Share Christmas with Seniors

Normally the month of December means upwards of 30 performances for the musicians of the SSO – on top of our annual Holiday Pops concert and performances of Messiah, the SSO Chamber Ensemble usually go out to perform at seniors’ residences across Saskatoon thanks to support from the City of Saskatoon.

This year, it broke our hearts to not be able to do those seniors performances as they are some of the most memorable and touching moments of the year – the joy of music is never more obvious than in those concerts!

But there are silver linings this year too. The launch of our Digital Concert Stream means that we are able to share the concerts in digital format with seniors’ residences – it also means that we’re not limited to sharing this music with people here in Saskatoon, but now our concert films can be shared with any seniors’ facility.

We know that the staff at seniors’ residences are overwhelmed right now, but we’d love to hear from folks at those facilities, whether that’s staff, residents, even family and we’ll make the process simple and easy to share this Christmas music with everyone.

We need to find out who we can be in touch with – if you know the person at your facility who we can send the video to, please let us know and we will take it from there!

Click here to fill out the form

You can also give us a call to sign up 306-665-6414


Leroy Anderson’s Music is Christmas

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Not many people do their best thinking during a heat wave. Then again, most people are not Leroy Anderson. The original idea for the light-hearted orchestral romp known as “Sleigh Ride” was born in the mind of the American composer during a heat wave in July of 1946.

Finished in February 1948, the instrumental piece would not receive its classic lyrics until 1950 (when lyricist Mitchell Parish added in the bits about riding in a sleigh and other fun wintertime activities). The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. It quickly became one of the orchestra’s signature songs, and the 45 rpm version was originally issued on red vinyl in celebration of the Christmas season. So catchy was the main melody that other composers of the era tried to pass it off as their own. The main melody of “Sleigh Ride” was used without credit to Anderson in the 1949 western “Streets of Laredo”, scored by Victor Young. Sleigh Ride lyricist Mitchell Parish worked with Young around this time, which might explain how the latter got his not-so-bright idea to “sample” Anderson’s work. That very same year, The Andrews Sisters created the first ever recording of Parish’s vocal version, and the popularity of Sleigh Ride sped off like… well, like a Sleigh Ride!

Although the piece is often associated with Christmas, appearing on more Christmas compilation albums than one can even count, its lyrics leave out any mention of a holiday. Perhaps this is what lends a universal appeal to Sleigh Ride. The song is noted for the characteristic sounds of a horse clip-clopping its way down a country road, and the sound of a whip is featured in most versions to give the illusion of the horse being spurred into motion. The percussionist shines in this piece, for it is they who oversee the creation of these sounds on temple blocks and a slapstick, respectively. Toward the end of the piece, a trumpet imitates the sound of a horse whinnying. 

Sleigh Ride was written in seven-part rondo form, with the first rondo episode utilizing an unusual modulation to the third (and then the second) note of the scale. This is not easy to sing, and therefore many recorded versions of Sleigh Ride err on the side of caution by changing the harmonies or omitting this first rondo altogether. This decision was made for the 1963 cover made by the American girl group the Ronettes. This Phil Spector-produced recording is easily the most popular version outside the traditional pop standard genre, charting yearly until it became the group’s second-highest chart hit in the US (after “Be My Baby”). This version of Sleigh Ride features the beloved “Ring-a-ling-a-ling, ding-dong-ding” background vocals, and makes use of the clip-clop and whinny of a horse at both its beginning and end. That’s two adorable/scary horse sounds for the price of one Sleigh Ride.

But Leroy Anderson was no one-hit holiday wonder. Composing “A Christmas Festival” in 1950 during his time as an arranger with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Anderson originally conceived of the wintertime smash-hit when Arthur Fiedler (the conductor-in-chief of the BPO) requested a favor of him. Fiedler needed a piece of music that would cover two sides of a 45 or 78rpm ‘single’ for the holiday season. Anderson did not disappoint. He created an orchestral medley of well-loved Christmas songs and carols into a compelling concert overture. The main theme of Christmas Festival relies on the tunes of ‘Joy to the World’, ‘O, Come all ye faithful’ and ‘Jingle Bells’, but other favorites (such as ‘Deck the Halls’, ‘Good King Wenceslas’, ‘God Rest you Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘The First Noel’ and ‘Silent Night’) are also utilized to great effect. Relying on subtlety to pull off such an ambitious combination of Christmas music, the arrangement of Christmas Festival boasts exceptional  orchestration that provides each instrument with a moment to shine. 

