatchewan under Dr. Garry Gable and Kathleen Lohrenz Gable. In April 2017, Allison completed her Masters of Music degree in voice performance at Western University under soprano Jackalyn Short, with whom she continues to study. While at Western University and abroad, she had the privilege of working closely with a number of coaches and mentors including John Hess, Dáirine Ní Mheadhra, Tyrone Patterson, Rosemary Thompson, Alain Trudel, Michael Cavanagh and James Conway.

Allison is a regular participant of competitions and festivals such as the Saskatoon Kinsmen Music Festival (2014) where she received first place, Gordon Wallis Opera Competition first place (2016), Maritsa Brooks Concerto Competition finalist (2016), Canadian Sinfonietta Concerto Competition finalist (2018), and she won the 2014 CFMTA Young Artist Competition/Recital Tour, along with duet partner Lindsay Gable.
Opera is a huge focus for Allison and some recent roles include Morgana in Alcina (AEDO), Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte (Opera Kelowna, Western Opera), Nanetta in Falstaff (Western Opera), Cat in The Bremen Town Musicians (Saskatoon Opera), Emily in Our Town (Opera NUOVA) and Lucy in The Beggars Opera (U of S Music Theatre Ensemble). She recently took part in an intensive weekend with MYOpera, one of Toronto’s vibrant indie opera companies. Allison looks forward to some upcoming opera projects including two Canadian works and an old classic: Ella in The Colour of Pain (Unexpectedly Opera), Kate in The Covenant (Vera Causa), and Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Little London Community Opera). Contemporary music and recital work is extremely important to Allison as well, and this recently culminated in a themed song recital with friends and collaborative pianist Natasha Fransblow, entitled ‘Songs to the Moon.’

After growing up in the Saskatoon Children’s Choir, Allison has been both chorister and soloist in several choirs including London Pro Musica Choir, Arcady Ensemble, and Greystone Singers. She sings professionally with Pax Christi Chorale in Toronto, and continues to be a featured soloist with their group. Some recent oratorio highlights as soprano soloist include Handel’s Messiah (RSO, 2017) Bach’s Magnificat (SSO, 2018), Beethoven’ Chorale Fantasy (Toronto Mozart Players/Pax Christi Chorale, 2017) and Schubert’s Mass in G Major (LPMC, 2017). Allison is thrilled to be joining the SSO for some Handel this December and looks forward to sharing in the amazing story that is Messiah.

Handel’s Messiah – soloist Adam Harris

Baritone Adam Harris is making his SSO debut this year in our performances of Handel’s Messiah.  We’re thrilled to have his beautiful voice lending its warm timber to this glorious music.

Canadian baritone Adam Harris has been described as an intuitively musical and distinctively dramatic young performer. He has most recently appeared with Calgary Opera, playing the role of Gregorio in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and in Koerner Hall as Dr Falke in the Glenn Gould School’s production of Die Fledermaus.

Adam has also recently performed the role of Marcello in Opera Kelowna’s La Bohème and the role of the Baritone in Against the Grain’s production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus at the Banff Centre. Further credits include Moralès in Carmen, Argenio in Imeneo, Pluto in Orphée aux Enfers, Marcello in La Bohème, Ben Benny/Western Union Boy in Paul Bunyan, Mr Gobineau in The Medium, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Curly in Oklahoma!, The Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe and Al in City Workers In Love.

In Concert Adam has performed Fauré’s Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Five Mystical Songs with the Lyrica Chamber choir, as well as Carmina Burana with the Indian River Festival. In 2016, he won the University of Toronto Concerto Competition and thus performed George Butterworth’s Six Songs from a Shropshire Lad alongside the University of Toronto Orchestra under the baton of conductor Uri Mayer.

Adam has appeared alongside Toronto based “Collectif” in their original production of “Fête” at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre and in “The Happenstancers” concert series, performing “Neuf Historiettes” by Jean Francaix(1912-1997).

Mr Harris holds a Masters degree from the University of Toronto Opera Division and and a Bachelor’s degree from Western University. 

