Brainsport’s connection with the Hockey Sweater

Hockey and Saskatchewan are inseparable, Brian Michasiw of Brainsport Saskatoon showed us his backyard rink and shared some thoughts on The Hockey Sweater.

We are very pleased to have Brainsport as a sponsor for this one of a kind event, the FIRST ever musical performance of the Hockey Sweater in a rink!

Hear Hockey Night in Canada played, stand for O Canada, and enjoy Saskatoon’s Mayor Don Atchison reading the famous kids book with music by Saskatoon’s orchestra.

Then take to the ice with the Blades, tour the dressing rooms, play mini-sticks, and experience a once in a lifetime music meets sports experience!

Capriccio Espagnol and Rimsky-Korsakov

Many composers have been inspired by customs, melodies, and national or ethnic characteristics of countries other than their own. Outstanding examples include Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Dvorák’s “New World Symphony,” Elgar’s Alassio, Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony, and the work heard here. Inspiration in this special compositional category comes to composers in many ways, such as personal travel, attending performances by visiting foreign artists, or research and study.

 

In the summer of 1887, Rimsky-Korsakov was visiting not Spain but Switzerland. Borodin had died in February and had left his opera Knyaz Igor (Prince Igor) uncompleted, and Rimsky-Korsakov undertook its completion. Rimsky-Korsakov had collected material that he originally planned to incorporate into a virtuoso violin fantasy on Spanish themes, but the final form of the work that emerged was that of a five-movement orchestral suite in which the movements are played without pause. The composer himself explained that the changes of timbres, the happy choice of melodic designs and figuration patterns that are precisely suited to each kind of instrument, the short virtuoso cadenzas for solo instruments, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, and so on, constitute in this piece the very essence of the composition. Although it is true that the work derives much of its effect from brilliant orchestration, the composer insisted that the piece is a “brilliant composition for orchestra,” not a “brilliantly-orchestrated composition.”

 

In the first movement in A major, an alborada (morning song), the full orchestra introduces the two principal themes. Violin arpeggios lead to the second movement, “Variations,” which is in the unrelated key of F major. The French horn announces the theme, and five short variations follow. A flute solo leads to a recall of the opening alborada, now transposed to B-flat major with different orchestration. The fourth movement, “Scene and Gypsy Song,” begins with a roll on the side drum. Five cadenzas are heard, followed by a harp glissando. The gypsy song, a seductive cantilena in the violins, grows in drama and intensity, and builds to a whirling climax. A rhythmic theme for trombones begins the final movement, Fandango Asturiano. Woodwinds present a second theme, and the music becomes extremely lively. The work concludes with a recall of the alborada theme.

© Ted Wilks

Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez

Blind from the age of three as a result of diphtheria, Joaquín Rodrigo studied composition in Valencia before moving to Paris in 1927 to study with Paul Dukas. While there, he met both his fellow countryman Manuel de Falla and the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi, who would become Señora Rodrigo. Joaquín and Victoria honeymooned in Spain but eventually returned to Paris, where during the bitterly cold winter of 1938-1939, with war looming, Victoria learned she was pregnant. Seven months into the pregnancy Victoria miscarried and was hospitalized for several days. During this time a family friend who was staying at their apartment observed that Joaquín spent entire nights sitting at the piano, playing a melody so sad that it gave her chills. Evoking the saeta, a song performed by women from their balconies during religious processions through the streets of Seville, this tune would form the basis for the slow movement of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.

Returning home to find an empty cradle still sitting in her apartment, Victoria was forced to sell her beloved piano to pay her medical bills. Not long afterward, Rodrigo received a letter from de Falla, offering him a teaching position in Madrid. Victoria and Joaquín quickly packed their entire belongings—including the completed manuscript for the Concierto de Aranjuezinto a pair of suitcases and left immediately. Two days after they crossed the border into Spain, World War II broke out.

