Silence Isn’t An Option

Running an arts organization these days is not for the faint of heart. Being an artist isn’t either…particularly exhausting and scary for musicians.

We’ve gone silent. And it feels worse than I’m able to explain in words.

I’ve been very proud of what the SSO has accomplished in the last few weeks. Our digitally distant performances, online concert, musician chats, and Beethoven Fest have had more than 25,000 people from around the world engaging with us. We have gotten to know ourselves in a new way, and we’ve gotten to connect with some patrons in ways we never thought we could. It’s clear that our SSO for You online portal is not only here to stay, but lets us grow and connect in more ways.

Musicians around the world went silent, and immediately the world turned to music…with streamed concerts and playlists meaning more than ever. It has been extra hard for a world on the cusp of celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven.

The pandemic, and its effects on the SSO and music worldwide, has made me do a lot of reflecting about Beethoven. Musicians and music lovers alike know his music, often intimately, down to every last nuance. But there’s much still to consider from the man who changed music.

Just after turning 30, his hearing was slipping away. Nothing is more vital and more critical to a musician than their hearing. As each year passed, he worked harder, explored more, he pushed the limits of music. He performed and conducted premieres that he had to self produce just to make sure his music was heard. His life kept getting more challenging, and often he was his own worst enemy. To him, the world went silent. But his own world was musically vivid.

As his ability to communicate through music became increasingly challenging, Beethoven turned his face to the storm. He wrote. He wrote music that challenged the establishment, he wrote music that changed the way musicians took on their craft, and he wrote music that would go on to change the world forever.

He had something so crucial taken away from him, and he could not give up.

The SSO, like orchestras around the globe, had to go silent. And right now, it’s impossible to know what will happen next. There are great glimmers of hope around the world, with orchestras soon hosting concerts with up to 55% of audience in their halls. But none of us know what will happen next.

Over the last few weeks, the SSO team has become galvanized in the knowledge that we can’t give up.

We hope we can present the concerts we have planned this fall, with adaptations that keep us all safe. But, if we can’t, we have multiple “plan B’s” in the works – concerts that showcase the innovation, creativity, and beautiful music making that the SSO brings to its community. We are exploring ways to digitally capture our school shows, seniors homes, and outreach programming so that we can keep bringing musical experiences to everyone who needs it.

We will make music for you no matter what. We will look to ensure that our concerts are safe for patrons and musicians alike. We will push our creativity to new bounds. We will innovate and explore and face the challenge with determination. Like Beethoven, silence isn’t an option.

It might be different. It might feel strange at first. It will be creative. It will be worth the work and worth the wait.

It may not change the world, but it will make a difference.

Thank you for supporting the SSO – I hope you’ll join me in making a donation to your orchestra at this time when literally every donation makes a world of difference.

Mark Turner
Executive Director

SSO For You

It’s strange to not be able to make music with your friends – and even stranger that we weren’t getting to make music FOR our friends!

While we all stay home to flatten the curve, the SSO wanted to bring you some special programming to enjoy from the comfort of your home.  Eric and the musicians have been busy working with the staff to create ways to connect with you during this time!

Meet the Musicians in Your Neighbourhood

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm on at

Join Maestro Eric Paetkau every Tuesday and Thursday on Facebook live for a chance to talk to the musicians that make the SSO awesome.  Each episode gets chatty and explores how each person came to call Saskatoon home, their musical influences, and so much more!

Click to watch

Classical Now on CFCR

Mondays, 7:00-8:30pm on CFCR

Join our ED Mark Turner each Monday night for Classical Now – dig deeper into your music library and find out more about the behind the scenes stories of composers/performers and their music.  Discover music new and old and maybe even learn something on the way!

Online Performances

We are going to be sharing some music with you – some from past performances, and some filmed just for social media.  It’s a mix of stuff you’ll know well and stuff you should know better (it slaps, as the kids would say!).  We’ll be posting videos on Faecbook, Instagram, and YouTube – so keep your eyes pealed!