Handel’s Messiah – soloist Spencer McKnight


Tenor Spencer McKnight returns to the SSO for the fifth season.    Since his first performance of Handel’s Messiah with the SSO, Spencer has quickly become a crowd favourite for his stratospheric high notes and spectacular ornaments.

Three time national award winning tenor, Spencer McKnight, began singing at the age of 17. He was encouraged to pursue music by an adjudicator who heard him sing at his local music festival.  His passion for music finds him frequently immersed in the music of Handel, Rossini, and Britten.

Among his many awards, Spencer recently won the Gordon C. Wallis opera competition.

This season McKnight will be featured with the Saskatoon Symphony and Regina Symphony in Handel’s Messiah. McKnight is also touring with his concert Songs of the Great War, and premiering a new recital program in the summer of 2019.

McKnight studied with teacher and mentor Lisa Hornung, and presently works with Toronto teacher and vocal pedagogue, Mark Daboll.  In the past few years he’s been a featured soloist with many groups including, University of Toronto Men’s Chorus, St. Peter’s Chorus, Saskatoon Men’s Chorus, Saskatoon Opera, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

His voice is described as fresh and brassy, and characteristically “Handel”.  Spencer McKnight is proud to have been a recent recipient of funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Handel’s Messiah – soloist Lisa Hornung

lisa_bioIn Handel’s masterwork, the alto has her work cut out for her – from the speed of the “refining fire” to the endurance of “He was Despised”, the repertoire is varied and vital to the narrative.  The SSO is thrilled to have Lisa Hornung tackle these beautiful Messiah moments.

Honoured as one of the University of Saskatchewan’s Arts and Science Alumni of Influence, Saskatchewan born contralto, Lisa Hornung has been acclaimed for performances in repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary composers. Her voice has been called “rich and powerful” and her stage presence has “inspired audiences and musicians alike”.
Most often heard in Handel’s Messiah, Ms. Hornung’s orchestral performances also include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mass in C major, Mozart’s Requiem, Coronation Mass and Vesperae solennes de Confessore, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, the Duruflé Requiem, the Canadian premiere of Ruth Watson-Henderson’s From Darkness to Light, Verdi’s Requiem, Bach’s Magnificat and Christmas Oratorio, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Vaughn William’s Magnificat, The May Queen by Bennett, and the Alto Rhapsody by Brahms. Very excited about the talents of composer Paul Suchan, Lisa was delighted to record his full nuptial mass entitled May, and to have premiered the role of May Bartram in his opera The Beast in the Jungle.

In addition to her orchestral work, Ms. Hornung enjoys an active recital career with recent performances including music by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Marx, Debussy, Purcell and Handel as well as Christmas, Spiritual and Folk repertoire. She has toured the United States and Europe as a soloist and ensemble member with the American Spiritual Ensemble, a group of professional singers dedicated to the preservation and performance of Negro Spirituals.

Soprano Casey Peden and Lisa have been presenting duet recitals including works of Haydn, Purcell and Handel as well as a variety of folk arrangements. They have collaborated with Mr. John Ried Coulter, Ms. Alison Kilgannon, and Professor Robert Hall. Their most recent venture saw them in Ontario singing with The Sudbury Studio Singers and the Sudbury University Chorus, performing Canadian Folk Songs arranged by Professor Hall for SATB choir with alto and soprano soloists.

Having performed across Western Canada, the United States and Europe, Lisa is always happy to be close to home with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. She enjoyed singing Bach’s Magnificat with the SSO and the SSO Chorus in May of 2018. In addition to her recital work, upcoming engagements for Lisa include Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
In accordance with her belief that every child deserves the opportunity to sing, Lisa runs a non-audition Community Youth Choir including singers from ages 5 to 19. She is the founder and director of Summer School for the Solo Voice, a week long study and performance opportunity for singers, choral conductors, accompanists and voice teachers of all ages and abilities. Growing from a local to a national, and now, international program, SSSV celebrated its 20th Anniversary in July, 2017.