Despite numerous contributions to the American orchestral standard genre, Leroy Anderson will be remembered for his prolific contribution to the musical soundtrack of the holiday season. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) have repeatedly lauded “Sleigh Ride”, as it consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most-performed songs written by an ASCAP member. ASCAP named “Sleigh Ride” the most popular piece of Christmas music in the U.S. in 2009–2012, based on performance data from over 2,500 radio stations. And, while Johnny Mathis’s has become the most popular vocal version, Leroy Anderson’s recording remains the most popular instrumental version. As Steve Metcalf put it, “‘Sleigh Ride’ … has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music.” For giving us all a song to feel merry and bright about in these dark and chilly days, we salute you Leroy… and that strange trumpet-horse you rode in on. 


You can jump on a Sleigh Ride with the SSO at our upcoming Pops Concert, bound for The North Pole!

Watch party ideas for a Night at the North Pole!

We all need a little Christmas this year – so for our live stream concert of A Night at the North Pole, we have a few ideas to get you in the holiday spirit!

Let’s start with something to drink – hot cocoa is pretty much the must here. It looks like the weather outside during the live stream won’t be frightful, but that does not mean you shouldn’t enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

This recipe is made with a combination of cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The cocoa powder adds the distinct “hot cocoa” flavor, and the chocolate chips melt into the mixture making this drink extra creamy, rich and luxurious. A splash of vanilla extract rounds out all that chocolaty flavor and makes this what we consider the perfect Homemade Hot Chocolate.

  • Place the milk of your choice in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Using milk instead of water, makes this hot chocolate extra creamy and flavorful. We prefer whole milk or 2% milk, but you can choose any milk that you choose (You could even use unsweetened almond milk).
  • Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar, and heat until warm.
  • Once the milk is warm, add chocolate chips, whisking until they melt into the milk.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Serve immediately, topped with your favorite garnishes: marshmallows, whipped cream, chopped chocolate, crushed candy canes or more.

Now, the reindeer notably enjoy their cocoa with some Bailey’s, or Kalhua, or Peppermint Schnapps….merely spirited suggestions…

For a special treat, we turned to the SSO’s Principal Bassoon for inspiration!

As Stephanie notes, this recipe gives you a delightful light (and pretty easy!) shortbread cookie to enjoy.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/4 cup of corn startch
  • 1/2 cup of icing sugar
  • 1&1/2 cups of flour


Place all your ingredients into a bowl, and beat for 10 minutes with an electric mixer.

Once the dough is consistent, drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet.
(this is where you can add an extra topping if you want!)

Bake for 10 minutes at 320°F (160°C)


A Nutcracker’s Story

Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite during the Holidays is cherished by many as a beloved tradition, one that gets them into the festive spirit of the season in no time flat. Surprisingly, the original ballet that Tchaikovsky composed the suite for (a ballet based on an adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by Alexandre Dumas) received a lukewarm reception from audiences and critics alike. Although this original production was far from successful, its enduring charm and appeal would grow over time thanks to the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky compiled from its many colorful scenes. 

Since the late 1960’s, the popularity of the complete Nutcracker ballet has blossomed so enormously that it has become a cultural staple of the ballet world. Every young ballet dancer dreams of joining a professional production of this timeless classic. Performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season and especially in North America, it is estimated that performances of the Nutcracker alone generate American ballet companies 40% of their annual revenue. The Mouse King himself would be hard pressed to turn down that much cheese! So let us twirl and leap our way back through time, to the snowflake-laden land of Russia at the turn of the 19th century, and witness how this masterpiece came to be… 

