If you’re like us, you’re looking for little ways to get an escape! With our Trip to the Country live stream our goal is take you on a musical journey away from busyness and stress and into nature…and if you’ve got a tablet or computer you can quite literally take us outdoors!
With that in mind, here are some fun ideas that can give you a chance to take a picnic right in your backyard, on the deck, or inside if its raining!
First up is the Food!
It’s all about being refreshed – and while a picnic takes a little bit of preparation, the pay off is totally worth it. Let’s start with the mix of sweet and savory to give your taste buds their own little adventure. The best part? Each recipe is incredibly easy to make!
Dessert is essential for any good picnic…its a bit early for berry season, but there’s all sorts of amazing Saskatoon Berry treats available at the Berry Barn, you have to grab some chocolates from our friends at Harden and Huyse, or order desserts from Calories!
But if you have the itch to make it yourself, our pick are these incredibly delicious and refreshing Lemon and Blueberry Bars…trust us, you’re going to love them!
What to Drink?!
It wouldn’t be a proper picnic without refreshments! And picnics are a family affair, so try some thirst-quenching creations like a Berry Smoothie or Apple Mint Iced Tea.
As we asked around the SSO, one drink suggestion kept coming up over and over again…if its a picnic for family or for romance, in Saskatoon it has to include Black Fox.
Black Fox Distillery has garnered international attention for their world class gin, and on first taste you’ll quickly see why…or taste why!
Life has been full of twists and turns for violinist Véronique Mathieu this past year. In March 2020, Mathieu was set to release a brand-new album Cortége, a celebration of French classical music. The album is a collection of pieces her and pianist Jasmin Arakawa hand selected. With the world shut down, the album was quietly released, and Mathieu found herself shifting gears.
“It was music that kept me sane. To have other projects that would allow me to put the pandemic aside and work towards something.”
“It was really difficult at first to adjust to not being able to leave your home. It was difficult to practice because it was hard to see a goal in the future,” Mathieu says. “It was music that kept me sane. To have other projects that would allow me to put the pandemic aside and work towards something.”
Mathieu has been balancing motherhood with her position as the University of Saskatchewan’s David L. Kaplan Chair in Music which has her teaching a combination of online and in-person classes. She says working with her students allows her to continue to grow as an artist.
“It’s funny because it has allowed me to really notice things fast in my own playing and come up with solutions,” Mathieu explains. “Teaching makes you reflective in your own artistic practice. I’ve become much more efficient.”
Mathieu’s latest projects include assembling the works contemporary composers from Brazil, China and North America to develop a series of lessons that can help violinists learn different, experimental techniques for violin. She is also already hard at work on a new album with Toronto pianist Stephanie Chua focused on works by female composers.
Mathieu has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over the world and while she’s kept busy with other projects, she’s been missing the stage. That’s why she says it’s exciting to be asked back for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s finale performance of the 2020/21 season. Trip to the Country will feature Mathieu performing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. The piece is a loving tribute to nature and is based on William’s poem of the same name.
“This is a really soothing work. It triggers beautiful images in the imagination that remind me of the green fields and majestic mountains,” says Mathieu. “This will be my big “return to the stage” moment and playing such a wonderful work, it’s just really exciting.”
The Lark Ascending was originally written as a single-movement work for violin and piano by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composer was inspired by George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name, and completed his musical tribute in 1914. However, The Lark Ascending was not performed until 1920, having fallen into obscurity until Williams decided to rework it for solo violin and orchestra after World War One. This is the most popular version of the piece, and is subtitled “A Romance” in reference to the composer’s habit of labelling all slow thoughtful music in this manner.