In October of 2017 Ms. Hornung was presented with the Saskatchewan Music Educators Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Well known as a teacher, adjudicator, clinician and choral coach, Lisa lives in North Battleford, Saskatchewan with her husband John.

Top 5 SSO Stocking Stuffers!

Tickets to the SSO make a perfect stocking stuffer, so we made it simple to know what the perfect gift for your loved ones.

The remainder of our season is jam-packed with incredible concerts, so this list was hard to widdle down!

#5 – Godwin Friesen and Ravel’s Jazzy Concerto

The SSO loves when it gets to showcase the exceptional talent that Saskatoon has raised…and this January is going to be a very special concert.  Godwin Friesen is a National Music Festival winner and the winner of the SMFA Concerto Competition, to name just two of the many awards he has earned himself.  We’re bringing him home to blow you away with one of the most fun concertos in the repertoire.

Ravel’s jazz-influenced Piano Concerto in G is instantly lovely – charming, youthful, and a 3rd movement that just flies!  It’s paired with Milhaud’s jazz Creation of the World.

Click for Info and Tickets

#4 – May the Fourth – the Music of Star Wars

So for fans of Star Wars, May the Fourth is a big deal.  And the SSO has gone and made it a bigger deal.  Hear the exceptional music of John Williams from 6 of the Star Wars movies, including The Last Jedi, with the power of the force, erm…a full symphony orchestra!

Dress up for the costume contest, check out the amazing things in the lobby, and try not to tear up at Leia’s theme…no you’re crying!

Click for Info and Tickets

#3 – Mozart’s Requiem and an incredible story…

A few years ago, the SSO learned about a violin concerto found in Saskatoon.  The composer’s name was Heinz Moehn, and it hadn’t been played since the 1930s.  As we dug deeper in to the world of Moehn we discovered that he was the leading editor of Mozart’s music, and the foremost editor of Mozart’s Requiem.  As we dug in to our music library we discovered that Moehn’s edition is the one the SSO has always played from!

World renowned superstar violinist Timothy Chooi will be joining the SSO to re-premier the Moehn Violin Concerto, and we’re joined by the Greystone Singers and SSO Chorus and incredible soloists (like award winning Sask-born soprano Andrea Lett) for the Requiem.

This is going to be one of the most memorable nights at the SSO.

Click for Info and Tickets


#2 The Romance of Romeo and Juliet

We’re celebrating the Bard in a week-long mini festival of music that was inspired by William Shakespeare.  On Sunday February 3rd the SSO Chamber Ensemble is performing a Shakespeare-inspired concert at the historic Convocation Hall.  On Saturday February 9th the SSO is playing the Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Also on that concert we’re joined by violinist Andrea Tyniac who will be playing a stunning concerto by Vasks, and we open the night with the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra!

It’s romantic, its lush, its got something for every music lover.  It’s not often you get to hear Prokofiev played in this town!

Click for Info and Tickets


#1 An SSO Gift Certificate!

Not sure what the perfect gift is for the music lover on your list?  We’ve got your back!

You can call the SSO or stop by our new offices to get an SSO Gift Certificate – you can get it in any amount and it can be redeemed for any SSO event.  It let’s you give the gift of musical exploration to someone on your list!

Call the SSO at 3066656414

Or visit us at 602B 51st Street East – open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm


Ravel’s Tribute to Fallen Friends

This exuberant and elegant orchestral suite was arranged from selected movements of the composer’s original piano version. Three movements (“Forlane,” “Minuet,” and “Rigaudon”) from this orchestration of Le tombeau received a dance interpretation from Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht, Jean Borlin, and Rolf de Maré which was premiered on November 8, 1920, at the Champs-Elysées in Paris.

The Tomb of Couperin was intended by the composer as an homage to eighteenth-century French music, of which a majority of characteristic forms are found in the creations of François Couperin. The “tomb” of the title came to have further resonance; with the outbreak of the First World War, several of Ravel‘s comrades fell in battle, and each movement of the piano work is dedicated to one of them.