Hot on the heels of Tchaikovsky’s successful 1890 ballet suite “The Sleeping Beauty, Ivan Vsevolozhsky (then the director of the Imperial Theatres) commissioned the Russian composer to create a double-bill program that incorporated both an opera and a ballet. For the first part of the bill Tchaikovsky offered up his opera “Iolanta”. To satisfy the ballet portion, Tchaikovsky decided that another collaboration with Marius Petipa (“The Sleeping Beauty”’s choreographer) was in order. The libretto for the ballet was chosen by Petipa, entitled “The Story of a Nutcracker”. The plot needed to be excessively trimmed to fit a two-act ballet, and elements of Hoffmann’s original source material could not be fully utilized. There is a lengthy flashback sequence in Hoffmann’s tale (titled “The Tale of the Hard Nut”) that describes how the Prince became the Nutcracker. So detailed is this sequence that it could have been the subject of its own ballet and, unfortunately, could not be included in Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s reimagining.

Petipa’s vision for the ballet was absolute, and as such gave very detailed compositional guidelines to Tchaikovsky in designing each scene of the story for the stage. His suggestions were warmly received by Tchaikovsky, who crafted each number’s tempo and number of bars precisely as he was bidden. Still, this fruitful partnership was not one which leaned in dictatorial favor of the choreographer. When Tchaikovsky needed a break from composing to conduct concerts for the opening of Carnegie Hall, Petipa gave him his blessing and encouraged Tchaikovsky to enjoy his 25 days in the United States. Tchaikovsky returned with a renewed interest in the project and composed many parts of The Nutcracker Suite in Rouen, France.

Although Petipa fell ill in August of 1892 and was unable to continue work on the project, his assistant of seven years (Lev Ivanov) ensured that his artistic vision would reach that stage accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s charming orchestrations. So it was that, after several stressful months of pulling the project together for debut, The Nutcracker Ballet was performed at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg on December 18th of 1892. Italian composer Riccardo Drigo served as the maestro. The story’s child characters were brought to life by real children, who were students at the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg at the time. 

Petipa’s libretto was criticized as “lopsided”, with critics focusing on his shying away from being faithful to the source material of Hoffmann’s tale as well as his decision to feature children so prominently in the ballet. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite was the saving grace, its idiomatic writing praised as being “astonishingly rich in detailed inspiration” and “from beginning to end, beautiful, melodious, original, and characteristic”.  Though Tachaikovsky felt at the time that he had fallen short of the success he achieved with The Sleeping Beauty, the Nutcracker Suite would live on to become his most endearing contribution to the world of music. 

Fast-forward nearly thirty years, and the choreographer Alexander Gorsky decides to resurrect the Nutcracker (with some important changes). He stages a 1919 production which gives the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance with her Cavalier to Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Gorsky also makes it plain that these two lead characters are to be played by adults instead of children. In 1934, choreographer Vasili Vainonen staged his own version of the Nutcracker ballet, focusing his efforts on improving the work by making changes based on the critical reception to the 1892 debut. Taking Gorsky’s lead, Vainonen casts adult dancers in the roles of Clara and the Prince. Vainonen’s version would greatly influence all productions of the Nutcracker ballet which came after it.

The first complete performance of the Nutcracker ballet outside of Russia took place in 1934 in London, England. Staged by Nicholas Sergeyev with a focus on Petipa’s original choreography, this performance of the ballet was an international success. In 1940 another abridged version of the ballet (performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo) was staged by Alexandra Fedorova using Petipa’s choreography as inspiration. And so the Nutcracker ballet arrived in the United States, where (on the evening of 24 December 1944) thousands of Americans were blown away by the San Francisco Ballet’s take on the Russian tale. Despite the enormous success of this production, it was The New York City Ballet’s 1954 performance of George Balanchine’s reworked Nutcracker (and, more specifically, Maria Tallchief in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy) which helped elevate the work from semi-obscurity into an annual Christmas classic for the continental West. 

