Homecoming – The return of SYO and their Featured Alumni

On November 16th, the SSO will see the return of the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra alongside them onstage. It has been nine months since these forces have last joined, playing the Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz in February. This time, it will be the Slavonic Dances of Antonín Dvořák that will open the evening. There will be more than 60 additional musicians combining with the SSO to bring this music to life.

Within their identity statement, the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra say that they strive to allow its participants to grow as community members and create lifelong friendships. This is clearly realized in our Homecoming concert considering that all three of our guest artists have played in SYO!

William Rowson (our guest conductor) was in the youth orchestra during the last Side-by-Side concert featuring the same Slavonic Dances in January of 1993! He was a member of the SYO violin section throughout the 1990-1993 seasons, starting as one of the youngest members at the time. He vividly remembers walking into the rehearsal room when they were beginning to play a piece he composed himself, being swept up in the soundscape:

Our piccolo player practicing the sleigh ride tune from Prokofiev’s Troika […]  I was very nervous and excited.  I saw everyone looking through my parts that my Mom and I had stayed up all night preparing.   When ever I hear a piccolo play that tune […] I’m instantly brought back to that moment of being so nervous and excited to hear an orchestra play something I had written.

William says he would often bring borrowed scores home to study, so that he was able to better hear all the parts come to life in the group rehearsals each week.

Whether I knew it or not at the time, it was these formative years that really helped shape my life and career.

He was in the SSO’s violin section in the 2001-2002 season, overlapping with Carissa’s time in the orchestra, as well!

On Tuesday, November 12th, William will be at the McNally Music Talk at 7:00pm.

Carissa Klopoushak, like William, has been with us before as a member of SYO (1996-2000), SSO (1998-2006 as our Principle Violin II for the latter 3 seasons), and as a guest artist (in March of 2017). Her fondest memories of her earlier years with the SYO were of the Rosthern retreats, a tour to Langley, and the Banff International Festival of Youth Orchestras (BIFYO) in 1998. She also participated in the Side-by-Side performances during these years, with the first in April of 1996:

My first side-by-side with the SYO and SSO was the most incredible – we played Mahler 1 and it was an absolute life-changing experience for me. I still love that piece so very much and have such fond memories of it.

It is no doubt these experiences helped her see her goal of becoming a professional musician see come closer into her grasp. You will find Carissa playing “like a rockstar” in this upcoming concert in Vivian Fung’s Violin Concerto, as indicated in the score! Following that, she will be leading a masterclass at the University of Saskatchewan for music students and members of the SYO. In the bit of downtime she will get, Carissa hopes to see as much family and friends as possible, getting to places such as Hearth and Museo – but also practicing her orchestra music for NACO’s concert next week!

Ryan Cole, in addition to being in SYO for the 2004-2005 season, was an extra with the SSO in 2009. He was seated beside our Principle trumpet player, Terry Heckman, for the infamous Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz.

I recall trying to read the part while Terry played, and having no idea how he was doing it. I remember trying to stay focused on my part while being amazed at how effortlessly he played such a difficult solo.  This comes to mind because I recently got to perform this exact part for the first time here in Victoria, and I had very vivid flashbacks of this experience sitting beside Terry.

For this upcoming concert, Ryan will be showcased in Marcus Goddard’s Trumpet Concerto, a piece which was specially composed for him. While he is here, Ryan will also be making stops at the University of Saskatchewan for masterclasses, and to give a talk to music students detailing his path to becoming a professional orchestral musician. He will also make a few visits to high schools to a similar presentation to aspiring students. When it comes to food, Ryan is planning to make it to some key places in the city, namely Ayden for a special family supper, Hometown Diner so his expecting wife Kayleigh can have her requested chicken and waffles, and to Alexander’s for some traditional post-performance nachos!

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Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony

Incomplete works are an inevitable feature of most composers’ catalogues. After all, they are no more likely than anyone else to receive specific advance notice of when they will reach their coda. In the case of some long-lived composers, the events seem to have occurred according to plan: Rossini, Verdi, Strauss, Sibelius, and Vaughan Williams, for example, had already shepherded their musical careers to fulfilling finishes, and gave the impression of having left this world satisfied that they had said what they needed to say. Others were cut off in mid-sentence, sometimes at the height of their powers, while engaged in the production of masterpieces: think of Mozart’s Requiem or Puccini’s Turandot.