Ralph Vaughan Williams had trained as a violinist in his youth, and he admired English poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Apart from Meredith, these included the likes of Tennyson, Swinburne, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Hardy, and Housman. Vaughn Williams’ second wife, the poet Ursula ????, wrote that what made The Lark Ascending such a special musical creation lay in her then-husband having “taken a literary idea on which to build his musical thought … and [having] made the violin become both the bird’s song and its flight, being, rather than illustrating the poem from which the title was taken”. At the head of the original score for The Lark Ascending (now sadly lost), Vaughan Williams wrote twelve lines from Meredith’s lengthy poem:
He rises and begins to round, / He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break, / In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills, / ‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up, / Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows / to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings / In light, and then the fancy sings.
The Lark Ascending was written for and dedicated to Marie Hall, a leading British violinist of the time who had studied with the composer Edward Elgar. She worked with Vaughn Williams to tailor the piece more closely to her style of playing, but no record exists of what specific changes she proposed to the composer. Hall premiered the original violin and piano version of The Lark Ascending with the pianist Geoffrey Mendham at the Shirehampton Public Hall on the 15th of December, 1920. Hall also served as the soloist for the first performance of the orchestral version. This version debuted at a concert presented by the British Music Society, and was held in the Queen’s Hall, London, on the 14th of June 1921.
The first recording of The Lark Ascending took place in 1928, with Isolde Menges serving as the violin soloist. Her playing was supported on the recording by an unnamed orchestra, conducted by one Malcolm Sargent. Having heard this recording, the critic A. H. Fox Strangways wrote in his publication Music & Letters that “The violin floats in a long rapture over some homegrown tunes in the accompaniment, taking little bits of them into its song at intervals. Violin cadenzas are apt to have a family likeness, but these jubilations will hardly remind anybody of anything else. There is very little of the harmless necessary arpeggio or of ingeniously wonderful double stops. It is pure carolling.”
Pure carolling it might have been, but the deceptive simplicity of Vaughn Williams’ piece was buttressed by an undercurrent of musical complexity, and this is particularly true of the orchestral version. Beginning with a two-bar introduction by woodwind and muted strings in 6/8 time, the soloist enters with an unaccompanied cadenza. This entrance is marked pianissimo and sur la touche, which means that the player places their bow over the fingerboard to reduce higher harmonics and produce an ethereal tone. Near the end of the cadenza, a melody in G major is introduced which allows the violin soloist to lead the orchestra back in. A second cadenza follows, this one of shorter duration, and builds to the Allegretto tranquillo quasi andante. In this section, Vaughn Williams provides the flutes with a new melody. Soon, the oboe enters with yet another new melody (marked scherzando) develops a complex passage in which the melody introduced by the flutes makes a reappearance in the violin soloist’s melodic line. There is a reprise of the 6/8 section, followed by an unaccompanied violin cadenza to close out the piece.
Musicologist Christopher Mark, in his modal analysis of The Lark Ascending, finds that the work “begins in the Dorian mode and switches between that and the Aeolian mode interspersed with extensive use of the Pentatonic scale.” Fellow musicologist Lewis Foreman maintains that “It is possible to forget what a revolutionary piece this was in the context of the British music of 1914 [with] its rhythmic freedom and flow and its avoidance of tonic-and-dominant cadencing, together with its imagery”. And Jeffrey Davis maintains that, “At one level it seems to be an idyll of rural England [but] in view of its composition on the eve of the First World War, there is perhaps an underlying layer of sadness to the music. Rather like the Edwardian era, as viewed retrospectively from the other side of World War One, it seems to reflect nostalgia for a partly mythological lost age of innocence.”
The orchestral version of The Lark Ascending (scored for solo violin with an orchestra of two flutes, one oboe, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, triangle and strings) is not the only version which was created after the First World War. Vaughan Williams also wrote a version for chamber orchestra, which included flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and triangle, with three or four first violins, the same of second violins, two violas, two cellos and one double bass. Yet it is the orchestral version of this legendary piece of music that stands above all other arrangements, truly a testament to the artistry of its composer and the magic of a bygone era which continues to charm us all. You can watch your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra take wing with The Lark Ascending at our Trip to the Country Concert!