The Nutcracker Suite remains one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular compositions to this day. Containing some of his most memorable melodies, the music itself belongs to the Late Romantic period and is practically unavoidable on cable television during the holidays. The “Trepak”, or “Russian dance”, is arguably the most exhilarating and energetic pieces in the ballet, to which the idyllic “Waltz of the Flowers” provides a lush contrast. The “March” is known by Will Ferrell fans everywhere, as it is to this tune that he (as Buddy the Elf) decorates Gimbles’ Toy Store. The “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” exemplifies all the magic and mystery felt by children (and adults alike) who eagerly await Santa on the evening of December 24th. Tchaikovsky’s admiration of the music of Mozart and Haydn is peppered throughout passages of the Overture, the “Entrée des parents”, and “Grossvater Tanz” in Act 1. Tchaikovsky’s original score uses the celesta to create the sparkling effect heard in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. When he discovered the celesta in Paris, Tchaikovsky fell in love with its “heavenly sweet sound”. He also makes use of toy instruments during the Christmas party scene.

Whether you are a fan of ballet or not, some element of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite has featured into your holiday celebrations in one way or another. We hope you enjoy the SSO’s take on this timeless classic, and that the spirit of the season can bring you just as much magic as Tchaikovsky brought to that bearded and slack-jawed toy soldier so many years ago.  

The City of Dreams

Vienna: a sprawling city of expression, flavor, and beauty. Known the world over as the wellspring of Western Classical Music, Vienna is also recognized by many as the City of Dreams. But how did it come by this alluring title, and why does it still ring so true so many years later?  

It is possible that Vienna is called the City of Dreams as a sort of veiled reference to one of its most internationally renowned citizens, one whose ideas about the human mind shifted modern culture irrevocably. Sigmund Freud was a psychoanalyst who lived and practicing for nearly 47 years in Vienna, and the central tenet of one of his most well-known texts ”Die Traumdeutung” (”The Interpretation of Dreams”), is centered on the theory that dreams symbolically fulfill wishes. Perhaps over its many years of existence, the dreams of its citizens were manifested in the evolution of Vienna.

Sigmund Freud’s address of Berggasse 19 is still around today, albeit in the form of the Sigmund Freud Museum. Proclaimed an honorary citizen of Vienna in 1924, the “father of psychoanalysis” had this to say about the prospect of fleeing his place of practice to avoid the encroaching present of the Nazis: ”This is my post, and I can never leave it.” It should be noted that Vienna was a city that Freud had, for many years, professed to greatly dislike. Perhaps there was an unconscious motive at play, or perhaps he just appreciated the art and architecture of the great city.

Vienna still maintains its international reputation as a haven for arts and culture of all shapes and sizes. Boasting more than 100 museums, many of them art galleries, the city is alive with pieces commemorating the classical and the avant garde of numerous periods. From its Museum of Art History to the palatial Galerie Belvedere, the Middle Ages and Baroque periods continue to captivate younger generations who throng their hallways hungry for the magic of the past. If books or trains are your thing, there is the Austrian Library and Technical Museum, respectively, and one can’t go wrong with a quick trip to the Imperial Furniture Collection. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of normal furniture to sit on if you’re in need of some recuperation. Vienna is a city you can spend a lifetime exploring, and each visit brings with it a host of special memories.

    If it isn’t rooted in the Subconscious Mind or in the Eye of the Beholder, maybe Vienna’s namesake originates from its unofficial anthem. Composed by Rudolf Sieczyński, an Austrian composer of Polish ancestry, “Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume” (Vienna, City of My Dreams) is a song that encapsulates the timeless nature of the city. With melody and lyrics written in 1914, this nostalgic piece of music is one that a night of revelry and merry-making is simply incomplete without. The yearning of a traveler, seeking far and wide that old familiar place that they feel at home, is something each of us can relate to. And so, the lyrics ring out over the starry nights so bright and full of love: for the beautiful things in Vienna, for you and for all of us. Together where we can dream in peace.

Brahms’ Haydn Variations

As a child, you may have been told that (through fairy tale magic) Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold. A neat parlor trick, perhaps, but how does it stack up against a Red Hedgehog spinning a mystery into eight pastoral vistas? Johannes Brahms was given the moniker “Red Hedgehog” after the Vienna coffeehouse of the same name. The famed Romantic composer was so fond of the place that he stubbornly refused to eat or drink anywhere else for most of his adult life. Brahms himself was not unlike a hedgehog anthropomorphized: whiskered and portly, described as having a “…notoriously curmudgeonly [exterior], but [one that] hid a profoundly sensitive and noble nature for which he found fullest expression in his music.” Nowhere is this nobility of musical spirit more evident than in his “Variations on a Theme by Haydn”.