SSO Trivia!

with Richard and Stephanie – dates TBD

If you’ve been to one of our After Dark performances, you’ll know what we’re talking about!  From the musicians who brought you “Name that Tune on the Bassoon” and that weird thing with the cheese, we’re going to have a few trivia nights led by Richard and Stephanie to test your knowledge of all things pub-trivia mixed in with some music!

Beethoven 250 Festival

May 2nd to 8th

The festival week we had planned may have had to be cancelled, but we’ve got something up our sleeves for the stay-at-home edition.  Join us for some learn opportunities, catch some music, get interactive with the SSO!  Details announced soon!

Kids Learning Opportunities

Every day at 10am we’re posting a cool activity for your kids to try out – head over to our Facebook and check out the daily activity.


And more…

We have a bunch of plans in the works – maybe you’ll learn about the 12 most important symphonies ever, or how to make a double reed!  We are adjusting to this new world of having to connect with each other and with all of you in new ways – and its going to be a unique way to make music more during this difficult times!

The Show Will Go On, Someday

Last Monday, if you’d told me that we’d be postponing concerts by the end of the week, I wouldn’t have believed you. It felt like the pandemic was something happening elsewhere, not here. It didn’t really seem real for us.

But as the week progressed, each hour brought new news. First the JUNOs (heartbreaking as the SSO was going to be playing with Jann Arden!). Then we had to postpone our Accent with the SSO concert because we weren’t able to get all six of the groups members here. Then the last few shows of our SaskTel Symphony in Schools Tour was cancelled. Then we postponed our Mozart Reimagined project with Saskatoon Opera and FreeFlow Dance. And our Music Talk at McNally for March 31st has been cancelled. And I’m sure more is on the way.

As of this morning, we are still taking things hour by hour. We’re looking ahead to the programming planned for the next few weeks and realizing that there are more postponements and cancellations in sight.

Some of these events will have to be cancelled, but the goal for us is to reschedule some of the events for a future date. I have no idea when, but I do know that we want to keep sharing music – and I have two reasons why I feel strongly we need to reschedule.

Firstly, our musicians. We are all grateful to be able to do our part in social distancing to try and slow the spread of COVID-19, but these measures will be devastating to our local musicians. They already have been. It highlights how exceptionally fragile working in the arts is. We all love to reap the benefits of having artists in our communities, but we have yet to find a way to ensure their stability as members of our communities. It’s something that we have to work on going forward, but more importantly, its something that we’re starring in the face right now. Most musicians in our community do not qualify for EI, and many of them will see a reduction or total loss of work.

On top of that, the financial risk this poses to the SSO, and all arts organizations, is drastic. My administrative team is working non-stop on trying to figure out what we can do. How do we support our musicians and remain afloat?  Can we find ways to soften the blow? And how do we even keep our doors open if the remainder of the season is shuttered?

The second reason I have for wanting to reschedule is that when the time comes for us to end social distancing, the need for us all to come together to participate in the act of making music will be key to finding our identity as a community again. We will need to be social, and a concert is one of the most joyous ways to come together and be part of something again. It will help us all rebuild emotionally and mentally after these strange days.

All of the tickets held to a postponed event will be honoured – we want to have you there when we get music back on its feet in Saskatoon. If you want you can ask for a refund as well, or you can choose to donate your purchased ticket to the SSO.  We’ve had a number of people do this already, and it means the world to us – it helps us continue to operate in this very difficult time and let’s us give you a tax receipt for your support.

The last few days have been very difficult, but I have been overwhelmed by supporters of the SSO reaching out wanting to help. I can not tell you how wonderful it feels to know that people are thinking of their orchestra at this time. I’ve been humbled by the people phoning in to make donations. I’ve been touched to see the care and respect our community has for its music makers.

Please keep subscribing to our 90th season – this fall will be an even bigger celebration than we could have expected, so we want to share that with you!  Your subscription helps the SSO stay stable moving beyond this fiscal year.

And the most meaningful help is making a donation.  This time of year is our largest in terms of the donations we receive – if donations drop off on top of losing ticket revenues, it will spell disaster for your SSO.