Because Franz Schubert died young, at the age of 31, popular conception has sometimes fixed on the idea that his Unfinished Symphony was a casualty of this sort. Of course, it is possible that if Schubert had lived longer he might have gotten around to filling out his piece to the standard four movements that made up the typical symphony of his era. However, the fact is that he had put the score aside long before his death.

In the last decade of his life Schubert accumulated a sizable stack of incomplete large scale works, including several symphonic “torsos” and aborted sonatas. The Unfinished Symphony, which he wrote in 1822 (six years before he died), is the most superb of them all. In October of that year he sketched out three movements of the piece in piano score, and the following month he completed the orchestration of the first two movements plus a fragment of the ensuing, incomplete scherzo. There it ended.

Various theories have been proposed to explain why Schubert left the work in mid-stream. Some hypothesize that he did finish it, but that sections have been lost. Perhaps the B-minor entr’acte from Rosamunde was intended as the symphony’s finale, some speculate; it mirrors the symphony’s key and instrumentation exactly (even employing a third trombone, unusual in the orchestral line up at that time), and it appeared shortly after Schubert was working on the symphony. Others believe he abandoned the symphony because he felt he could not provide two final movements on the same high plane as the opening two. (This is doubtful, given the stream of profound, large-scale masterpieces — including his Great Symphony in C major, final three piano sonatas, and sublime chamber masterpieces — that would still issue from his pen.) The most credible explanation is that in late 1822, precisely when he would have moved on to the “missing” movements of the piece, Schubert was diagnosed with syphilis. The disease was incurable at the time, and the attendant treatments were as dreadful as they were ineffective. It seems possible that the news threw Schubert out of kilter vis-à-vis this piece, disrupting his creative concentration entirely.

In any case, the following year Schubert sent the manuscript to his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who put it in a desk drawer, and there it languished for 40 years. After four decades, Hüttenbrenner liberated the manuscript from its dark, silent recess and presented it to the conductor and choral composer Johann von Herbeck, who oversaw its first performance, in Vienna in 1865, 43 years after it was written.

Even before Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony was premiered the piece had been known in theory if not in practice, since Hüttenbrenner had made mention of it in a biographical dictionary in 1836 and a Schubert biographer, Heinrich Kreissle von Hellborn, had picked up on its existence (via that source) in 1864. It was he who started a campaign to get Hüttenbrenner to release the work to the public — no mean achievement, since by then Hüttenbrenner had become all but a hermit, interested principally in abstract theological inquiries and in magnetism. Hellborn owed his success to a clever ploy. Claiming that he wanted to put on a concert of three great Viennese composers — Schubert, Franz Lachner, and Hüttenbrenner himself — he begged the last to show him some suitable works, and then wondered aloud if perhaps a previously unperformed piece by Schubert might not be found. Out of the drawer came the Unfinished. At its premiere, it shared the bill with an overture by Hüttenbrenner.

The influential Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, writing about the work’s premiere, said:

“With a few horn figurations and here and there a clarinet or oboe solo, Schubert achieves, with the most simple, basic orchestra, tonal effects which no refinement of Wagnerian instrumentation can capture.”

Hanslick carried out his role as an anti-Wagnerian with missionary zeal, and his swipe at the later master does come off as demeaning his point just a bit. Nonetheless, he was right about the sonic beauty of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. It would be hard to think of an earlier symphony, including even those of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, in which the use of symphonic sound is so consistently evocative.

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Credit – New York Philharmonic

Vivian Fung’s Violin Concerto No. 1

Although music has often been described as a universal language, the way that it has been created, performed, and appreciated throughout history has been largely determined by geography, ethnicity, and social status. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, owing to large-scale immigration, the dissemination of sound recordings, and, most recently, the internet, the boundaries between music made by different people in the world have become extremely porous. 

Vivian Fung’s personal identity is as deeply layered as her music. Though her parents are Chinese, her central Canadian upbringing offered her scant contact with others who shared her ethnicity. The cultural milieu in which she immersed herself and excelled was Western classical music; her training culminated in a doctorate in composition from one of the world’s most prestigious conservatories, The Juilliard School. While her initial paucity of exposure to Chinese heritage was something she came to think of as a deficit, rediscovering Chinese traditional music inspired her Pizzicato (2001), recorded by the Ying Quartet, as well as her 2010-11 vocal composition Yunnan Folk Songs, given its première by Chicago’s Fulcrum Point New Music Project. It also led her to explore other Asian music, in particular music from Vietnam and the Indonesian islands Java and Bali. She has performed with Javanese and Balinese gamelan groups based in New York City and has also made several trips to Indonesia to study this music first hand. These experiences have left an indelible imprint on many of her compositions.