A clear testament to the musical genius of its composer, the “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” was composed by Johannes Brahms in the summer of 1873. Penned during his stay at the gorgeous town of Tutzing in Bavaria, Brahms originally set the piece for two pianos. Soon after, he made the decision to adapt his variations for orchestra, and it is this version which enjoys a more enduring popularity today. But how did the Red Hedgehog stumble across this theme by Haydn? And what was it about this theme that moved Brahms to compose eight unique variations? 

Three years before he would compose the Variations, Brahms met with his friend Carl Ferdinand Pohl for coffee. At that time, Pohl was a musicologist and biographer of Haydn, serving as the librarian of the Vienna Philharmonic Society. He had called Brahms over to share with the composer what he believed to be an important discovery: a work that bore the name of the great eighteenth century composer Joseph Haydn that was utterly unknown to him. 

Pohl had made a transcription of the original piece (titled Divertimento No. 1) for Brahms to examine, who was particularly drawn to the second movement. This section bore the heading “St. Anthony Chorale” and immediately caught Brahms’ eye because of its odd melody (which began with two irregular, five-bar phrases). Brahms furiously scribbled down the melody of the “St. Anthony Chorale”, thanked Pohl profusely, and bustled out into the busy Vienna streets. Unlike most people, who needed a walk to clear their heads, Brahms required long sojourns in the countryside to access the most passionate (and personal) fragments of music that swirled within his mind. 

But Pohl had unintentionally slipped The Red Hedgehog a red herring, as Divertimento No. 1 was not actually composed by Haydn at all. Subsequent research has concluded that Divertimento No. 1 could not have been composed by the Father of the String Quartet, because it does not utilize the most oft-encountered hallmarks of Haydn’s musical style. Some academic sources posit that the Divertimento was written by Ignaz Pleyel, a student of Haydn’s, but this has not been definitively established. In the early nineteenth century, it was quite common for music publishers to attribute certain works by lesser or flat-out unknown composers to famous ones to increase the likelihood of a sale. This might explain why the Divertimento No. 1 was labeled “Haydn” in the first place

But this musical “whodunnit” grows even more perplexing when one considers the second movement of Divertimento No. 1. The mysterious composer of this work could have created the “St. Anthony Chorale” themselves, but it is more plausible that they created the melody by embellishing a pre-existing chorale. Unfortunately, it is here that the trail grows cold…as no record of a “St. Anthony Chorale” (or its unique melody) predating Divertimento No.1 has ever been found. 

In more recent years, musical scholars have attempted to rename the variations Brahms created around the theme of Divertimento No. 1’s second movement. Many musicologists now agree that “The St. Anthony Variations” is a more appropriate title for Brahms’ masterwork. After all, it is this theme which, in its entirety, forms the melodic backbone for the eight variations that follow. And, as the name implies, each of Brahms’ thematic recreations vary in small but significant ways from their prototype, most notably in their coloration, tempos, and overall character. Several of the variations recollect the technical forms of earlier musical eras, and many of these specific variations showcase Brahms as a master of counterpoint: one whose innate gifts with creating musical textures set him apart from later composers of the Romantic period.

To begin the piece, the main theme of Brahms’ St. Anthony Chorale rings out (retaining its original key of B major and appearing very much the same as it did in Divertimento No. 1). Structurally, this introduction is divided into two segments: the first explores a musical idea before repeating itself; the second section develops contrast before returning to the idea of the first segment. A coda and a repetition of the second half of the main theme ingrain its melody deep into the mind of the listener before Brahms’ magical variations begin.

Variation I arrives in a sweeping gust of colored leaves. Featuring a favorite musical texture of Brahms (triplets against duplets), the interplay of cellos and violins recall the majesty of Autumn. While the celli carry the triplets in the first half of this variation, the second half sees them trade these triplets for the duplets played by the violins in the first half. Variation II delights in explosive contrasting dynamics, a Romanian-inspired caravan dance in the parallel minor. The feeling of content meandering the orchestration produces in the listener calls to mind the rolling hills and valleys that Brahms no doubt explored while he dreamt up this masterpiece of music.