None of us ever imagined this kind of global scenario would play out – and all of us are feeling the impact. Social distancing and self-isolation are needed right now. But a time will come when we will need the communion of being together again to make music, and those will be such wonderful events.

Please support your local symphony – we all need you more than ever.

Stay well,
Mark Turner
Executive Director
Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra

Postponing Accent with the SSO

I’m very sad to announce that we need to postpone our March 21st concert with Accent.

Over the last few days, I have been working very closely with orchestras across the country, our venues, our funders, and with the SSO Board President Dr Anne Doig (former President of the Canadian Medical Association), and keeping a constant eye on Public Health advisories.

Currently, the risk to Saskatchewan residents is low and no venues have been closed. But this morning I discussed with Accent that they are uncertain of the travel options for a number of their group members, and rather than risking a show that wouldn’t be to the standard either party would want, we decided its best to postpone.

This concert has been such a thrill to put together with Accent – and we are so excited to share it with Saskatoon. So under these circumstances all parties agreed that this was something we will reschedule.

Over the next few weeks we’ll find a time to reschedule the event and keep you informed of the date.

All tickets for next weekend’s concert will be honoured for the rescheduled event.

If you’d prefer to not hold on to your ticket for the rescheduled event, we have two options for you:

  • chose to donate your ticket back to the SSO, and receive a tax receipt
  • request a refund for those tickets

As of this morning, we have no plans to postpone any other events – but we are monitoring the situation closely and want to do what’s in the best interest of safety and public health.

The financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic could have to the SSO and our musicians is devastating.  So we are working hard to try and figure out what happens next.
I know that the stock market and pandemic have all of us worried – but I urge you as music lovers to consider the risk that this poses to the beloved musicians of the SSO.  My staff and I are working hard to put in to place contingency plans in a hope to ensure the well being of the SSO and its musicians and staff, physically and financially.  Our city is lucky to have the musicians and orchestra, and this current situation gives us a chance to show our support for them.

Our patrons and our musicians mean a lot to us – so please stay well.

Mark Turner
Executive Director

For any questions please feel free to email, call the SSO at 306-665-6414

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 

Share in the Future with Executive Director Mark Turner

Executive Director Mark Turner is away in Rotterdam at Classical:NEXT. In between meeting, collaborating, and learning with his counterparts from across the globe he took a moment to reflect on Share in the Future.

I’ve always been fascinated with the wonderment we experience when hearing live music.  A magic spell that’s cast by artisans and captures the hearts and souls of an audience.  We all sit together, and no matter what our day has held or how much we know about what we’re hearing, in-spite of our differences and because of our ears, we can all fall under the spell.

Even more fascinating is that being spellbound can happen on music you’ve heard 100 times or something you’ve never played before.  It is the truest way that we can all be understood and understand – and because of that live music needs to be fostered and protected and worked at.

As Glenn Gould used to say, music is not a momentary inspiration but rather a life long pursuit of hard work and serenity.  It takes thousands of hours for each concert to come to life so to that the audience can feel the magic.  It’s a labor of practice, research, planning, rehearsing, decision making, perseverance, and a drive to do it.  It takes a lot of time, and a lot of money, and nerves of steal.

But truly, it all comes down to one thing: passion.  The passion of a soloist to suggest a concerto, the passion of our musicians who sacrifice their time for more practice, the passion of producers to take risks and give of their energy, and the passion and audacity of a concert goer who could have stayed home and streamed something.  It takes passion to move us all to the hall for each and every concert – and that is why we can feel the magic.

This year we’re again asking you to make a donation to the SSO before our year end.  The economy is hurting, which means tickets sales are down – it also means that your money is more precious than ever.  So I ask with the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to ensure that your donation to the SSO is put to the best possible use.; whether that’s through investing in our musicians, creating more opportunities for you to come to concerts, or giving our region’s young people a chance for their imagination to collide with live music.

Running an orchestra is difficult work, and while I love my job, it takes a remarkable amount of work from many people – and with four seasons under my belt I can honestly say that some days i feel like I might give up.