The Violin Concerto’s  genesis dates back to the première of her 2009 Piano Concerto, the first of her compositions to be commissioned and given its première by Metropolis Ensemble. For that performance, violinist Kristin Lee served as the concertmaster and at the time expressed interest in having Fung compose a concerto for her. In 2010, Lee accompanied Fung on a trip to Bali to gain a deeper understanding of the music that was so central to Fung’s compositional vocabulary. The intensely lyrical concerto that Fung ultimately composed for Lee shortly after their return directly resulted from that shared experience. The Violin Concerto is presented in one continuous movement with clearly audible boundaries between its various sections. The concerto begins serenely, the violin soloist hovering rhapsodically over bird-like sonorities in the strings. The next section is fast and propulsive, with the soloist still in the foreground, its initial rhythmic restlessness eventually settling into a thirteen-beat groove. This is soon followed by a less rhythmically driven passage dominated by ghost-like harmonics. This leads into another fast section filled with virtuoso violin pyrotechnics that eventually burst into a fiery, unaccompanied cadenza. Before the return of the orchestra, the violin soars to an extraordinary high note to which Fung affixes the instruction, “Play like a rock star.” What then ensues is perhaps the most harmonically dense passage of the entire composition; various tonalities collide as they vie for the listener’s attention. Amidst this polytonality, the violin soloist quotes a very famous Javanese folk-song that often opens gamelan performances, Puspawarna (Javanese for “kinds of flowers”), interrupted by various sections in the orchestra that reinvent this folk-song in very un-Javanese ways. Ultimately, however, the concerto returns to its initial tranquility, ending in much the same way as it began.

Credit – Frank J. Oteri

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Meet Heather Schmidt

Heather Schmidt’s unique dual talents as a pianist and composer have garnered praise from the press, describing her as “a brilliant virtuoso pianist”, “poised and utterly musical”, “a great artist”, and “as much a pianist in the professional sense as she is a composer”.

Her acclaim in both her native country of Canada and on the international musical scene comes from her many successes as a virtuoso soloist and composer including performances, broadcasts, commissions and awards in Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Iceland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, England, Cyprus, Mexico, Brazil, and the British West Indies.

Heather began studies in piano and composition at the age of 4, and composition at the age of 5. She pursued double majors in piano performance and composition throughout her musical education. She studied at Juilliard in New York City and at Indiana University, where, at age 21, she became the youngest student to receive a Doctor of Music degree.

Since these formative years she has received numerous accolades, including a nomination for the prestigious “Juno” award, the Canadian equivalent of the “Grammy”, in the category of “Best Classical Composition.” As a virtuoso soloist, she received First Place in the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, and First Place, the Audience Choice Award, and the Maestro’s Choice Millennium Foundation Award at the Canadian Concerto Competition. Composition awards include three consecutive Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Awards, SOCAN Composer Awards, the Zwilich Prize in the International League of Women Composers Competition, the Juilliard Composers Competition, and the Dean’s Composition Prize at Indiana University.

As a virtuoso pianist, Heather excels in both traditional and contemporary repertoire, offering audiences her unique perspective on the standard repertoire of the past, her own works, and the works of other living composers. In addition to her solo recitals, she regularly performs as a guest soloist with orchestras, including exciting performances of her own six piano concertos. She is also a sensitive and much in demand chamber musician, especially well known for her long-time collaboration with Canadian cellist Shauna Rolston.

Heather’s performances and performances of her compositions have not been restricted to concert halls, and also include numerous television and recordings appearances. The first televised performance occurred when she was only 8 years of age. More recently, she appeared on the BRAVO Classical Now Series. Her most recent recordings include: Nebula, a CD of her piano performances of her own solo piano compositions on CMC Centrediscs; a CD of solo piano works by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel for the NAXOS label; “Shimmer”, a solo piano CD of works by various composers from Baroque through contemporary eras; and “Icicles of Fire”, a CD of works she composed and performs with cellist Shauna Rolston.

