A momentus achievement for the SSO

I recently had the chance to see one of my favourite paintings in person for the first time.  I’ve seen endless copies of this particular painting since I was a kid; the particular gaze of the girl in painting, the light on her jewelry, the folds of her clothing – I thought I knew every inch of this painting.  

But as I sat for a while and stared at her I realized that she was completely different than I’d ever imagined.  Her gaze was the same as I’d seen in books and posters and copies, and the light seemed to dance across her face in the same way, but she was different.  She sparkled. More precisely, the negative space around her wasn’t just darkness but rather it was darkness filled with the movement of light in the room in which I was standing.  I wasn’t looking at a painting, I was inside the world the artist created.

This past weekend I was sitting in the audience at Knox as the SSO and Chorus performed our last concert of the season.  I was feeling a sense of relief and gratitude that it was the perfect end for a very strong season. I was enjoying that the audience was so excited to be there, and enjoying the joy on the face of each and every chorus member as they got to sing their hearts out.  And then it happened again. Along came Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, a piece I have heard endless times in my life – and to be honest, I’ve never felt it was his best work. I’ve always felt it was a bit much…a great commercial pop hit from an artist who could write truly thrilling music.  And played to death on radio and CDs.  But faced with the piece performed by live chorus and orchestra, I was struck. It’s not just another “hit”, but a deeply personal and moving moment when Mozart places you right inside the world he created; its graceful and gentle, but deeply sincere.  It’s exactly the sound Mozart had intended on creating for the listener.

The truth of the matter is, in 2019 we don’t have many moments in our day to day lives when our soul gets swept up in the moment.  Between trying to Marie Kondo our way to happiness and snapchat filter our way to feeling good about ourselves, our day to day lives aren’t much to revel in.  The realities of life don’t give us a natural pause. There is no natural cadence from stress in an ever connected world, and no ordinary distraction from how exhausted our schedules are making us.  And while spending $3 on a mindfulness app might be the answer to all your worries, I strongly recommend making art and music a significant part of your life.

But there is no replacement for the real thing.  Seeing copies of that painting for the rest of my life, I would have never realized how deeply the painting spoke to me.  It was a great reminder to me that there is no substitute for an orchestra.

In my conversations with patrons this year I’ve heard about the music that really moved them – from a newer patron who found Mozart’s Requiem to be wonderfully intense, to the long time music lover who is still deeply moved by last season’s Armed Man.  One thing became clear: the sound of hearing this music live was wholly different than listening to a recording.  The sound of a live symphonic orchestra cannot be faked.

We have a few more days until the end of this year’s Share in the Future campaign.  We set a lofty goal this year, and we’ve got about $40,000 to raise before the end of day on Friday to reach our goal of $300,000.  This year’s campaign is special because if we are successful, we will have made the SSO deficit free. This is a remarkable accomplishment for any orchestra in 2019, but a significant achievement for Saskatoon’s orchestra.  

This achievement would not be possible were it not for the exceptionally generous support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation.  The Remai Foundation’s matching of donations instantly doubles your support of your orchestra, and allows us to boldly enter a new era for your symphony.  

Imagine only ever having the chance to hear recordings of orchestral music.  It’s just not the same. A live symphony orchestra is a vast expanse of sound that captures the size and intensity of human expression.  It can be as big as a prairie sky or as personal as a broken heart. It can bring you to your feet or move you to tears. It has the power to be the loudest sound you’ve ever heard or so soft that the entire room sits in silence to hear the next note.  It’s an extraordinary experience.  

I invite you to join me in making a donation to the Share in the Future campaign in these final days.  It feels really good to be part of something this momentus for Saskatoon’s oldest arts organization, and it sends a clear message to the musicians of the SSO that their work is valued and supported by their community.  

It’s true that without an orchestra in town, life would go on.  But without the chance for future generations to come face to face with this glorious sound, they’ll never understand the power of a live orchestra.

I’m certain of this – because until the day I came face to face with that painting, I had no idea she sparkled.  