Variation III is a longer reimagining of the main theme, one which emphasizes the clarity of the oboes and bassoons to full effect. Brahms is constantly shifting around musically in this variation, re-orchestrating the repeats of each half of the main melody. We see the sky, feel the clouds, and hear the birds take flight in Springtime. As Variation IV returns to the parallel minor, a reflective oboe slows our pace through the virtual countryside down to that of a pleasant stroll. When Variation V arrives, we see something darting out onto the country path. A rabbit? A fox? It matters not, some sort of hunt is at hand! This scherzando variation bubbles with all the joyful youth that comes with the chase.

Variation VI confirms that a stately ride through the verdant forest is just what our hearts desire. The most dramatic of the variations by far, its soft beginning places the brass section firmly in charge (as well they should be during a hunt!). The quarry is chased round and round, up and down, as the second half charges the orchestra into a full fortissimo. We are before the Boar, about to snag the Stag, and then… Variation VII gracefully lulls us into a dreamlike fantasy. The tenderness of the interplay between instruments high and low seems to exemplify the balance between humankind and the natural world around us. Variation VIII descends in a mantle of mist-filled magic. Another scherzando variation, this time in the minor, it invites the translucent faeries and other winged creatures of fantasy that inhabit the forests to partake in a celebration. 

The finale emerges in the form of a chaconne, an older form of variation in which a short bass line repeats again and again. The upper parts of Brahms’ orchestration are quite varied here, and each instrument is encouraged to insert improvisatory musical remarks over the consistency of the bass line. This riff is a distilled version of the main theme, and above it Brahms strings musical lights through the trees of the celebrating forest by establishing a heartwarming array of choral textures in the upper strata of the orchestration. And so we are taken on a short but exhilarating flight out of the forest canopy and left to float delicately among the clouds as the colors of sunset fall gently around us. A brief return of the parallel minor signals that our feet have touched down on solid ground once more, and that there is traveling yet to do. There are hints of Variation II’s Romani music that feature as the finale builds to welcome a grand return of the main theme. 

And just when the listener thinks Brahms is fresh out of genius moves, the composer plants a delightful musical easter egg in the coda of the Finale to tie the entire piece together. He unwittingly renders all the mystery surrounding the original composer of St. Anthony’s Chorale utterly moot…by quoting a musical passage that really is by Haydn. In measures 463–464, the violas and celli echo the cello line from measure 148 of the second movement of Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony. The love of the outside world is wrapped around the listener in a powerful but gentle embrace, and the victorious final chords hurtle across the night sky like shooting stars. 

Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn were first performed in their orchestral rendition on the 2nd of November, 1873, by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Their maestro that evening was the Red Hedgehog himself, the rough-and-tumble pianist whose tribute to a musical giant took classical music to even greater heights. No doubt on that fateful night, somewhere far above the rapturous applause, Papa Haydn smiled on Brahms’ efforts with fond appreciation. The SSO is honored to bring this masterwork to life at our Visit to Vienna concert!  

Composers Series – Brahms

In 2016 the SSO reached out to artist Denyse Klette to pitch the idea of having her create an portrait of Mozart to help the SSO celebrate its Mozart Festival in 2017 – what was originally a simple one-off idea for promotional piece became a multi-year project that has been remarkably rewarding for both parties.

First came Mozart in 2017, then in 2018 an exceptional portrait of Joni Mitchell for our concert “Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell”. Then in 2019 we unveiled Denyse’s now iconic image of Beethoven that adorns the SSO’s windows at our offices on 51st street. It was sometime in 2019 that we realized this had to be a long term project together that would be added to each year.

And now for our Visit to Vienna concert, we’re thrilled to unveil Denyse’s Brahms.

Romantic. Passionate. Indulgent.
Johannes Brahms is a towering figure of the romantic era – passionately taking the structures and forms of the music before him and tearing it into a new romantic future. A lover of nature and long walks, the composer gained himself the nickname “the hedgehog” due to his almost nightly visits to the Viennese pub “The Red Hedgehog”.