Their fortunes improved in Madrid, where by November 1940 they celebrated the arrival of their first child and the successful premiere of the Concierto de Aranjuez, which before long would become not only Rodrigo’s best-known work but also the most famous guitar concerto ever written. Surrounding the central Adagio are two genteel courtly dances, the first in a characteristically Spanish meter that blurs the distinction between 6/8 and 3/4. Rodrigo wrote that the work takes its name “the famous royal residence on the banks of the Tajo, not far from Madrid and the Andalusian highway, and in its notes one may fancy seeing the ghost of Goya, held in thrall by melancholyin its themes there lingers the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains.”

Hockey Sweater in music

On March 15th the SSO takes to the ice with the Hockey Sweater – the classic children’s book, a staple of Canadian families, is now a new symphony show by Canadian composer Abigail Richardson.

Abigail was born in Oxford, England, and moved to Canada as a child.  Ironically, she was diagnosed incurably deaf at 5. Upon moving to Calgary, however, her hearing was fully intact within months.  Her music has been commissioned and performed by major orchestras, presenters, music festivals and broadcasters including the Festival Présences of Paris.

Abigail won first at the prestigious UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers and had broadcasts in 35 countries.  She won the Karen Kieser Prize (CBC) and the Dora Mavor Moore Award for “Best New Opera”. Abigail has been Affiliate Composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and now programs performances for their New Creations Festival.  She wrote the wildly successful music for the classic Canadian story, “The Hockey Sweater” by Roch Carrier.  It was the country’s first triple co-commission, by the TSO, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.   Within three seasons her piece has been performed by nearly every professional orchestra across the country, and has been experienced by more than sixty thousand audience members, often with Abigail hosting from the stage.

She recently finished a WWI memorial piece, “Song of the Poets”, with choir and orchestra for NACO’s UK tour.  The work was co-commissioned by NACO, The World Remembers, CPO, and TBSO with many partner performances in Canada and Europe.  Current projects include a complete family concert commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra based around Dennis Lee’s “Alligator Pie”.

Abigail is currently Composer in Residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, serves as Artistic Director of the HPO’s What Next Festival, hosts community events, and teaches composition for U. of T.

SSO’s New Maestro to be announced on March 4th

conductor

 

A new era is about to begin.

A new conductor is an exciting time for any orchestra – no, actually, its an exciting time for the orchestra and their audience.  And maybe even more exciting in today’s classical music climate.

I was in New York last week when the NY Philharmonic announced it would be looking for its next music director…and the excitement was palpable.  And its not unique to New York – it seems that we are in a changing of the guard in orchestras.  Over the course of the next few seasons, a large number of Canadian orchestras will be welcoming new conductors.

The SSO search was an incredibly fulfilling process.  We took time to map out what the future of the SSO looks like – what kind of leader does the SSO need? what kind of leader can the SSO be in the community?  what role and impact will the next conductor have on the local music scene? where do we want to go artistically?

We struck a committee – two board members, three principal musicians from the orchestra, and myself.  We had 77 applicants from all over the globe.  The committee whittled that down to a shortlist of 8.  A truly exceptional shortlist; exceptional musicians and visionaries who are passionate about music and their art.

The interview process was among the most rewarding experiences of my professional life – asking these artists about their process, about their ideas, was the source of much inspiration and discussion for the committee.

This was not an easy decision – many long hours of thoughtful discussion took place.  When the final meeting of the committee took place, I can say that we enthusiastically put forward a unanimous recommendation to the board.

The classical music world is presently at its most exciting, in my opinion.  There is a wealth of young conductors and soloists who are entrepreneurial in their art form.  Gone are the days when a conductor was a stoic figure on a very high podium – today’s conductors and soloists are out there trying to make their own artistic experiences and create new work for themselves and their friends – in fact, nearly all of our shortlist had at one point started their own orchestra.

The next generation of classical artists need to know more than how to make music.  They need to understand the business of the arts, the finesse of budgeting, and the art of selling tickets.  Programming is no longer about what a conductor wants to play, but rather what artistic statement the audience wants and needs.  The way we create concerts has changed.