Thank you for making music matter,
Mark Turner
Executive Director


To make a gift to our Share in the Future campaign:

Click Here to Give Online

Call us at 306-665-6414

Visit us at the SSO offices – 602B 51st Street 

Talking with Sarah Moon

On April 27th, Sarah Yunji Moon comes back to Saskatoon for one final farewell.  Sarah was the SSO’s Principal Flute for two seasons, and while we’re sad to see her go, we’re thrilled to have one last chance to make music with her!

She’ll be performing the dynamic flute concerto “Departures”, by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis.

We had a chance to ask her a few questions about this departure:

SSO: Being that the piece is called Departures, and sadly you’re departing the SSO, does this give extra special meaning to this performance?

SM: It certainly does, although when we chose this concerto together in March last year, I had no idea that I was going to be leaving. I am sad that this is going to be my last performance with the SSO after two seasons, but I also feel lucky to have another chance to connect and share this amazing Canadian concerto with the audience that have been so supportive.

SSO: What is your favourite memory of your time with the SSO?

SM: Since I originally moved to Saskatoon to join the SSO, I will miss being part of the orchestra the most. The SSO’s various concert series really pushed me to grow as a musician- I got to perform a lot of chamber music that required intimate and delicate musical communication with my co-workers, and also had to get better at speaking to younger audience members in elementary schools. I also loved performing a lot of contemporary music to an eager and/or slightly intoxicated audience at After Dark.

If I have to pick just one memory, it would be when a little boy from one of the school shows quietly raised his hand to ask an innocent question that blew all of our minds. We had just performed a mini version of John

Cage’s famously silent 4’33’’, and had a discussion about how every sound can be used to make music. The innocent question was, ‘if every sound is music, when does the music stop?’

SSO: What drives you towards challenging modern repertoire for the flute?

SM: I love playing modern repertoire because I often find it more relevant to my life, as a Korean immigrant living in 21st century Canada, specializing in western European classical music. Performing modern repertoire helps me find relevance as a performer in the community I live in. It can simply mean asking my composer friends if they have written any flute music I can program at my next concert. I commissioned a student composer to write for the school flute choir, because she is a living Canadian female composer who had a chance to have her work premiered by her colleagues. Listening to Departures for the first time on the internet was such an exciting experience, I can only imagine it must be how the Beatles fans felt when they listen to the new record for the first time. I hope to share my excitement for the concerto with the audience.

SSO: The flute is often seen as a “sweet” and “gentle” instrument, but in Departures we see many sides of this expressive instrument – do you this it will catch the audience off guard?

SM: Oh, yes! This concerto is full of sweet and gentle melodies, and explosive jazzy licks and bluesy tunes as well. Imagine what kind of music Mozart or Beethoven would have been written if they grew up listening to Michael Jackson, indigenous music from every corner of the world, Celine Dion and jazz. Departures is the perfect example of 21st century Canadian classical music that demonstrates the perfect balance of the traditional and new music.

SSO: What are you going to miss most about Saskatoon?

SM: Perogies, the sky, and Saskatoon Berry pies!

Catch Sarah in action with the SSO April 27th in our concert featuring Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.

Motherhood and Mozart…

At our May 12th Mother’s Day concert at Convocation Hall, the SSO String Quartet will be performing a Mozart quartet that has a unique connection to motherhood.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421/417b is the second of the Quartets dedicated to Haydn and the only one of the set in a minor key. Though undated in the autograph, it is believed to have been completed in 1783, while his wife Constanze Mozart was in labour with her first child Raimund.  Constanze stated that the rising string figures in the second movement corresponded to her cries from the other room.

“…we are probably right in assuming that it was the sudden forte of the two octave leaps and the following minor tenth (bars 31-32 of the andante), a brief uproar that quiets down, in a syncopated passage, to piano. These are figures that otherwise do not occur in Mozart.”