Brahms’ music is at once full of colour and full of reverent restraint. It is completely caught up in heart-on-sleeve romance while finding the struggle between old forms and new sounds. He lived a life that was the stuff of legends, and his story is forever intertwined with Clara Schumann. The tenderness in their letters shows a man who loved with his whole heart.

An exceptional pianist, gifted with a sense of melody and harmony, Brahms’ music is evergreen and never loses its lusture.

Denyse Klette is one of Saskatchewan’s most celebrated artists; her work hangs in homes, galleries, and public spaces across the globe. Denyse is Canada’s only Disney Artist, and her work is full of colour and life that captures her joyous personality.



The Composers series are available in limited edition canvas prints. They’ll soon be available for purchase on our website.
To find out more, please email us at office@

Conductor Shah Sadikov

Shah Sadikov is new to Saskatoon, and because of the pandemic He saw his travel schedule come to a halt and its a treat to have him joining us for his first time with the SSO!

An adamant believer in the power of music to unite, inspire, and elevate, Shah (Shokhrukh) Sadikov is one of the most driven young conductors of his generation. From concert halls to classrooms, community centres and libraries, Sadikov leads an engaged career as a conductor, violist, and music educator. His work with numerous organizations, hundreds of people, and advocacy of access to the arts-for-all stands as a testimony to his belief.

In 2015, Mr. Sadikov co-founded and became the CEO and Music Director of a non-for-profit arts organization, NAVO Inc. (, whose mission is to create unique programs that challenge, entertain, and enrich the lives of underserved communities in the Midwest. In its only few years of existence, NAVO has already reached audiences in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois. During the 2018-19 season he also led the Overland Park Orchestra as the Music Director.

During his tenure as Music Director of the Hays Symphony Orchestra (2015-2019), the orchestra has reached its first pedestal of success in every direction: innovative programming that appeals to a wide range of audience (including two festivals: Cottonwood Chamber Music in the Spring and New Music in the Fall), high quality concerts with a strong regular following, the first HSO brand, website, and the Hays Youth Orchestra. The Children’s Halloween concert became one of the most successful family events of the city. Mr. Sadikov also worked as an assistant professor of upper strings and orchestra director at Fort Hays State University.

Sadikov appeared as a conductor, soloist, and principal violist with the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Radio Chamber Orchestra of Uzbekistan. He also conducted ensembles such as the Tokyo Philharmonic, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Aspen Chamber Symphony, Berlin Sinfonietta, Kazakh State Philharmonic, Kansas City Civic Orchestra, Kansas Wesleyan Chamber Orchestra, Medomak Symphony Orchestra, Taldykorgan Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra “Turkiston” and newEar Contemporary Ensemble among others.

As violist, Mr. Sadikov performed in festivals that include Aspen, Sarasota, Halcyon, Killington, Cottonwood, Lincoln Crossroads and Vladimir Spivakov’s “Moscow Meets Friends”. He produced two recordings with he rapper Tech 9 under the Strange Music label, and released two CD’s of viola works by Brahms, Schumann, Clarke, and Ingrid Stölzel. He recently performed recitals in Germany, Uzbekistan, and the United States, and played his Carnegie Hall debut in 2014.

As a founding member of Wakarusa Trio, Mr. Sadikov is a first prize winner of the Coleman Chamber Music Competition, American Protégé International Competition and MTNA Competition, as well as a Bronze medalist at the Chamber Music Foundation Competition of New England. As a soloist and conductor, he is a laureate of several international competitions such as the 2005 Young Artist Competition of the Republic (Uzbekistan), the 2006 International Competition in Almaty (Kazakhstan) as well as the Tolebaev Conducting Competition (Kazakhstan) in 2019.

Upcoming engagements include an invitation to conduct the Shenyang Symphony in China, Taldikorgan Philharmonic Orchestra and Kostanay Philharmonic Orchestras in Kazakhstan, National Symphony Orchestra and Turkiston Chamber Orchestras in Uzbekistan, as well as an opera debut at the State Academic Bolshoi Theater in Uzbekistan, conducing Donizetti’s Lucia de Lammermoor. Mr. Sadikov currently performs on superb contemporary instruments, both, viola and violin made by Douglas Marples.