But like a musician who is finding one small run of notes nearly impossible, there’s something that keeps us all working towards a remarkable goal – passion.  Eric’s passion for beautiful music, my team’s passion for their work and their orchestra, our musicians’ passion that causes them to need to make music not just listen to it, a subscriber who cannot wait for our next concert.  It defies logic and economics that orchestras still exist and still play music live, but I guarantee you it’s the passion that keeps feeding us to make magic.

So please support your orchestra this May.  Be part of that magic.  And if you’re reading this thinking you that it’s been too long since you’ve been to the symphony, then you need to stir up the bravery to leave the house and be part of magical concert moments.  Trust me, your life is so much deeper when you live passionately.

To make a gift to share in the future click here.

Do I have your attention?

Do I have your attention?

Well, while I might have it right now, the reality is that with each passing day your local arts scene has less and less of your attention. 
Every conference I’ve been to in the last 12 months has talked about the concept of disruption. When I was a kid being disrupted meant getting distracted, and that was a bad thing. When I was a young pianist, distraction meant I was not practicing enough or wasn’t really concentrating at the work at hand. As a piano teacher being disrupted by the phone ringing meant that I had to ask the student to play that passage again. 
But in 2017, disruption is the ultimate goal of every thing. Our cell phones have disrupted our lives, but more importantly they’ve disrupted our use of computers, newspaper, even live concerts. Streaming has disrupted the recording industry and nearly brought television as we know it to its knees. Online shopping has disrupted the shopping mall. Our lives are based around the inventions and decisions of a few people who decided they wanted to disrupt our norms and create the new experience.  
Earlier this week there was a fake news story about one of my favourite opera singers, claiming he’d lost his battle with cancer. The twitter-verse exploded and news of his death spread faster than would have been possible just a few years ago. And within 22 minutes his wife had posted to her Facebook page to say that he was in fact not dead, but rather sleeping peacefully beside her in their home. And with the same flurry of social media we all posted to say thank God he was still with us. 
Even news about opera has to be distracting and disruptive to be heard. Which I guess isn’t just global. I had a classical music buff who I’ve known for years here in town say to me they had no idea James Ehnes was just here. This is someone who I know is paying attention, who passionately follows the arts and would never have missed this concert…..but we’re all living in a fast-paced bubble where we have a hard time keeping up with what life has become. 
So at each conference I’ve been at we’ve talked about disrupting the audience’s who we are not connecting with, or disrupting a larger/new audience…but what happens when you’re not being disruptive enough with the people who are your core?
I worry that Saskatoon’s unbelievably vibrant and exciting local arts scene is not going to be disruptive enough. The local classical musical world can’t afford massive marketing budgets – the SSO has by far the largest marketing budget of any classical music group in town, and we feel like we can’t keep up. 
Frequently I look at the line up of upcoming music events in Saskatoon and think to myself “we are living in a golden age in this town”‎, but are we able to connect the audience with the event? Are we able to connect the artists with their fans and people who would be fans? 
Disruption might be trendy, but it’s not new. Beethoven disrupted the Viennese establishment….Debussy disrupted the French school….David Bowie disrupted the musical world and set it on its head. It’s history repeating – but can we as a music community, disrupt your lives enough for you to come and be present in the room when we make music? 
Maybe that’s just it – a concert is one of the few remaining disruptions in our modern lives…..shut your phone off, turn off work-mode, and be really you for a while just enjoying the moment.
See you at the symphony,
Mark Turner
Executive Director

The State of the SSO

Each fall as we’re getting ready to launch a new season, I get to take some time to look back at the past year and reflect on the “state of the SSO”.  I have to admit that this is always a great chore – but particularly with this past season, there was much to be proud about.

The SSO is in a state of growth – measured and steady, but still rapid growth.  In Season 86 we added two new series to our programming, we embarked on a collaborative week of Mozart Festival-ing, and we continued to grow our subscriber base.  This is remarkable news…we are making more music, and bringing it to more people, and engaging with more of our community.  We have used what we do as a means for dialogue about how we can connect more, and I think we’re doing a very good job of that.  We’re always striving to improve the lives of our musicians, so last season our spending on artistic expenses went up – a great reason for a growing budget.  The growth at the SSO is driven by a growth in our music community.