The first movement is characterized by a sharp contrast between the aperiodicity of the first subject group, characterized by Arnold Schoenberg as “prose-like,” and the “wholly periodic” second subject group. In the Andante and the Minuet, “normal expectations of phraseology are confounded.” The main part of the Minuet is in minuet sonata form, while “the contrasting major-mode Trio … is … almost embarrassingly lightweight on its own … [but] makes a wonderful foil to the darker character of the Minuet.” The last movement is a set of variations. The movement ends in a picardy third.

When we were planning our now Annual Mother’s Day concert, our Concertmaster Michael Swan immediately suggested this piece and its unique ties to motherhood!

Hear it live on May 12th at Convocation Hall, 2pm.

Beethoven’s Heroic 3rd Symphony

From its arresting opening chords to its marvelous finale, Beethoven’s 3rd symphony is majestic and a powerhouse of emotions.  His life was changing, as were politics and philosophies.  The world was becoming a different place…so it needed different music.


There is so much history and musical insight to explore in this piece that many consider to be the greatest symphony ever written.  As we sat down to create a blog about Eroica, we found a resource that literally covered everything so thoroughly we felt our audience should just dig in to this remarkable website.

Enjoy digging into the 3rd symphony at www.beethovenseroica.com

Hatzis’ Departures

We’re thrilled to be performing Christos Hatzis’ Departures on April 27th.  Little did we know when we programmed it that it would be a perfect and fitting way to send off our Principal Flute Sarah Yunji Moon on her departure from the SSO.

From the composer:

Departures for flute and string orchestra was written for Canadian flutist and friend Susan Hoeppner and was given its premiere performance by her and the Kyoto Symphony at the Japan Flute Convention 2011 where she was invited to perform as a keynote guest at the Gala Concerto Concert. I worked on its composition during a time when a number of dear friends had passed away and the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, and the resultant nuclear disaster was constantly in the news. All of these events were foremost in my mind as I was composing Departures and are acknowledged in the subtitles of each movement.

Blooming Fields, the first movement, is dedicated to the memory of theatre and television director George Bloomfield. In his obituary, George was quoted describing his own life as”the most fun anyone has ever had, ever!” This is certainly how I remember him. George used to buy new clothes and sew his own buttons on them. One’s appearance was an important statement to him but he would always find half-convincing excuses to justify my own utter neglect for my apparel or appearance in generalóto my unfailing amusement, I might add. The music reflects his playfulness and sheer delight with life, people and deliberate style and a wide expressive range, which was also the hallmark of his television and stage work. From its “Asiatic” opening, through the acrobatics for the flute and the orchestra, to the unexpected “burlesque” interpolations further along, the music of Blooming Fields is full of exuberance and delight. However, the flipside of George’s existence was his constant flirting with death (one medical emergency after another, at least during the years that I knew him) and his constant cheating of death each time, except for the inevitable final encounter. The deeper experience of these encounters he kept hidden from his friends but, to me at least, it must have been the great teacher of his life: the one that revealed to him the more profound aspects of being and the richness that results from interacting with them. In the music, this is the moment when the out of control burlesque-like revelry is interrupted by an intense and dissonant flute multiphonic, which in turn introduces a different way of listening: to the small voice within, depicted here by the quiet whistle and Aeolian tones of the flute. In the end, a soft, muted tremolo on high strings confirms this introspection of the soloist as the path to true awakening.

Serenity, the second movement, is dedicated to the memory of Bertha Modlich, an inspirational woman who passed away just shy of her 105th birthday. Bertha lived alone, ran her own house and a pottery workshop, played the violin and did sports (mostly rowing) until the very end of her lifeóa remarkable feat for a woman of that age. She modestly attributed her longevity to her daily dose of Lindt chocolate (from the factory on Lake Zurich, right across the lake from her family home) but I think her secret was her perpetual optimism and her determination to always see the best in other people no matter what the circumstances. Bertha experienced hardships in her life, like living in Berlin as a young woman and mother of two during the allied bombings of the city and the material deprivations that followed the fall of the Nazis, but she always focused on the positive aspects of life and had a way of making other people feel important. The music of Serenity follows her lead: there are clouds but they are short-lived and the music returns quickly to sunnier vistas. The latter part of Serenity is a song without words. As I was writing it immersed in my loving impressions of Bertha (and perhaps her own ghostly presence,) I imagined her dancing away into eternity in this unpretentious, slow waltz melody that seems to exist on its own terms and against all conventional wisdom about human limitations.