When you think of Ludwig van Beethoven, chances are you hear the infamous pulses of his fiery Fifth Symphony. But did you know that the symphony he composed simultaneously with the Fifth is equally brilliant? Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, referred to as the Pastoral Symphony, is an immaculate offering of sound and color. Described by Beethoven himself as being “more the expression of feeling than painting”, the Pastoral Symphony is a moving tribute to the beauty of nature which served as one of Beethoven’s greatest muses during his life as a composer. Spending much of his free time walking in the countryside surrounding Vienna, Beethoven found a peace in nature which stabilized and nourished his passionate soul.
Composition of the Pastoral Symphony was undertaken in 1802, and the work would take another six years to reach completion. It was debuted at a concert taking place at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, alongside Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony Musicologist Frank D’Accone maintains that the programmatic ideas featured in the symphony (bird song, thunder, a shepherd’s pipe, and the flowing of a stream) were lifted by Beethoven from Justin Heinrich Knecht’s 1784 musical work “Le Portrait musical de la Nature ou Grande Symphonie”.
The Pastoral Symphony is scored for full orchestra, and makes use of trumpet, timpani, trombone, and piccolo in specific movements. The Symphony begins with the Allegro ma non troppo, in which the composer arrives in the country amidst an atmosphere of cheerful melodies. Set in 2/4 meter and sonata form throughout, each musical theme is developed to its greatest potential by Beethoven. The orchestral texture is thickened by the composer’s reliance on short, repeating motifs.
The first movement ends in comfort and the second (Andante molto mosso) begins with speed, mimicking the fast flow of a stream by way of a motif in the string section. Also in sonata form, the second movement is delivered in 12/8 meter in the key of B♭ major. The cello section is split in their duties during this movement, with many players assisting the double basses in jubilant pizzicato notes while only two cellists stay with the babbling brook. This movement is unique within the context of the work because it delivers a cluster of bird calls rendered in a woodwind cadenza towards its end. Interestingly, Beethoven was very specific about which birds were to be imitated by which instruments: the flute plays the song of the nightingale, the oboe provides the somber notes of the quail, and two clarinets warble the jubilant sounds of a cuckoo or two.
After a refreshing chorus of birdsong, movement three (Allegro) unfolds. A scherzo in 3/4 time, this country folk dance returns us to the main key of F major to revel and frolic amongst the trees. The doubling of the trio movement makes this an unusual, but memorable scherzo. Another odd choice on Beethoven’s part was to prematurely end the appearance of the third scherzo theme. Beethoven forever changed how scherzi would be composed through the creativity he displayed within this movement. As the tempo builds in excitement and vitesse, the movement suddenly stops without warning. We are catapulted immediately into the fourth movement with no time to prepare ourselves as a thunderstorm threatens in the distance.
Beethoven outdoes himself in this fourth movement (which bears the same name as the third) by using a 4/4 meter in F minor to depict a lightning shower of violent proportions. What starts as a few drops of rain quickly turns into an awe-inspiring musical downpour. After the storm passes, Beethoven borrows from Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor of 1787. He accomplishes this by simmering a stormy preface into a rich final movement of serenity.
The finale of this symphony (Allegretto) is in F major and features a meter of 6/8 time. Capitalizing on sonata rondo form, in which the main theme appears in the tonic key at the beginning of the development as well as the exposition and the recapitulation, the finale presents a symmetrical eight-bar theme to conjure the sounds of a shepherds’ thanksgiving song. The coda is soft at first, but soon grows to encompass the entire orchestra. The violin section is incredibly active in this final section, playing rapid triplet tremolo to increase the emotional tension. There comes a moment in every great piece of music that is utterly unforgettable, and for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony this moment occurs during the final passages of the coda. The prayer-like quality of this passage culminates in two victorious F-chords, summarizing the majesty of nature like no one else could. Beethoven found his gentle side in nature, and we hope you enjoy your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony at our Trip to the Country concert!