Heather’s extensive catalogue of concert music compositions includes works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestras as well as for vocal/choral genres. She has received commissions from prestigious sources such as the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation, WDR (Westdeutsches Rundfunk in Germany), the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center, the New York State Council for the Arts, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Harvard Musical Association.

At age 19, she was asked to write the required competition work for the 1995 Banff International String Quartet Competition. Since then this work that has been performed throughout North America and Europe. Ms. Schmidt has also composed imposed test pieces for other major competitions, including the CBC Young Performer’s Competition (Chaconne, 1999), the Ester Honens International Piano Competition (Nebula, 2006), and the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Piano Competition (Night Rainbow, 2007). She has held numerous composer residencies, including a long-term residency with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a composer of film, television and video games, Heather’s recent projects include Empire of the Sharks for SyFy channel, Jurassic School for Netflix, Break-Up Nightmare for Lifetime TV, Elvis Lives for AXS TV, the independent comedy feature How to Get Rid of a Body and Still Be Friends, and the video game Homesick.

In addition to being the composer, Heather also wrote and directed two short films – Midnight Violin, for BRAVO TV in Canada funded by BravoFACT, and The Uninvited Ghost. Heather is also the creator and co-executive producer of Animal Planet’s 2016 TV series Life at Vet U.

Heather’s creative interests have recently expanded to writing. In August 2018, she signed with literary manager Jeff Portnoy of Bellevue Productions as a screenwriter for film and TV. She also has aspirations as a writer of picture books and Young Adult novels.

Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Heather holds dual Canadian and American citizenship. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her pets.

A huge animal lover, she has many rescues — three dogs, three cats, a pigeon and a horse (plus a few fish!). In 2016, she launched a nonprofit 501c3 dog rescue called Hollywood Huskies, which in its first two years has rescued over 120 dogs. In January 2018, she opened a sister not-for-profit husky rescue in her hometown of Calgary called Halo Husky Haven.

We’re thrilled to feature Heather’s Lunar Reflections as part of our October 19th concert.

Holst’s The Planets

Of all the great music composed in England during the past hundred years, few works have been either so popular or as enduring as Gustav Holst’s The Planets, yet with the exception of an important composition for strings, the St. Paul’s Suite, Holst’s music has vanished from the orchestral repertoire. How could this be? A composer with so much imagination and technical mastery must have written more than one major orchestral work, surely?

Well, yes and no. A great talent and a great spirit, Gustav Holst worked appallingly hard for all of his adolescence and the first twenty years of his adult life in the effort to make ends meet while he learnt how to compose as he wished. The scion of a family of professional musicians whose vocation went back for generations, Holst intended to be a concert pianist as his father had been before him, but severe nerve damage from a combination of practicing too much and semi-starvation left him permanently disabled. In 1893 Holst was accepted as a student at the Royal College of Music and nearly starved until he won an open scholarship in composition in 1895. Over the next few years Holst taught himself the trombone, in the rather naive hope that he could earn a living — to his delight, he did, becoming a trombonist in the Carl Rosa Opera Company and in the Scottish Orchestra. In 1903 Holst was offered a teaching position in the James Allen Girls’ School and gave up the trombone; two years later he became the Music Director of St. Paul’s Girls’ School as well; in 1907 he became Music Director at Morley College, holding all three positions until 1920. He learnt to compose in his spare time, slowly gaining experience and technical skill. His music began to make an impression in the London concert-halls, though much of his work was for chorus and orchestra, which rather limited its likelihood of performance on a regular basis. At about this time Holst acquired a close friend in Ralph Vaughan Williams and a patron for special events in H. Balfour Gardiner.

Holst’s increasing powers as a composer were reflected in the progression of works that occupied every moment of his spare time from 1905 to the onset of the First World War. A Somerset Rhapsody of 1910 marked the beginning of his real maturity, followed by the first group of hymns from the Rig Veda, and Beni Mora in 1912 and the Cloud Messenger in 1913. The Planets (1914-1916) and the Hymn of Jesus (1920) represented Holst at the very peak of his career.

Sadly, after that peak, there was a sharp falling away. Holst, searching for a new economy in his writing, began to pare his work down; deleting all unnecessary notes, he found a new austerity in his art that exactly captured within its reticulations all that he wished to express. His new music was intellectually rigorous, icily aloof, brilliantly executed. For the next ten years Holst devoted himself to writing in this new style, though audiences actively disliked it. The last years of his life were marked by a return to his warmer earlier style, but ill health interrupted his plans. His works from 1920 on are only rarely played to the present day. They are simply too forbidding.