Progress Blues, the final movement, is a meditation on the nuclear disaster of Fukushima; not on the accident itself, but on the lessons that can be learned from our unwarranted and single-minded faith in technological progress. Even though the tsunami caused more human tragedy than the near meltdown of the nuclear reactors, the latter event may end up having a more transformative effect on the Japanese psyche than any act of God, however devastating. The modern history of Japan has two nuclear disasters 66 years apart as bookends, one at the end of WW2 and one in our days. After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki holocaust, Japan embarked on a path of technological development and exuberance, which, although it brought a great deal of material and emotional satisfaction and wealth, it also caused fissures within the Japanese psyche and society that are only recently becoming visible to everyone. The music follows this path of exuberance, which is not that different from that of the first movement, although in Progress Blues it is more relentless, more impulsively driven. Its fissures show occasionally, as in the “wobbly” phonograph effect that exposes the emotional pretentions of the Hollywood-like treatments of the main theme or the “ticking clock” metaphors of the string pizzicati. Introspection is not absent for long (even the Hollywood-like theme undergoes a dark rethinking as a fugato) but the sheer drive forward and the forces that have given it impetus in the first place, repeatedly succeed in sidetracking any attempt to question the wisdom of this relentless drive or the dire consequences that it may engender. At the apogee of speed and energy, the music suddenly collapses, the clocks keep on ticking ominously and then . . . (well, I will let the music tell you what happens next.) Progress Blues is dedicated to the victims of falsely understood “progress” in Fukushima and elsewhere.

Mozart Requiem – baritone Daniel Thielmann

Putting on a large scale choral work gives the SSO a chance to showcase some of the exceptional vocal talents that Canada has to offer.  For our Mozart Requiem we are excited to present the SSO debut of baritone Daniel Thielmann.

He’s no stranger to Mozart lovers in Saskatoon, as he won over the hearts of many as Leporello in Saskatoon Opera’s Don Giovanni just a few seasons ago.  He gained praise for having a beautiful Mozartian sound as well as his remarkable comic acting.

Daniel, a baritone in the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program, holds a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Manitoba. Recent credits include the cover for Marcello in La Boheme with Vancouver Opera and Pritchitch in VO’s production of The Merry Widow, the title role in Don Giovanni with the University of Toronto, and Dandini in La Cenerentola with the University of Manitoba. He has also performed the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni with Saskatoon Opera, and Le Dancaïre in Carmen with Opera NUOVA. In 2015 he attended the Franz Schubert Institute in Baden, Austria, where he worked with professionals Elly Ameling, Andreas Schmidt, Robert Holl, Rudolf Jansen, Helmut Deutsch, and others. Mr. Thielmann has also sung with renowned Toronto-based choral ensemble Tafelmusik, and has experience as both a soloist and chorister with Canzona, Manitoba’s premiere Baroque choral ensemble. You can see Daniel in the upcoming Vancouver Opera’s production of La Cenerentola once again as, Dandini.
Daniel makes his SSO debut on March 23rd with Mozart’s Requiem.

Mozart Requiem – tenor Michael Harris

Michael Harris, tenor, Messiah

For our performance of Mozart’s Requiem, we’re joined by long time SSO collaborator Michael Harris.

Tenor Michael Harris was born in London, England, completed his Bachelor of Music at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and earned an Advanced Performance Diploma with Distinction at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Michael Harris, tenor, MessiahSaskatchewan performances have included Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation and Clausen’s A New Beginning, Britten’s Serenade with the Prairie Virtuosi, the SMFA Centennial performance of Sterndale Bennett’s May Queen in Regina, and has toured with Saskatoon Opera Association in the production of Purcell’s King Arthur, as Lancelot. He has performed many roles through the years with the Saskatoon Opera Association, and most recently in the November production of Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock, in the eponymous role.