This new generation of music makers aren’t classical snobs – but they are passionately driven to make exceptional music and see high standards as a baseline.  Today’s conductors don’t see classical music as the only path to musical enlightenment – the new generation of conductors are as comfortable at a jazz concert or playing on a Polaris prize winning album as they are on the podium.

Classical musicians love music in all its forms.  Every classical musician I know, or have worked with, would list classical as only one of the many facets of their love.  (Little known fact, I love rap).

I’m excited that Saskatoon is on the cusp of something great.  A time to explore new things, new sounds, new skills – a chance to renew our passion about this orchestra.

The 16th conductor has big shoes to fill – I can say that next season’s programming is amongst the most exciting, unique, and imaginative that Saskatoon has ever seen.  We’re setting a new soundtrack for our city.

We are about to announce a new maestro who has prairie ties and will call Saskatoon home.  Excited yet?

See you at the symphony – and hopefully one of our big launches in March.

Mark

Introducing Lucas Waldin

lucaswalden-3

 

 

LUCAS WALDIN is a dynamic and versatile conductor with a blossoming international career. Combining a command of the standard repertoire with a flare for pops and a passion for education and outreach, he has appeared to great acclaim across Europe and North America.

Currently Artist-in-Residence and Community Ambassador with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Lucas was named to the newly created position after three seasons as the orchestra’s Resident Conductor. The tailor made post will see him lead the ESO in nearly 20 concerts each season while focusing on establishing strong ties with the community through inventive outreach initiatives.  He will also act as Director of the ESO’s new El Sistema inspired program, YONA – Sistema.

With over 100 appearances to date with the Edmonton Symphony, Lucas has collaborated with some of North America’s finest musicians including Jens Lindemann, Angela Cheng and Sergei Babayan, and conducted in Carnegie Hall during the ESO’s participation in the 2012 Spring for Music festival. An experienced conductor of pops and crossover, he has worked with a range of artists from Ben Folds to the Barenaked Ladies and has led numerous multimedia presentations such as Blue Planet Live and Disney in Concert.

Strongly dedicated to contemporary music, Lucas has focused on the work of Canadian composers. He has performed over 25 Canadian compositions including six world premiers, and has collaborated closely with composers such as John Estacio, Allan Gilliland, and Malcolm Forsyth. In recognition of his accomplishments, Lucas was awarded the 2012 Jean-Marie Beaudet Award in Orchestra Conducting by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Lucas studied conducting and flute at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and has conducted in master classes with Helmuth Rilling, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Colin Metters, Kenneth Kiesler and Bernard Haitink. Prior to his appointments with the Edmonton Symphony, he was twice a Discovery Series Conductor at the Oregon Bach Festival and Assistant Conductor of Cleveland’s contemporary orchestra, {RED}. He has conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony as a participant of the St. Magnus Festival, and was invited to lead the Cleveland Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the Kansas City Symphony in rehearsal. In Europe, he has performed with orchestras including the Staatstheater Cottbus, Bachakademie Stuttgart, and the Jugendsinfonieorchester Kassel, while in Canada he has worked with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Orchestra London and the Toronto Symphony. Upcoming debuts include concerts with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Houston Symphony.

Hear him live with the SSO on February 28th – Espana!


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The state of the SSO

We’re at the half way point of the season – after my first year with the SSO, I want to take some time to take stock of things.

Over the course of the last 12 months we’ve made an exceptional amounts of changes at the SSO:

