Only 2 weeks left for Share in the Future

Last December our colleagues at Orchestra London closed up shop. On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, with what appeared to be very little warning, they canceled concerts, and musicians were left with an uncertain future. The city of London, Ont, is now putting the process in place to figure out if there is any way to bring the organization back from the dead.

Why did it all happen so fast? From what I understand, they hit a point where they couldn’t make payroll as they came to the end of their cash flow deficit. A familiar story in the orchestra world.

A friend of mine who lives in London said to me “I was just at their last concert…it was packed. How could this happen?”

The business of orchestras is very complex; the business model relies entirely on volatile variables: ticket sales, funding, and patron and corporate support.

Ticket Sales – While many people think concert tickets can be expensive, the fact is that the ticket price covers only 1/3 of what it costs to put you in that seat for the night. To properly sustain the operations of the SSO we would have to move to a model where our “cheap seats” were $65….for students. Grand circle seats would be well over $200 a night. It’s important to remember that when you come to a concert you are covering not only the performers on stage, but also the staff behind the scenes, the tech crew, the folks at the door, the program you’re reading, and quite literally renting that seat you’re sitting in for the night.

We keep our prices accessible, because after all we’re here to engage a community in a creative dialogue – we want to keep our prices affordable for all. We want a vibrant audience who represents all facets of our city, no matter socio-economic background, age, or place in life. To move to a for-profit model where ticket sales created profit would go against the bigger picture.

Funding – now this is where it gets bleak. Earlier this year, the Canada Council for the Arts announced that it would be “simplifying” over the next three years. What does that mean exactly? Your guess is as good as mine. It likely means that we are in for major cuts to the arts. Hopefully what it means is that the money allocated to the Canada Council will end up being spent more directly in the arts community, creating more opportunities for the arts to have an impact. But I’m not holding my breath.

Also important to understand is that the SSO receives a great deal less funding than other orchestras our size in Canada – our funding from provincial and civic levels are half of what the Regina Symphony receives respectively.

Based on the recent work of the SSO, the new strategic plan and direction, the successful programming, and the truly remarkable renaissance that we’re experiencing I hope that our funding opportunities improve. But it’s going to take more than just me waving my arms to fix this situation.

Support – for the last many years I wasn’t giving to the SSO either. I would buy my tickets but I was not giving. I, like you, was worried that my support was going to a black hole of long term financial troubles.

This was a systemic problem that the SSO had – it dates back decades, and I know that the organization has had to cry wolf many times.

But, we’ve almost fixed it. No crying wolf after this…after this, there won’t be a need to.

Our ticket sales for the Masters series this year are up 33% over last year…and if the last few weeks are indicative of results, subscription sales are about to leap. We have exceptionally strong board leadership – a board that is not only passionate about the arts, but truly passionate about fixing the financial model for the organization.

People have told me for over a year that I just shouldn’t talk about deficit, but guess what folks, without facing these issues head on we can’t fix them.  Our quiet Tuesday will come, and we could be exactly where Orchestra London is now.

Personally, I refuse to let this thing die when everything else is going so well.

People are loving our concerts…so much so they’re showing up in massive numbers. At countless different performances this year I’ve had people tell me that “this was the best SSO concert I’ve ever been to” – the orchestra is playing well, and people are taking notice. Each and every day a new opportunity for expansion comes up…a new conductor, new educational programs, new partnerships, new ideas for old partnerships, growth opportunities literally walk through the door each day.

Share in the Future moves the orchestra, the entire organization, past 20+ years of deficit. It’s some kind of magically time machine that catches us up to the speed of what we’re doing. Your gift then instantly matched by the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation – not only is it incredibly generous but it’s pretty visionary.

You give. The gift is matched. You get your tax receipt, and we’ll give you a free concert in November so that we can properly say thank you. And your name is added to the list of 2000 that stand and say that for them an orchestra is an essential part of their city.

I’m telling you, begging you, to not let this opportunity slip through our fingers. To my knowledge, magical time machines like this don’t come along very often. And frankly if we miss this chance, I’m not sure I’d want to live in a city that didn’t seize this moment and make it clear that music matters.

Please click here to give.

Hopefully see you at the symphony,

Mark Turner
Executive Director

Tchaikovsky’s epic violin concerto

Tchaikovsky composed the concerto in 1878, while visiting Clarens, Switzerland. Dissatisfied with the original slow movement, he replaced it with the one known today. He sent the concerto to Leopold Auer, the distinguished Hungarian soloist. To his horror, Auer declined to perform it, citing technical and artistic shortcomings. Crushed, Tchaikovsky shelved it.

Some time later, German soloist Adolf Brodsky expressed an interest, then spent the better part of two years preparing to give the premiere. That took place at a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, Hans Richter conducting, on December 4, 1881. The audience loved Brodsky’s playing, but they hissed the piece. The press, led by the arch conservative critic Eduard Hanslick, heaped abuse upon it, too.

Despite this initial hostility, the concerto lost little time in establishing itself as a concert favorite. Brodsky’s continuing advocacy had much to do with this. In gratitude, Tchaikovsky changed his original dedication plan, switching it from Auer to Brodsky. Auer later changed his view. He became one of its most persuasive champions and made sure that his many pupils, including Jascha Heifetz, performed it as well.