Michael was the Musical Director of the Saskatoon Francophone choir Choeur des plaines for the past 11 years, and is also currently Musical Director at St. John’s Cathedral. He was Musical Director for the Saskatoon Summer Players’ production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pinafore, and has been Chorus Master for the Saskatoon Opera Association past productions of La Bohème and La Traviata.

In addition to his operatic and oratorio performances Michael has been a President of the Saskatoon branch of the Saskatchewan Registered Music Teachers’ Association. He currently resides in Saskatoon with his wife Taunya and children William and Branwen, where he maintains a voice studio.

He has been a soloist at various Gustin House concerts, performing such works as Schubert’s Winterreise and Finzi’s Dies Natalis – and most recently Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Michael has been a featured soloist in many SSO concerts, including that of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and is thrilled to take part in this performance of Mozart’s Requiem.

Mozart Requiem – mezzo soprano Jardena Gertler-Jaffe

The SSO loves being able to showcase the exceptional talents that comes out of our community – so its no surprise we’re excited to work with Jardena Gertler-Jaffe as she makes her SSO debut.

Hailed for her rich, full sound, Jardena Gertler-Jaffe is a mezzo soprano from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A graduate of the Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Toronto (2015), Jardena is also an alumna of celebrated training programs SongFest and Opera NUOVA. Her past voice teachers include Nancy Argenta, Monica Whicher and Patrick Raftery, and she is currently studying with Audrey B. Luna in Cincinnati, Ohio.

As a studied performer of Baroque style, Jardena has appeared as a soloist with Victoria Baroque, The Okanagan Festival Singers, Cor Unum Ensemble, and Toronto’s Theatre of Early Music. Jardena’s recent opera credits include singing the roles of Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Victoria Conservatory of Music), Molly/ Nephthys/ Tahemet in Dean Burry’s Isis and the Seven Scorpions (Saskatoon Opera in Schools), Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Saskatoon Opera in Schools), and Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas (University of Toronto).

While performing is her main focus, Jardena also completed a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto in November 2017. Jardena continually seeks to incorporate her research interests, concerning the construction of musical and cultural identities in the face of oppression, into her artistic practice.

Mozart Requiem – soprano Andrea Lett

We are so excited to feature soprano Andrea Lett in her SSO debut!  Andrea grew up in Prince Albert, and has gone on to make quite a splash as a soprano across North America.  Saskatoon audiences fell in love with Andrea this past June when she stole the show as Musetta in Saskatoon Opera’s La Boheme.

Praised for her “clear voice soaring to stratospheric heights” (Opera Canada), soprano Andrea Lett makes highly anticipated debuts in the 2018/19 season with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (Mozart Requiem), and Manitoba Opera (Zerlina in Don Giovanni), as well as returning to Saskatoon Opera for the role of Musetta in their Mainstage production of La Bohème this summer.
Lett was recently engaged at San Francisco Opera as a principal cover (Ah Sing) for the world premiere of John Adams and Peter Sellars’ Girls of the Golden West.

A 2017 Apprentice Artist for Santa Fe Opera, her roles have included Adele cover (Santa Fe Opera), Queen of the Night (Manitoba Underground Opera), Gretel (Saskatoon Opera School Tour), and Rose Maybud in Ruddigore (Winnipeg G&S society). Ms. Lett is a graduate of the Opera School at University of Toronto (M.Mus Opera) where she studied with soprano Mary Morrison and Holds a B.Mus Perf from the University of Manitoba with Monica Huisman.

Andrea joins a cast of prairie voices for this very special performance of Mozart’s Requiem as part of our Finding Heinz Moehn concert on March 23rd.

Ichmouratov’s Youth Overture

This weekend we’re thrilled to be performing Airat Ichmouratov’s Youth Overture.  The piece is a fantastical explosion of sound and energy, and asks a great deal from the orchestra – we’ve been looking forward to bringing his music to the Saskatoon audience for a few years!