As a composer, Gustav Holst was both a dreamer and a pragmatist. The inspirations for his compositions were often intuitive, even peculiar at first glance, yet somehow he always managed to make them work. His idea for The Planets came from a casual curiosity about astrology which simply grew. In 1914 he wrote, “As a rule I only study things that suggest music to me, that’s why I worried at Sanskrit (for the ‘Rig Veda’ hymns). Then recently the character of each planet suggested lots to me, and I have been studying astrology fairly closely.”

Holst completed the first movement, Mars, in the summer of 1914 (coincidental, yet appropriate), Venus and Jupiter in the autumn, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune during 1915, and Mercury in 1916, the orchestration following apace. Written for a huge orchestra (with chorus), The Planets is nonetheless a work of great subtlety and elegance, even in its most ferocious moments.  The work was first played at a private performance in September 1918 by the Queen’s Hall Orchestra as a special gift to the composer by Balfour Gardiner. The first public performance took place on February 27th, 1919, to the beginnings of great acclaim.

The seven movements really require little in the way of explanation. The first, Mars, the Bringer of War, opens with a real sense of menace and soon builds to a frenzy of martial ferocity. The second movement, Venus, the Bringer of Peace, commences in a mood of cool serenity, into which a human warmth begins to obtrude. Mercury, the Winged Messenger, is in the form of an especially fleet scherzo with a wonderfully evocative trio. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, is arguably the best known and the most popular of all of the Planets, from its rollicking opening to its Elgarian central section. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age, was Holst’s personal favourite among the seven movements — the combination of suffering and menace creating an unforgettable effect. Uranus, the Magician, occupies the same ground as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the first Nachtmusik from Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. A brilliantly grotesque dance, wonderfully orchestrated, the movement ends with a sudden stillness which suggests the unwinking stillness of the night sky. The last movement, Neptune, the Mystic, though very quiet could well be the real core of the whole work. Uncanny, unforgettable, Neptune offers perhaps Holst’s personal glimpse into the infinite.

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Piazzolla’s Four Seasons

Astor Piazzolla was fabulously talented, and that wealth of talent caused him some confusion as he tried to decide on a career path. Very early, he learned to play the bandoneón, the accordion-like instrument that uses buttons rather than a keyboard, and he became a virtuoso on it. He gave concerts, wrote film scores, and formed his own bands before a desire for wider expression drove him to the study of classical music. In 1954, he received a grant to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and it was that great teacher who advised him to follow his passion for the tango as the source for his own music.

Piazzolla returned to Argentina and gradually evolved his own style, one that combines the tango, jazz, and classical music. In his hands, the tango, which had deteriorated into a soft, popular form, was revitalized. Piazzolla transformed this folk dance into music capable of a variety of expression and sharply contrasted moods; his tangos are by turn fiery, melancholy, passionate, tense, violent, lyric, and always driven by an endless supply of rhythmic energy.

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is an unusual collection of individual tangos that form a remarkable whole. Its title (in Spanish, Las cuatro estaciones porteñas) needs to be understood carefully: cuatro estaciones is clear enough; it evokes The Four Seasons of Vivaldi. But the meaning of porteña (or porteño) is more elusive: it means “port” area, and it specifically has come to refer to the port area of Buenos Aires, where the tango was born. By extension, porteñas has come to mean anyone or anything native to Buenos Aires. And so a general translation of the title might be The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

Las cuatro estaciones porteñas consists of four tangos that Piazzolla originally wrote for the small ensemble he led in Buenos Aires: violin, piano, electric guitar, bass, and bandoneón. Each tango depicts a different season in Buenos Aires, and Piazzolla wrote them over a period of time. The first, Summer (in Spanish, Verano porteño), dates from 1964, and the others followed over the next few years: Autumn (Otoño porteño) in 1969, and Spring (Primavera porteña) and Winter (Invierno porteño) in 1970. Piazzolla sometimes performed them as a group, and The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

— by turns slinky, seductive, powerful, and haunting —

has become immensely popular. This music has been arranged for a variety of instruments, and it has become particularly famous in an arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov for solo violin and string orchestra.

In this version, it becomes a sort of twentieth century Argentinian counterpart to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and those two works are sometimes performed together — like we will doing! 