We formed a lot of great relationships that will play a big role in the future of music in Saskatoon – the most important of which is the Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the University of Saskatchewan.   This one-of-a-kind partnership outlines the common goals and aspirations the two institutions have for the province.  While the musical intersection of the SSO and U of S has always been evident, we’re going to strive to see how we can connect music with the University’s wider search for knowledge.  While its too early to say much, we are excited about a medical research project that involves the SSO in the upcoming year.

Share in the Future was again a resounding success – with donations and the generous support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, the campaign raised more than $240,000 in just two months.  This not only paves the way for the SSO to continue embarking on its dreams, but allows for some very cool projects that we get to announce before too long!

With the AGM this week we’re announcing that I have officially signed on for four more years as Executive Director at the SSO.  In my time with the orchestra I have come to be so immensely proud of the work we do, both on and off stage.  I am grateful for exceptional staff who are at the ready when I walk in and say “I have an idea”.  We are all grateful for the incredibly generosity of our volunteers – from the board, to the concerts, to the amazing Book and Music Sale…the volunteers of the SSO show that making music together is more than just playing an instrument.  It is their dedication that keeps the orchestra playing.  I’m thrilled to work with such amazing musical colleagues who have such a love and passion for what they do – and continually grateful to have Eric, a musical partner in crime that likes to dream as much as I do.

To our audience and supporters and fans – thank you.  You seem to have decided that coming along for this ride is worth it.  It is an honour to bring concerts to the stage for an audience who will take risks, knows great music when they hear it, and will support it with their generosity.

What’s next in the new age of the SSO?  We have more expanding to do – we want to connect more young people with live music, we want to create more opportunities for our musical community, we want to give patrons a chance to get the music they need.  We want to keep connecting with the community in different and hopefully get out to perform across our region again!  We need to keep working harder to ensure that the SSO is artistically and fiscally sound – we finished season 86 with a significant surplus of approximately $60,000…I’d like to do that for a few years in a row!

And we need you to come to concerts, to get lost in sweeping symphonic works, to get inspired by breath taking soloists, and to hear music that is going to make you feel alive.  We want you to feel special about a night at the symphony.  And we want our musicians to play to packed houses – this orchestra is something we should all take pride in.

I’d like to invite you to join us to celebrate the new year ahead – we couldn’t have a bigger star for opening night than James Ehnes.  A super star violinist to share in a night with Saskatoon’s orchestra….its only fitting if you’re there to celebrate with us!

See you at the symphony,

Mark Turner
Executive Director

What does being Canadian mean to you?

If you weren’t born Canadian, would you chose to be?

Over the last few years we’ve taken Canadian new music very seriously – concertos, symphonies, chamber music, and brand new works.  Each and every one of them has been memorable: Mozetich’s Affairs of the Heart, Estacio’s Farmers Symphony, Charke’s Cercle du Nord III with Tanya Tagaq, Hatzis’ timeless Lamento with Sarah Slean.  These pieces have made a remarkable imprint on our audience and our orchestra. 

We are in a golden age for Canadian orchestral music.  Each year there seems to be new music being written that touches us profoundly…and I believe it’s because at their root, Canadian composers are expressing those things that speak to us as a people; our commonalities and our differences that have made us a great country.

We are a people who understand the meaning of cold.  We’re a people who love our vast and scenic country with its mountains and rivers and and forests and tundra and plains.  We love our double-doubles, Canadian Tire, holding the door for anyone, and gravy with curds on fries.  We are a patch work quilt of people who have come from all over to a land that has been entrusted to a people who have been here since the raven put the sun in the sky.  We’re not always good to the land, and not always good to its people.  We have some rich and wonderful history, and some history that is so embarrassing.  We try to come to the aid of our neighbours, trying to protect the freedom that we hold incredibly dear.  And we welcome new Canadians with open arms. We’re fascinated by our skies. 