The music of Russian-Canadian composer and conductor Airat Ichmouratov, has been performed by a wide range of ensembles and musicians in countries around the world, including Maxim Vengerov, Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Metropolitain, Les Violons du Roy, New Orford Quartet, Yuli Turovsky & I Musici de Montreal, 13 Strings (Ottawa), Tatarstan State Symphony Orchestra (Russia), Alcan Quartet, Orford Camerata Ensemble, Mark Simons, Andre Moisan, Jean Francois Rivest, Alain Trudel, Yegor Dyachkov, and Stephane Tetreault, just to name a few. Versatile in form and style, Ichmouratov’s compositions have been influenced by Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Mussorgsky.

Some of his recent works such as Fantastic Dances and Second String Quartet, were recorded by I Musici de Montréal for “Analekta,” Alcan Quartet for “ATMA,” and Cadenzas for Beethoven Violin Concerto by Alexandre Da Costa with Taipei Symphony Orchestra and Johannes Wildner as conductor for “Warner Classics.” His latest projects include the composition of Klezmer-influenced Quintet for Andre Moisan & Molinary Quartet, “Youth” Overture for Orchestre de la Francophonie, and Symphony No. 1 for Longueuil Symphony Orchestra.

Ichmouratov was named as Resident Composer 2012 at Concerts aux îles du Bic (Canada), in 2013 Composer of Summer at Orford Arts Centre (Canada) and in 2015 Summer Composer at 17e edition of the Festival Classique des Hautes-Laurentides (Canada). As of 2010, Ichmouratov is the Associate Composer with Canadian Music Centre.
Holding a PhD in orchestral conducting from the University of Montreal, Airat Ichmouratov has frequently been invited as the guest conductor of the Tatarstan’s State Symphony Orchestra, the Kazan Chamber Orchestra “La Primavera” (Russia), Orchestre Metropolitain, Laval Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra London, New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra, and also I Musici of Montreal and 13 Strings (Ottawa). Airat Ichmouratov served as Conductor in Residence of Les Violons du Roy in Quebec City from 2007 until 2009. One of their concerts under Ichmouratov’s direction, “Russian Impressions” also presented the world premiere of his Cello Concerto, which won the Opus Prize in the “Best Concert of the Year” category. Airat was appointed to the position of Assistant Resident Conductor of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra from 2009 until 2011. In August 2011, Ichmouratov conducted I Music de Montreal on tour in USA, Brazil, and Peru. In October 2011, he made his debut with Tatarstan Academic State Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia) and was immediately re-invited to conduct Puccini’s Turandot during the 2012-13 season and on the following European Tour.

Born in Kazan, Russia, Airat Ichmouratov studied clarinet at the Kazan State Conservatory. In 1993, when he was appointed as Associate clarinetist of the Tatarstan’s Opera and Ballet Theatre, and of the Kazan State Symphony Orchestra, he began to extensively tour Europe. In 2000, he obtained a Master degree at the University of Montreal. He then founded the Muczynski Trio, which won first prize and the Grand Award at the National Music Festival (Canada, 2002) and First Prize at the 8th International Chamber Music Competition in Krakow (Poland, 2004). The Trio has also recorded for CBC and has given performances in Canada, China, Russia, and Europe.

In 2000, Mr. Ichmouratov joined the Klezmer group Kleztory, in which he plays the clarinet, composes, and arranges. In 2004, Kleztory recorded a unique CD; Klezmer Music with I Musici de Montreal and Yuli Turovsky, recorded on the “Chandos” label (Great Britain). In 2007 Kleztory’s album “Nomade” won the Opus Prize. His most recent (2014) Album Arrival was nominated as Best album of the Year in the Traditional music category by ADISQ. In 2012, Kleztory won Klezmer Furth Prize at International Klezmer festival and Competition in Amsterdam, and as a result appeared at the Furth Klezmer Festival during the following spring. With Kleztory Ichmouratov has appeared as soloist with several orchestras, including the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, I Musici de Montreal, Les Violons du Roy, and Brussels Chamber Orchestra and toured intensively in Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Romany, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, and China.

You can hear his Youth Overture February 9th at TCU Place with the SSO!