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

The Four Seasons (Italian: “Le quattro stagioni”) is a group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives a musical expression to a season of the year. They were written in approximately 1720 and were published in 1725 (Amsterdam), together with eight additional violin concerti, as Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (“The Contest Between Harmony and Invention”).

The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works. Unusually for the time, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) that elucidated what it was about those seasons that his music was intended to evoke. It provides one of the earliest and most-detailed examples of what was later called program music — music with a narrative element.

Vivaldi took great pains to relate his music to the texts of the poems, translating the poetic lines themselves directly into the music on the page. In the middle section of the Spring concerto, where the goatherd sleeps, his barking dog can be marked in the viola section. Other natural occurrences are similarly evoked. Vivaldi separated each concerto into three movements, fast-slow-fast, and likewise each linked sonnet into three sections. His arrangement is as follows:

Spring (Concerto No. 1 in E Major)
               Allegro
Spring has arrived with joy
Welcomed by the birds with happy songs,
And the brooks, amidst gentle breezes, 
Murmur sweetly as they flow.
The sky is caped in black, and
Thunder and lightning herald a storm
When they fall silent, the birds
Take up again their delightful songs.
                Largo e pianissimo sempre
And in the pleasant, blossom-filled meadow,
To the gentle murmur of leaves and plants,
The goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
               Allegro
To the merry sounds of a rustic bagpipe,
Nymphs and shepherds dance in their beloved spot
When Spring appears in splendour.
Summer (Concerto No. 2 in G Minor)
               Allegro non molto
Under the merciless sun of the season
Languishes man and flock, the pine tree burns.
The cuckoo begins to sing and at once 
Join in the turtledove and the goldfinch.
A gentle breeze blows, but Boreas
Is roused to combat suddenly with his neighbour,
And the shepherd weeps because overhead 
Hangs the fearsome storm, and his destiny. 
               Adagio
His tired limbs are robbed of rest 
By his fear of the lightning and the frightful thunder
And by the flies and hornets in furious swarms.
               Presto
Alas, his fears come true: 
There is thunder and lightning in the heavens
And the hail cuts down the tall ears of grain.
Autumn (Concerto No. 3 in F Major)
               Allegro
The peasant celebrates with dancing and singing
The pleasure of the rich harvest,
And full of the liquor of Bacchus
They end their merrymaking with a sleep.
               Adagio molto
All are made to leave off dancing and singing
By the air which, now mild, gives pleasure
And by the season, which invites many
To find their pleasure in a sweet sleep.
               Allegro
The hunters set out at dawn, off to the hunt,
With horns and guns and dogs they venture out.
The beast flees and they are close on its trail.
Already terrified and wearied by the great noise
Of the guns and dogs, and wounded as well 
It tries feebly to escape, but is bested and dies.
Winter (Concerto No. 4 in F Minor)
              Allegro non molto
Frozen and shivering in the icy snow,
In the severe blasts of a terrible wind
To run stamping one’s feet each moment,
One’s teeth chattering through the cold.
               Largo
To spend quiet and happy times by the fire
While outside the rain soaks everyone.
               Allegro
To walk on the ice with tentative steps, 
Going carefully for fear of falling. 
To go in haste, slide, and fall down to the ground,
To go again on the ice and run,
In case the ice cracks and opens.
To hear leaving their iron-gated house Sirocco,
Boreas, and all the winds in battle—
This is winter, but it brings joy.
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Credit – Betsy Schwarm

Musician Spotlight: Brian Unverricht

While reading through your Opening Night program you may have noticed that we did a spotlight on one of our musicians. You know Brian Unverricht as a member of our trombone section and you may know that he does pre-concert chats for many of our concerts. If you have never attended a pre-concert chat we highly recommend it. In the lobby at TCU Place, Brian takes the time to dive into the music you are about to hear that evening. It is way more in-depth than we could ever go with our program notes, and he has a unique perspective as someone who plays, teaches, and enjoys the music he is talking about.

 

We asked Brian several questions so we could let you know more about him. His answers were so great we thought we should share them all. When we originally sent Brian these questions, we knew Brian had been a member of the SSO on and off for about 50 years. We were pretty close to the right number!

 

Brian: First of all, I haven’t been part of the SSO for 50 years, having missed the following seasons:
– 68-69 to go to school in the US
– 72-75 living in Australia and PEI
– 81-84 teaching in Germany DND schools
– 90-91 graduate school
Looks like I missed 9 seasons, meaning I first joined 52 years ago and have participated in 43 seasons.