Cellist Oleksander Mycyk

The pandemic brings a few bright shining moments of silver lining – and the SSO jumped on the opportunity to seize this silver lining. Cellist Oleksa Mycyk came home to Saskatoon to be with family when the pandemic started, and now he’s making his SSO solo debut!

Oleksander enjoys a multi-faceted career as a solo,  chamber, and orchestral performer and teacher. He is completing a Doctor of Musical  Arts degree at Northwestern University and is a Teaching Assistant to Professor Hans Jørgen Jensen.

He recently completed the Certificate in Performance Program at  Northwestern while a full-time member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and currently  performs as a substitute cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the  Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Oleksander began his cello studies in Saskatoon  with Lahni Russell and performed with the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra and Saskatoon  Symphony Orchestra.

He completed a Bachelor of Music Performance degree at the  University of Toronto, and a Masters in Solo Performance at McGill University  studying with Matt Haimovitz. He has also performed in masterclasses around the  world for cellists such as Janos Starker, Lynn Harrell, Laurence Lesser and Aldo  Parisot.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Felix Galimir  Award for Excellence in Chamber Music, and the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Award.  A multiple laureate of solo and duo competitions, Oleksander has been a National  Finalist in the Canadian Music Festival and a top prizewinner in the Canadian Music  Competition. Recent performance highlights include the world premiere of Elizabeth  Ogonek’s chamber work Water Cantos, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen during the Chicago  Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW concert series as well as being featured as soloist  with the Canadian Chamber Choir on their US tour.

International appearances have  included performances with the Grammy nominated Uccello ensemble at the  International Cello Congress in Israel. Oleksander teaches applied cello at  Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL.

See Oleksa as part of our Visit to Vienna concert performance!

Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C

Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major is believed by music historians to have been composed between 1761 and 1765. Dedicated to the composer’s good friend Joseph Franz Weigl, who served as the principal cellist of Prince Nicolaus’s Esterházy Orchestra during this time, the work was lost for nearly 200 years before a copy of its score resurfaced at the Prague National Museum in 1961.

Joseph Haydn

Musicologist Oldřich Pulkert was responsible for finding the score amidst other manuscripts he was charged with organizing at the time. One year after its re-emergence, the concerto received its 20th century premiere by Miloš Sádlo and the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras) on 19 May 1962.

Though the original manuscript of the completed concerto is presumed to have been destroyed by time, an early draft of the beginning of the first movement’s principal theme survives in Haydn’s draft catalogue of 1765. This indicates that Haydn was starting to compose his first cello concerto around the same time as his Symphonies 6,7, and 8. It would be an additional 20 years before he would write another concerto for cello, but this first foray clearly demonstrates Haydn’s mastery of instrumental writing…particularly for the string section.

With idiomatic writing that flourishes throughout, this concerto bridges the gap between the oft-used ritornello form of the baroque concerto and the sonata-allegro form which was being developed by visionary composers like Haydn throughout his lifetime. With a small accompanying ensemble (a nod to the baroque concerto grosso), Haydn places his full trust in the cello line to summon passion and vibrancy to support the efforts of the other players.

Unlike his second cello concerto, where rondo form is used in the second and third movements, all three movements of the first concerto are written in sonata form. Its structural patterning (a first movement defined by etched rhythms leading into a series of flowing second themes, a peaceful slow movement, and a brisk finale) make for a remarkable resemblance to his Violin Concerto no. 3 in A major. In fact, both pieces were composed for orchestra during the same period of the composer’s life.

The authenticity of the concerto’s authorship has been raised by several musical authorities, but many experts believe that there is enough evidence to support this being a genuine product of Haydn’s creative genius. In the slow movement of this concerto, for example, the cello enters dramatically on a long note, played while the orchestral strings relaunch the theme heard during the opening of the piece. The cello goes on to imitate this melody two measures later, a musical gesture that was characteristic of Haydn’s compositional style.

Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major has been recorded by many famous artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline du Pré, Truls Mørk, and Julian Lloyd Webber. The virtuosity and passion it demands from its ensemble and soloist alike is supreme, and the SSO and Oleksa Mycyk’s take on this long-lost classic is sure to bring you to your feet.

Hear this work as part of our concert A Visit to Vienna!