The first movement is a “Prelude”, in memory of First Lieutenant Jacques Charlot (transcriber of Ma mère l’oye for piano solo), in a lively triple meter marked Vif. The largely pentatonic theme is taken by the oboe, echoed by the clarinets, and gradually builds to a brief lush texture in the strings. Woodwinds are employed percussively at times, and the bassoons are sometimes combined with low clarinets for reedy timbres. Muted and pizzicato strings with harp harmonics at times form velvety “impressionist” textures that briefly contrast with the clear, pastoral timbres. The piece concludes with a surprising harp glissando into a sustained tremolo on flutes, oboes, and muted strings.

Although the rhythm, sprightly mordents, staccatos alternating with offbeat accents, and structure of the “Forlane”, in memory of First Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc (a Basque painter from Saint-Jean-de-Luz), are the same as the historical dance, Ravel employs major sevenths and chromatics, giving the tune a decided contemporary edge. This dance is lively like the preceding prelude, but has a more earthy feeling and is at a slightly less hectic Allegretto. An unusual touch is the combination of staccato woodwinds with string and harp harmonics.

The “Menuet”, in memory of Jean Dreyfus (at whose home Ravel recuperated after he was demobilized), opens with the theme in the oboe with mostly semi-staccato accompaniment figures and wonderful modal harmonies. The musette theme is scored with cello drone and subtle rhythmic harmonics. Thick, dramatic chords descend over a pedal and introduces the combination of minuet and musette themes.

The fourth movement “Rigaudon”, in memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin (two brothers and childhood friends of Ravel, killed by the same shell in November 1914), is in two contrasting sections: an animated dance in C major and a charming pastoral-like C minor oboe melody accompanied by guitar-like pizzicati. The first section is recapitulated for a bright conclusion.

Hear it live with the SSO Saturday, November 10th – click for more information.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock!

Humourist Stephen Leacock gave Canadians an identity at the time that the fairly new country needed a voice that bonded it ocean to ocean.  His writings were honest and captured a moment in time. Leacock found himself troubled by the onset of War – he understood that Canada needed to support the Allied Forces, but he acked for the young men a young country was sending off to war.

In 1914 when a Christmas ceasefire was declared, Leacock felt so moved by the act that he needed to write.  Putting pen to paper he coined a story that was Canada’s Christmas Carol. The story has magically been turned into a chamber opera by Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel and the SSO is thrilled to partner with Saskatoon Opera to co-produce this charming work that reflects on one of Canada’s greatest writers during one of the country’s defining moments.

Known for his gentle satire on small town life, Leacock wrote the short story “Merry Christmas” as his own cry against the horrors of World War I, and the inescapable robbing of innocence that war brings. In a deceptively short tale, he uses the character of Father Christmas, as a symbolic guardian of all our innocence, cruelly turned into a mad, shell-shocked victim of war, to bring his message home. Using a device that pays homage to his favourite author, Charles Dickens, in the classic “A Christmas Carol”, Leacock (himself a character in the drama) is visited by two spirits over the course of one night. These otherworldly visitations will lead to a transformation – one that empowers the author to use his writing as a tool for peace.

Our production of Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock will feature tenor Michael Harris as Leacock, soprano Chelsea Mahan and baritone Janaka Welhinda as the two night visitors.  The production will be directed by Charles Peters and conducted by Maestro Eric Paetkau.


Friday and Saturday, November 23rd and 24th

Quance Theatre at Education Buildling, University of Saskatchewan

Seating is limited – tickets are just $25.

Click for Tickets

Flanders Fields Reflections

As part of our SSO Remembers series, we’re honoured to present a performance of John Burge‘s Flanders Fields Reflections at our November 10th concert.  The concert commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, and John’s piece is a perfect way to capture the emotion of all Canadian’s reflecting on the impact of WWI.