It is considerably less dramatic and more lightly scored than Tchaikovsky’s only previous concerto, the First for piano (1875). In breadth of conception and richness of contents, the opening movement is virtually a complete concerto in itself. Since both principal themes are lyrical, Tchaikovsky achieves the necessary contrast by alternating lightly scored passages for violin and orchestra, with more forceful sections scored for orchestra alone.

Woodwinds introduce the wistful, elegant second movement. The soloist uses a mute, giving the instrument a veiled, restrained sound most appropriate to the music. The vivacious, folk-flavored dance rhythms of the finale burst in abruptly. Two warm contrasting ideas are subjected to elaborate presentation. The solo violin then leads off an exhilarating chase which brings the concerto to a dashing close.

Meet Marc Bouchkov



Its seems that everyone is buzzing about Marc Bouchkov – our feature guest this weekend is a rising star in the classical world, and we’re very fortunate to have him join us for one of the most difficult concertos there is!

While Marc is in town, he’ll also be working with violin students from Saskatoon as a master clinician right here at the SSO’s Rehearsal Hall.

Marc Bouchkov was born 1991 into a family of musicians. He received his first lessons at the age of five from his grandfather, Mattis Vaitsner. His first public appearance was just one year later. In 2001, he joined Claire Bernard’s studio at the Lyon Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique; he transferred to the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (CNSM) in 2007. There, he began studies with Boris Garlitzky, who has been his mentor ever since, and offers him invaluable guidance for honing his craft. The following years saw participation in master classes and invitations to festivals in Moulin d‘Ande, Troyes, and Bordeaux (France), Viterbo (Italy) and New Hampshire (USA).

Marc Bouchkov’s artistic development has been marked by numerous international prizes and awards. He won First Prize at the highly-regarded “International Violin Contest Henri Koch,” as well as at the “2010 European Young Concert Artists Audition” in Leipzig. That same year, he received the First Prize for Violin with Special Distinction from the Jury at the CNSM Paris; the prestigious Ebel Prize followed in 2011. In 2012, he was a finalist and award-winner at the 2012 “Queen Elizabeth Competition” in Brussels. In 2013, he won First Prize at the “Montreal International Musical Competition,” and was named an award-winner of the Stiftung Juventus by Georges Gara.

As a concert artist, Marc Bouchkov has enjoyed a rapidly growing career. Alongside numerous recitals in Hamburg, at the Montpellier Festival, at he Théâtre de la Ville de Paris, at the International Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg and in Montreal, his collaborations with orchestras such as the Belgian National Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Liège, the Filharmonia Lodz, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie are becoming ever more extensive.

In the 2014/15 season, he will make his debut with the NDR-Sinfonieorchester in Hamburg. A performance of Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker as part of a ballet production of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, with choreography by Mats Ek, will be another highlight of the season.

The Road to a Fresh Start

Invitation - 2014-2015 SSO Season Launch

Mark Turner, SSO Interim General Manager

A season launch can say so much about an orchestra.  Whether you know it or not, the launch is so much more than the announcement of what music you can expect to hear in the upcoming year.

At the SSO, we took the last few months to ask ourselves who are we and what role do we play in our city, province, and beyond.

The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is not only a long standing artistic institution in the city, but we are the orchestra for central and northern Saskatchewan—we play to audiences who trudge through cold wind and dust storms, and wear their dress shoes through snow banks and mud puddles. Each and every person in our audience knows the sheer joy of experiencing a quiet sunset and has been dumbfounded by the northern lights. Our audience is proud that it knows what a combine is and what it does. We all know that the Saskatoon Berry is far superior to other lesser berries. We understand the smell of fresh wet dirt, of a field of wheat, and of pig barns. And you don’t have to live on a farm to know these. Our city is filled with all sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the prairie.

The SSO is not a big city orchestra—and that’s ok. We don’t need to be a big city orchestra. As one of two professional orchestras in Saskatchewan, we have an important role to play. We have to bring an audio identity to our city. Music plays a key role in the authenticity of a city—it is real people, real music, real experiences; it is central to creating real communities. A symphony orchestra is crucial to the identity of a city.

You might not believe me, but it’s true. Sounds, songs, and musical memories are the strongest and easiest to remember—music infects our ears, our minds, our thoughts, it mixes with emotions, and becomes a part of our soul. Each and every one of us has a personal musical soundtrack to our life.

A prairie symphony needs to be a part of that.

Invitation - 2014-2015 SSO Season Launch

A season needs to address all this and more—it must not only be artistically creative, but it has to make sense. It’s no secret that the SSO has a deficit, so it should be no secret that we approached this new season with a very real goal of ensuring that the programming not only is affordable but will have a lasting impact in reducing our deficit. That means that we have to give you a ‘wow’ factor. We have to give you a chance to see true artists take the stage. We have to make sure that at the end of the day we know we have a responsibility to make programming affordable. If we can’t afford to do it, we can’t do it—but it also means we get to truly explore the things we do well.

This season was designed with an intent of financial stability and growing the artistic quality of performance. If you always come to the symphony, you are in for a serious treat. If you haven’t been to the symphony in a while, I challenge you to come back and see what we’re doing. If you have never been to the symphony, turn off Netflix and be social. It is far too easy to stay home than go out. It’s easier to use a cake mix than start from scratch … but we all know which cake is more rewarding, to mention nothing of taste and quality.

A night out at the arts is one of the last true social experiences in our world—come see what the SSO is doing to be relevant, inspiring, passionate, fun, and responsible.

See you at the symphony,