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,
Mark


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.

All about that Bass-Baritone Brenden Friesen

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

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

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

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

Getting to Know Magnificat Soprano Casey Peden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to know Stephanie Unverricht

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

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

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

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

(Yes Stephanie! You are more than fine!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Getting to Know Soprano Allison Walmsley!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to know Magnificat soloist Spencer McKnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Know Contralto Lisa Hornung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Both Sides Now Downtown YXE

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the iconic Joni Mitchell grew up here in Saskatoon – in fact, Saskatoon and the Canadian prairies make many appearances in Joni’s catalogue of songs.  In Cherokee Louise we hear her talk about the Broadway Bridge, and Paprika Plains is a hymn about her love for the plains.  

To coincide with the SSO’s performance of Joni’s music from her albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue, we partnered with DTNYXE for a photo display along 2nd and 3rd Aves downtown.

The photos bridge Joni’s more than fifty year career, and each is paired with a line from her legendary song Both Sides Now.

“The title of the concert, Don’t Give Yourself Away, comes from a line in Both Sides Now,” says SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.  “There’s such an incredible passion in her eyes that is present no matter what year the photos were taken.  And her orchestral jazz recording in 2000 of Both Sides Now show that, like her eyes, her search for art and life never faded in her music and lyrics either.”

The posters are on display until March 5th – take a walk all the way down 3rd Ave to read from the first lines, “Rows and flows of angel hair” to the end of the song.

“She deserves so much more celebration than we’re able to give her, but we felt so compelled to bring this music to life as her orchestral jazz albums are amongst the best the genre has ever offered.”

The concert features Vince Mendoza who arranged and conducted both albums for Joni.  He’s joined by bassist Edwin Livingston, jazz legend Peter Erskine on drums, vocalist Sarah Slean, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Win A Print of Denyse Klette’s Joni

“I am a Lonely Painter, I Live in a Box of Paints” – Denyse Klette

In 2017, artist Denyse Klette helped us celebrate our Mozart Festival with a one-of-a-kind portrait of Wolfgang – and when she found out that we had a concert celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell, a new idea was born.

Denyse is known for her remarkable ability to capture a moment in paint – her art is full of life and colour, and shows her absolute love of life.  The painting’s title comes from a line in Joni’s classic A Case of You, and the painting references that Joni has often said she sings her sorrow and paints her joy.

PRINT GIVEAWAY

Anyone who purchases a ticket by March 1st at 12 noon will be entered into a draw to win a limited edition artist-enhanced canvas print of the painting (valued at $995).  If you’ve already purchased a ticket for the show, don’t worry – you are already entered into the draw.  Denyse will make the draw live on stage the night of the concert.

Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell features the SSO conducted by long-time Joni collaborator Vince Mendoza and features Sarah Slean on vocals – the concert marks the first ever live performance of the music from Joni’s albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue.

Click here to get your tickets!