That virtually all Canadian citizens and most English speakers in the Western world will immediately know that this musical work draws its inspiration from John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” is a good indication that this is perhaps the most famous poem ever written by a Canadian. Born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1872, Dr. John McCrae died in 1918 at Wimereux, France of pneumonia while on active service as a medical officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I. “In Flanders Fields,” was first published in the magazine, Punch, in 1915, and later appeared posthumously in a small volume of his poetry that bears the same title.

Flanders Fields Reflections is scored for string orchestra and is in five movements, each of which is titled with a phrase taken from the poem. The poem is remarkable in the way that it follows the fixed poetic form of the rondeau (which requires the repetition of the opening phrase at the end of the second and third verses) while expressing the extreme emotional gamut of loss, despair, sacrifice, obligation and hope. When one hears this poem recited at a Remembrance Day service, the words resonate with a depth that is transcendental in its power to convey what Wilfred Owen, another World War I poet, described as, “…the pity of war.” It is this resonance that the composer has tried to capture. At times, the music is literal in its approach, as with the wind effects in the first movement’s, “The Poppies Blow,” or the high, bird-like violin solo in the second movement’s, “Still Bravely Singing.” The middle movement’s, “We Are The Dead,” is captured in a slow funeral march while the final movement conveys the sentiment, “We Shall Not Sleep,” with a melody that keeps returning and an extended series of endings. The work’s most expressive music is found in the fourth movement’s interpretation of “Loved and Were Loved.” These few words represent so vividly, the individual tragedy that is contained within each and every death which is in stark contrast to the numerical tallies of war fatalities that can be summarized all too quickly. In this movement, a simple descending line of six notes is maintained throughout, as if to symbolically show that our search for love is perhaps humanities’ most constant desire. As the poem makes clear, we cannot forget that we are alive and free today because of those who gave up their own lives or loved ones.

The SSO’s audience last heard Burge’s work in the spring of 2017 when the SSO featured his work Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag as part of our all-Canadian concert.

For more information about the concert, or to listen to Flanders Fields Reflections, click here.

SSO Remembers

This November, the SSO marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice, the end of World War One, with a series of concerts that highlight music and stories of the era.  The Great War had a significant impact on music – composers fought in the war, died in the war, lost loved ones, and saw the ravages of battle first hand.  Their music changed.  It shaped the sound of the 20th century.  And it shaped our country.

The SSO wanted to explore the music of composers effected by the war.  As well we explore music set to two great literary works from Canadian writers during the war – John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields and Stephen Leacock’s Merry Christmas.

Our SSO Chamber Ensemble will perform on November an afternoon of music in the historic Convocation Hall – entirely music composed during the war, its a fitting venue for the afternoon as the hallways are filled with tributes to the Saskatchewan soldiers who served in the Great War.

Our November 10th performance features Elgar’s heartbreaking Cello Concerto, a work he wrote after the war had ended.  In it you see a torn world drenched in pain, sorrow, and eventual triumph.  Also on the program is Ravel’s Tombeau De Couperin, each movement dedicated to a friend lost in the battle of war.

On November 23rd and 24th we’re presenting Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock by Neil Wiesensel.  A co-production with Saskatoon Opera, this story tells the tale of Leacock himself being visited by spirits on Christmas Eve…

Music of World War One
2:00PM, Sunday, November 4, 2018
Convocation Hall
Elgar Cello Concerto
7:30PM, Saturday, November 10, 2018
TCU Place, Sid Buckwold Theatre
Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock
7:30PM, Friday, November 23, 2018
Quance Theatre
7:30PM, Saturday, November 24, 2018
Quance Theatre

A statement from ED Mark Turner

The first thought I had in the moment was that I wouldn’t be able to play piano the same way again.  My life did not flash before my eyes (no pun intended), and time neither stood still nor flew by. And while stories like this are usually told in a moment-by-moment retelling of the event, for me the story is more than a series of events. I cannot instantly recall the initial pain, but I can vividly recall the panic that I’d lost a part of my piano playing ability.  