This weekend is going to fill you such incredible pride.  Derek Charke’s new fanfare Elan is pure celebration.  Vincent Ho’s The Shaman is powerful and gripping and showcases one of the best percussionists in Canada, our very own Bryan Allen.  John Oliver’s The Raven Steals the Light, with actress Carol Greyeyes, shares the West Coast First Nation story of the raven placing the light in the sky.  And John Burge’s Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag explores the most basic connection of all Canadians….the weather! 

The music will be profound and wonderful.  But there’s another reason that this concert will be so memorable, and it has nothing at all to do with music.

We become the very first orchestra to host a citizenship ceremony.  At the start of the concert, 15 new Canadian citizens will join the SSO on stage to take their final oath, and sing their new national anthem.  Is there anything like a room full of music lovers singing O Canada, accompanied by an orchestra, to welcome their new neighbours?

It’s going to be an emotional moment that will remind you why it’s important to share the collective experience of our nationality in a setting that is all about being present and connected through music. 

I didn’t have to chose to be Canadian, but if I did I think I’d want to do it where I have a room full of strangers singing O Canada with me.

See you at the symphony,

Mark Turner

We need to close the gap

There is something magical about the rare few artists who really make music.  In an era when the classical “superstars” of our day got famous on their ability to impress, nothing feels better than to see an artist of great integrity truly make music.

While sitting backstage watching Timothy Chooi play beautifully crafted Mozart, it reminded me of last season’s star Jan Lisiecki.  Both young men are certified virtuosos, but both are sensitive to the needs of the music, and both play with such beautiful phrasing that the art is more important than impressing the crowd.

Last year when Jan Lisiecki finished the final notes of Beethoven’s epic 4th concerto, our sold-out crowd gave him the longest standing ovation in SSO history at 9 minutes.

Jan is doing a handful of recitals across Canada this month, and spends two nights in Saskatoon at Convocation Hall.  The concert, in one of the most intimate venues he plays in all year, features the music of Bach, Schubert, and Chopin.  I am fortunate to have seen this recital recently, and I can tell you that the Bach and Schubert were both surprising and thrilling…a young man who has something beautiful and unique to say, and it shook me.  I see many recitals across the continent each year, and I can say with certainty that Jan is the ultimate recital pianist – an artist who wants the audience to experience the music as deeply as he does.  I always think that someday he’ll fail to impress me, and I’m thrilled that each time he proves me wrong.

This concert is important for the SSO, and not just because we should be presenting world class artists to our audience.

Its hard to believe I’ve been with the SSO for three years – its amazing to look back at how far the organization has come in that time.  I am incredibly proud of the organization’s many accomplishments in that time.  In that short time we’ve retired our debt, restructured the organization and ushered in new fiscal responsibility, and achieved a new artistic standard for the orchestra.  We’ve welcomed Eric Paetkau to our stage, increased our programming, fostered the careers of many Saskatchewan artists, and shared the stage with some of the world’s finest musicians.  While we’ve achieved so much, keeping the SSO afloat is still hard work.

The SSO is underfunded.

When compared to other orchestras our size, we receive roughly anywhere from $60,000 to $200,000 less in funding. That gap that large stifles the organization.  It leaves us unstable and, more importantly, unsustainable.

We need more staff before our current staff burn out; we need to invest in our musicians, in our guests, in our audience, and in new education initiatives.  We are working with our funders and dialoguing with them about how we need addressing our funding gap.  The reality is, that may take years.

We want to bring performances like Jan Lisiecki’s recital to Saskatoon in hopes to do a few things – new revenues streams help stabilize the SSO, music lovers get the chance to hear world class artists, and it means we’re not going to ask you to buy tickets to a “rubber chicken dinner”.   We have exceptional respect for our supporters, and a concert like Jan’s shows that we want to offer you something special in return for your support of the SSO.

I promise that this is a performance you cannot miss.  Something special is going to happen on stage…real artistry up close and personal.

I hope to see you at Jan’s recital,

Mark Turner