  • We changed how we budget – long term budget development has allowed us to take a serious look at how the organization needs to plan for each concert, each decision, future growth, new programs, and assessing how our financials meet the musical needs of Saskatoon.
  • We’ve drastically changed how we spend money – we’ve been strategically cutting expenses, but I’m proud to say that we can cut expenditures and still present incredible programming; and speaking of programming.  No more over spending, those days are gone.
  • We changed the way we program – we acknowledged the fact that our audiences deserve programming that fulfills their musical needs.  Its not enough to just ‘put on a concert’, it has to be an artistic experience, an event that gives something to the audience.
  • We implemented a strategic plan – it covers everything from a commitment to long term fiscal responsibility to improving performance quality
  • We have been working on a development overhaul – until this past year, the SSO had a non-existent donor database.  I’m excited to say that our new database is up and running – it will completely change the way we work with our supporters, and allow us to develop new initiatives.
  • We are getting interactive – whether you’re experiencing the opportunity to sing in our new chorus, enjoying getting social with us online, or voting on the last performance of the year, we’re making huge strides involving patrons in the process
  • We are enjoying the benefits of all of the above – each and every concert in the first half of the season saw a surplus.  Its not only financially satisfying, its been wonderful to see such large audiences engaging in their orchestra!
  • We’ve committed to creating artistic opportunities for Sask artists – how exciting it is that a kid can grow up in a farm in Saskatchewan, fall in love with music, get inspired by prairie skies, go off to find a career, and return to be celebrated by their own orchestra – that is one of the best parts of the whole year
  • We have hired a new music director – 77 phenomenal candidates all boiled down to one.  One exceptional musician.  A visionary with big dreams whose commitment to defining a higher artistic standard will redefine the music scene.  A conductor who is as comfortable on the Masters stage as they are biking to an indie concert.

These achievements are remarkable – its a testament of the leadership of the board, a hardworking staff, and most importantly musicians who showed us how beautifully they can play Mozart!  Its owed in large part to our supporters…our stakeholders.  The people who are not just enthusiastic about music, but are showing up to concerts and helping us rediscover what the orchestra means to Saskatoon and beyond.

So its time to tackle a hurdle.  The SSO had too many years of not being fiscally responsible.  It is truly the most frustrating part of my job – its a reality created before I got here and a mountain too big to move on my own.  Its the deficit.  Everyone tells me that no one likes to talk about a deficit, but when I joined the SSO I promised that I would be frank and honest about the organization…and its time to move ahead.

With the present state of the SSO, the organizational health we’re experiencing, we can actually deal with the deficit and stop the cycle.  If we’re going to create a great orchestra that people across the country will take note of, we have to recover from the past and commit to the future.

By getting rid of the deficit the SSO can effectively invest in our community – facilitate long term planning for raises for the orchestra musicians, expand our educational programming, reach out to our surrounding communities, attract world renowned guest artists, create new projects that flex the artistic muscles of our arts scene.  If we can achieve such great accomplishments in the last 12 months, just think of where we’re headed.

We have one last major step to take.  And we’re about to take it.

See you at the symphony,
Mark Turner

Sibelius Symphony No 2 – hear the Northern Lights

Symphony No 2 in D Major, Opus 43 – 45 mins Jean Sibelius

  1. Allegretto
  2. Tempo Andante, ma rubato
  3. Vivacissimo
  4. Finale: Allegro moderato

Dedicated to Baron Axel Carpelan

In 1900, Baron Axel Carpelan wrote to Sibelius and, citing Italy’s positive effects on Tchaikovsky and Strauss, recommended that Sibelius travel there. Depressed by the death of his youngest daughter, Sibelius was helped immensely by his Italian journey. During his stay in Rapallo from February to May 1901, he was able to sketch what would become the second of his seven symphonies. Originally conceived as a four-movement orchestral fantasy, Symphony #2 was assigned a program by Sibelius’s friend, conductor Robert Kajanus.

Sibelius rejected any specific nationalistic or patriotic program assigned to his Symphony #2, although the Finnish character of the work is unquestionable. An ardent Finnish nationalist, Sibelius was a very individual composer. Although he lived well into the twentieth century, his music is not like that of Bartok or Hindemith; Sibelius was a Romanticist who composed in a late nineteenth-century style. However, following a concert of his music in Germany, Sibelius became an international figure and began to respond to currents in contemporary music. The five symphonies after Symphony #2 are marked by thinner orchestration and increased use of dissonance. However, despite his symphonic masterworks, Sibelius did not and could not speak the language of musical modernism. He published no music during the last 30 years of his life and none survives that period.