To be very honest I have been attempting, and failing, to write a note to the SSO community since the attack.  I have wanted to share that I am fully recovered. I’ve wanted to share my thanks for the support and love the community showed to me and my staff whose lives were all changed forever that day.  I’ve wanted to talk about how at first I couldn’t listen to music, but now I rely on music to get through the bad days and the just getting by days. I’ve wanted to talk about the steps we’re taking to give the SSO a safe space.  There’s much I’ve wanted to say, but I haven’t had the words.

On July 31st, I was attacked at the SSO offices by a man who we’d never seen before.  In the middle of a meeting with three of the SSO team, he stabbed me in the eye. Thanks to the quick thinking and giant hearts of my team, I was rushed to hospital and I had the emergency care I needed.  The next few weeks were very difficult, very painful, very emotional, and very draining.  

The bruising, swelling, fractures, and eye complications have all gone, and I have made a 100% physical recovery. I am very grateful to medical team at City Hospital and the Eye Clinic for the care I received that made recovery possible.  

But the psychological effects of being the victim of a violent crime don’t disappear like bruises.  So while the scar on my eye is barely noticable, I’m adjusting to life with scars.

Like many people and, as studies show, nearly all musicians, mental health has always played a role in my life and I have struggled with anxiety most of my adult life.  Whether it’s a musician’s innate emotional connection to their soul or the vulnerability that comes with being a music student, musicians and mental health challenges go hand in hand.  I am very lucky that I don’t have performance related anxiety, and I’m not sure I’ve ever really been nervous to play no matter the size of the audience (though, my teachers Sheila and Penny somehow had the ability to make me question if I’d practiced enough….).  In the mid-2000s I began living with anxiety – it took a long time to understand, and accept, and eventually I was able to manage it. I’ve even given a speech on stage at the SSO while I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. More than once.

So new scars are just that – they’re new.  I consider myself very lucky that in my life I can turn with an open heart and open mind and open ears to music.  I am a voracious consumer and maker of music – it’s my life’s work, it’s my refuge, its my passion, it’s my research, it’s what I turn to when I need time and space. But this summer made me grateful that beautiful music exists and that whether its Bach or Aretha, there’s something for every feeling and every scar.

Safety is a must for a workplace – and because of that, the SSO Board of Directors and I made the decision to move the SSO to a new space.  

The shock and fear attached to the attack had impact on the staff, musicians, Book Sale volunteers, and even our patrons.  This isn’t about us running away from what happened, or turning our backs on the friends we’ve made in Riversdale – this decision was solely selfish: we needed to provide the team that brings you the SSO a space where they could feel productive again.  While I was the one left with a physical scar, the mental scarring affected many people. We have been able to do our work, but it is taking a toll on us.  

We’re thrilled to have found a great new space that has a great music room, beautiful offices, and a wonderful warehouse for the Book Sale. We’re grateful to our neighbours and landlord for making Riversdale such a rewarding home.  And we’re affirming our commitment to being an orchestra for all members of our community, and in continuing the work that has been so important to us in our time in Riversdale.

I’m behind on my work – we lost a month, and though I am back to work I still have days where concentration is difficult.  But I am loving being back at work. Our first few concerts of the year have refreshed my pride in the musicians of the SSO, and they’ve given me the energy to make the next steps for the SSO to be a catalyst for exceptional music making in our community.  

The next time you see one of my staff, please tell them how grateful you are that they are doing what they do for music in our town and how brave they were in the face of terrifying circumstances.  

A move is a lot of work and costs a lot of money, so don’t be shy about helping out!  Come to lots of concerts – there is no replacement for the healing power of music. It means a lot to us when you come to our concerts.

And I’m back at the piano.
Tune your heart to brave music.

See you at the symphony,

SSO Executive Director Mark Turner wishes to thank the community, near and far, who reached out in the weeks that followed the unfortunate events of July 31st.

The SSO will be moving its offices during the month of November to 602B 51st Street East.