SSO: What year did you join the SSO?

Brian: I joined for the 67-68 season, my first concert was Nov 12, 1967 in the Phys Ed gym on campus. The season ended with the gala performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana on April 1, 1968 to open the Centennial Auditorium.

We have the program in our archives and have uploaded a scan here.
On the program during Brian’s first SSO appearance:

Sunday, November 12, 1967 at 3:00pm University Gymnasium

First Concert – 1967-68 Season

David Kaplan, conductor

        • Overture: La Clemenza di Titto (K. 621) W.A. Mozart
        • Three Pieces for Orchestra (1961) Jean Papineau-Couture (SSO commission by Cosmopolitan Club of Saskatoon)
          • Prélude
          • Choral
          • Mouvement Perpétuel
        • Five Pieces for Strings (Op. 44/4) Paul Hindemith
          • Langsam (Slow)
          • Langsam – Schnell (Quick)
          • Lebhaft (Lively)
          • Sehr langsam (Very slow)
          • Lebhaft
        • Concerto No. 2 in B-flat for Piano and Orchestra (Op. 19) Ludwig van Beethoven

Marina Mdivani, piano

        • Allegro con brio
        • Adagio
        • Molto allegro

SSO: Do you remember the feeling of playing in your first SSO concert?

Brian: I was somewhat overwhelmed at the first rehearsals, but pleased to be part of the orchestra, and just a little nervous before the concert. The actual concert went very well.

SSO: Before being awarded a position, had you played with the SSO as an extra?

Brian: That first year David Kaplan simply rounded me up from music theory class and invited me to participate.

SSO: What is the best advice you have ever received in your career?

Brian: Strive to be an all-round musician, as there is something to be learned from every genre and every excellent player/singer/conductor no matter what. I especially remember attending a cello masterclass with Janos Starker early in my Sydney days. I only went because my girlfriend wanted to go, but I may have learned more about performing than she did!

SSO: Who do you consider to be your mentors and inspirations?

Brian: I’ve had many – from my very first piano lessons with my grandma to masterclasses and conducting seminars. My main influence and mentor was my private trombone teacher in Sydney, Australia. Baden McCarron played with the other SSO (Sydney Symphony Orchestra), and I studied with him in his studio out in his back yard.

SSO: What’s one of your favourite memories of playing with the SSO?

Brian: My first highlight that helped set everything in motion was opening the auditorium. I was entranced by the power and variety of Orff’s music and the spectacular setting of the auditorium – quite an improvement over the gym.

SSO: What is your favourite piece of music that you have performed with the SSO?

Brian: I have so many it’s impossible to choose one. There have been innumerable great works of music over the years.

SSO: Most memorable overall concert program?

Brian: Carmina Burana

SSO: Any prominent rehearsal memories?

Brian: Originally we rehearsed in Convo hall every Monday night. Having an actual rehearsal space made such a positive difference. There have been struggles with musical techniques and struggles with conductors, but in the end, it’s the music that counts.

SSO: Favourite guest artist?

Brian: European opera singer Jon Vickers, originally from Prince Albert.

 

SSO: Whose names stand out in a positive light in your history with the SSO?

Brian: Certainly David Kaplan for me, personally, as he got me started in the SSO. He was a unique character (to say the least) in class and all musical endeavours – quite a role model. Over the years I have enjoyed making music with an incredible variety of orchestral buddies.

SSO: Why did you choose your instrument and what do you love about it?

Brian: A town band was formed in Grenfell when I was in grade 9. At first I selected the baritone horn, but tried a trombone a couple of years later at band camp and loved the glissando effects, so I used money from my paper route to buy my first trombone. Some say the trombone is the “voice of God”, and that may be a slight exaggeration, but I do love the expressive possibilities from classical to avant garde to jazz to Klezmer, both serious and comic.

SSO: What do you enjoy most about creating and providing the pre-concert chats?

Brian: I have always been interested in the structure, format, and theory behind the music and really enjoy searching out composer information – their priorities, techniques, historical placement, personal lives. At every concert I learn something new.

SSO: What projects are you working on outside of your work with the SSO?

Brian: I perform with several other music groups, arrange music on Finale, strive to hit a golf ball straight, and keep a garden in my back yard.

SSO: What is your favourite non-musical pastime?

Brian: Travel – and this always includes a multitude of culturally related activities.