His musical aesthetic favors the sense-impressions of Symbolism and integration of thematic material, rather than tending to modernist abstraction. The Symbolist idea of tone-painting-–representing the physical world in music-–is apparently one that appealed to Sibelius. In Symphony #2, fjords, icy lakes, and cold wind are images that the listener can’t help experiencing. Kalevala, a Finnish folk-epic, had attracted Sibelius from his youth onwards. His translation of the Kalevala into music via tone-painting is, more than overt nationalism, what gives Symphony #2 its sense of local flavor. It accounts for the mystical and organic character of the music.

Premiered March 8, 1902, the symphony was an instant success. By 1940, Sibelius’s music was all the rage in America. By the time of his death in 1957, his music had all but disappeared. It was “rediscovered” in the 1970s and has remained in the repertoire until the present day.

 

Credit J Sundram

 

Pick our last symphony of the year

People's Choice 2015 Composers

For our closing performance of the 2014-2015 season we have decided to ask our wonderful patrons to select the symphony they would like to hear. We have narrowed the field to four:  Mendelssohn’s Mediterranean-inspired “Italian” Symphony, Mozart’s tragic and emotional Symphony No. 40, the 14 year travail that was Brahms’s First Symphony and Beethoven’s revolutionary Symphony No. 3.

Below you can vote on which great symphonic work you would most like to hear.

Exploring Borealis

Credit: Mark Duffy
Credit: Mark Duffy

On January 24th, the SSO will bring the Northern Lights to the concert hall – John Estacio discusses his work Borealis.

The first time ever I experienced the glorious spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was a few short years ago when I arrived in Edmonton. Up until that moment I had to settle for textbook explanations and a geography teacher’s descriptions.

I had no idea what I was seeing when I first noticed the majestic curtains of swirling green light
in the sky one crisp October evening until a friend confirmed that it was indeed the Northern Lights. I was completely captivated and awestruck by the magical sight of dancing light; how could I not be inspired to compose a piece of music?! Having recently completed two serious compositions, it was the right time to revisit a style for unabashed lyrical melodies and joyous bright orchestral colours that Borealis would require.

The composition is written in two movements. The first movement is meant to be awe-invoking and attempts to capture the ethereal atmosphere of the lights of the northern skies; wide streams of bending, curving light that abruptly disappear and reappear. The ephemeral nature of these celestial happenings is represented by the sudden colourful outbursts followed by movements of near silence. The movement begins with the strings playing a major chord and then gradually glissing (bending the pitch) until they all arrive at a different chord; for me, this musical gesture captures the essence of bending curtains of light and serves as a recurring motive throughout this movement. A solo flute introduces fragments of a melody; this melody is not heard in its entirety until later in the piece when it is performed by a solo bassoon and then an English horn. The strings perform the melody and the composition swells to its climax featuring the brass and the sound splashes provided by the percussion. The movement concludes with a unique auditory effect in the percussion section that again attempts to convey the enchanting and magical quality of the borealis.

For the second movement, I wanted something that would be a formidable contrast to the subtle nature of the first movement, a celebrated dance of celestial light. The music for Scherzo (meaning “playful”) has more of a fervent and animated energy to it being inspired by the notion of dancing celestial lights (title changed to Wondrous Light, 2004). This movement is perhaps less of a literal musical representation of the borealis and is, instead, inspired by their energy and the speed at which the lights seem to zip through the evening skies. A nimble melody introduced by the oboe is developed intervallically and rhythmically throughout the composition. Sudden swells in volume accompanied by quick glissandos were inspired by the swirling curtains of green light which twist and turn and vanish suddenly in the night sky. Towards the conclusion of this movement the nimble theme is transformed into a noble melody performed as a traditional chorale by the trombones, and then repeated by the full orchestra. The conclusion of this piece attempts to capture the majesty of the borealis — they have graced our northern skies since time began and will continue to dance evermore.

John Estacio