 

 

Saskatchewan’s Laura Pettigrew

The SSO has decided we want to be the change we want to see in orchestral music – so this year we’re highlighting the music of living female composers…in fact, every Masters Series concert has a living female Canadian composer on it!  And we knew we had to feature a Saskatchewan composer to start the whole year off.  You’re going to love Laura’s music!

Laura Pettigrew’s contributions in Canada are well known but her influence and achievement have now expanded to all over the world. Her works have received world premières by Toronto Symphony Orchestra, (Canada) GRAMMY® Award–winning I Solisti Veneti (Italy), Regina Symphony Orchestra (Canada), Massive Brass Attack (Portugal), Nicole Gi Li and Corey Hamm (Piano Erhu Project or PEP), and Foothills Brass (Canada), Borealis Brass (USA) among others, and featured on recordings by national and international soloists and ensembles as well as in the international award-winning short film, The Sky Came Down, Laura Pettigrew is making her mark on the world stage. Her music has been praised as “spectacular, breathtaking, inspirational” (Reel Rave International Film Festival 2013); “sublime with a style reminiscent of the television show Game of Thrones…patrons were drawn in by the composition…simply put it was awesome” (Regina Leader Post); “Bellissimo” (LA9 SAT Television Station, Padua, Italy): “Dòchas enveloped the Roy Thomson Hall, entrancing the audience immediately with a lavish, calming sound” (Broadway World)

She has been the beneficiary of many scholarships and grants from: Saskatchewan Foundation for the Arts Artist Awards, Regina Artist, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Creative Saskatchewan, Canadian Music Centre, Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit, and been honoured with awards for her commitment to the arts, community and philanthropy: Mayor’s Arts and Business Award, Living the Arts ; University of Regina Alumni Crowning Achievement Award – Distinguished Humanitarian and Community Service ; YWCA Women of Distinction, Jacqui Shumiatcher Arts Award, nominated for the Lieutenant Governor’s Award 2013 and included in the newly published international COMPENDIUM MUSICAE FLAUTA, Encyclopedia of Flute Works by Women Composers.

Today, Laura has become a much commissioned, published and performed symphonic, solo, ensemble and choral composer as well as an accomplished teacher and clinician. She received Two commissions for Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017: Manotick Brass Ensemble AND Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Canada Mosaic Project, Her Sesquie titled “Dòchas” was premiered December 5, 2017 by Toronto Symphony Orchestra and November 25, 2017 by Regina Symphony Orchestra, partner orchestra for Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Canada Mosaic Project.

Her works include: orchestral, chamber, wind ensemble, vocal/choral, piano, solo instrumental, film score and
orchestral arrangements.

She is an avid supporter of the Adkins Chiti Foundation, Donne in Musica (Women in Music), Associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre,: Member of : Canadian League of Composers, SOCAN and International Women’s Brass Conference promoting and encouraging composers and musicians to ensure equality prevails for women and men alike.

Laura believes we are all born with a gift and driven by her passion she derives great joy sharing her knowledge and talent. Inspired by historical events, people, landscape, mythology and literature it is the emotional melodic expression that resonates throughout her works.

Tying music events into a wide range of philanthropic endeavours she has also become a voice for those enduring difficult times. Growing up grounded in community she understands the intrinsic value of being one part of a sum and states “without community we are but one alone in the world”.

Hear Laura Pettigrew’s Dochas with the SSO on September 21st for Opening Night.

Carnegie Hall’s Link Up with the SSO

Have you ever been to Carnegie Hall?

Many people dream to one day visit the world famous music hall, and now students in Saskatoon have the opportunity to have a close connection with it! The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is so excited to announce our new partnership with Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute with their education initiative Link Up.

Link up is a highly participatory program where grades 3-5 students learn to sing and play the recorder (or another classroom instrument), and perform with the SSO from their seats at the “culminating concert” at TCU Place. All of the teaching resources are open source, and teacher and student manuals are sent straight to the schools.

This year, we are doing the program “The Orchestra Sings” where students will explore timeless classical repertoire such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, “Simple Gifts” from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and the main theme of the “New World” Symphony by Antonín Dvořák.

Over 100 students are already signed up, and we are eager to reach our goal of 1000 students for this year’s program!

Visit  Link Upfor more information!

Forward this on to the teachers you know, and please direct questions to outreach@saskatoonsymphony.org!