Ice Lanterns for Christmas

This wonderful Holiday idea came to us last season and we think it still deserves you taking time to give it a try:

When we first started planning our Candlelight Christmas concert, we had this beautiful idea of lining the walkways up to St John’s Cathedral with ice lanterns. Patrons would have arrived to our special candlelit evening with beautiful frosty candle light…

Well we decided to do it anyway, even though  we don’t have an audience arriving!

And the result…

We loved it so much we thought that you should try it at home to give your yard a magical glow for the holidays.

What you’ll need:

  • balloons
  • water from the tap
  • a cold night
  • water proof LED lights – like these

This is something so easy, anyone can do it!

Essentially, make a bunch of water balloons – just big enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Pick a nice cold night, and put your balloons out in a snow bank for the night.

Armed with your waterproof led lights (warm white for the effect we got), remove the  ice globes from the balloons and decide how you want to place them.

Then place the light in the snow, and the ice globe on top.

It’s really that easy – and it’s down right magical!

 

Pfeffernusse with Margaret!

Christmas is all about the music…but its really all about the baking!

Our Holiday Pops concert this year is special – its the first time we’ll have the full orchestra for our annual festive show in two years…so it feels like we’ve got everyone home for the holidays. It’s going to be a night filled with festive joy.

Last year we decided we would invite ourselves into the kitchen’s of our Principal Bassoonist and Director of Administration for some cookies and toffee, and this year we wanted to try something traditional. Margaret Wilson, the SSO’s Principal Clarinetist, had a family tradition of making pfeffernusse for Christmas and it seemed perfectly fitting for a Holiday Pops that feels like a family homecoming.

Margaret is no stranger to our annual Holiday Pops as she’s been our Principal Clarinetist for 45 seasons! To hear how excited she is for these new arrangements by Maria Fuller means that the concert is a festive treat.

Pfeffernusse is a traditional German cookie that is just the right blend of savory and a touch of sweet. They date all the way back to 1753 and have been part of Yuletide celebrations in Germany since 1850!

There’s even wonderful stories about the composer Felix Mendelssohn traveling a good distance just to get Pfeffernusse, writing: “I can’t conduct the Düsseldorf Music Festival because I have to rest and move to Soden, I’m going to Offenbach with Ms. Bernus to buy Pfeffernüsse.”

 

Let’s get started!

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup minced candied peel
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 3 cups (approximately – probably less) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup rum or brandy
  • powdered sugar

l. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer in large bowl until thick and lemon coloured. Stir in almonds, candied peel and grated lemon peel

2. Sift together approximately ll112 cups cups of flour with the cinnamon, ginger, pepper and cloves. Stir into egg mixture and keep adding more flour until dough almost cleans side of bowl.

3. Knead on lightly floured surface, adding as much flour as needed until smooth – about 1 minute.

4. Divide dough in half: shape each half into log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate wrapped in plastic wrap at least one hour.

5. Cut logs into 3/4 inch thick slices: round edges slightly. Place slices on greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

6. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Turn cookies over. Bake until centres are firm to the touch and tops are golden – approximately 20 minutes.

7. Transfer to wire racks. Brush cookies generously with rum or brandy; sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Cool completely. Texture and flavour improve if allowed to age in airtight container 1 to 2 weeks.

Margaret’s secret tip: Although the original recipe calls for the spices to be sifted into the 3 cups of flour, I have never been able to work in that much flour. That is why I put the spices into less flour to start and then work in as much flour as need – usually about 2 1/4 – 2 l/2 cups.

Time to get your baking hat on!

A Message from Nutrien

In the spirit of the season, your friends and neighbours at Nutrien are delighted to share the gift of performance with you this evening.

As a supporter of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, we appreciate the efforts of the diverse group of artists and organizers who helped make this special evening possible. It is a testament to what can be created by people who share a vision and commitment to a common goal.

While our growing company has an expanding reach, our purpose is to grow our world from the ground up – and that starts here at home.

Nutrien looks for opportunities to build our community and to celebrate the many gifts that come from being a part of it. Through music, art and recreation, we strive to bring people together in a shared desire to make Saskatoon a better place to work and live for all of us. We, too, believe in creating special moments with diverse groups across our community.

It is our sincere wish that you enjoy tonight’s performance and that we have helped get your holiday season started on the right note.

 

Toffee for Christmas – Watch Party Idea

This post was part of our holiday celebrations in 2020, but we wanted to bring this wonderful recipe back for you!

At the SSO offices, December means one thing…our Director of Administration is bringing Toffee to work.

Natal Laycock’s role at the SSO is an important one (not just because of the toffee!), and we all think she’s part super-human as she handles work, home, kids, even piano lessons! In her 6 years at the SSO, her toffee has become the stuff of legends – its not every day that someone has made toffee for you, so when it happens its a memorable moment.

We invaded Natal’s toffee making this year to steal her recipe for you to give a try as a pairing with our Candlelight Christmas concert!

 

Delicious – let’s get started!

Here’s what you need – Ingredients:
1 can condensed milk (Orignal, not low fat)
1 cup cane syrup (ie Roger’s Brand)
1/2 cup butter (scant)
2 cups golden or brown sugar

But you’ll also need…
Heavy bottom sauce pan (2.5L or larger)
Long handled wooden spoon
Candy thermometer (optional, but recommended)
cookie sheet
parchment paper (or extra butter)

Optional – up to you, but not in ours:
chopped nuts

Now let’s get to it!

Step 1: Line the cookie sheet with parchment, or grease with butter and set aside. If using nuts, sprinkle on the sheet now.

Step 2: Combine all ingredients into sauce pan, and set the burner to at least med-high.

Step 3: Stir continuously, scraping the bottom, so the sugar does not burn to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will begin to change color, and fleck with darker pieces.

Warning: boiling candy splatters, and it burns!

The mixture will need to boil until it reaches over 300*F (hard crack). This will take roughly 20 minutes, depending on your burners. Keep stirring and scraping! Stick the candy thermometer in after about 10 minutes, ensuring it stays below the surface, and off the bottom of the pan to get an accurate read.

Step 4: Once the mixture has reached hard crack, remove from heat and pour over prepared cookie sheet.

Optional step: ‘score’ the toffee when it is partially set. Leave the toffee out at room temperature. Drag a butter knife across the surface to create break or ‘score’ lines in roughly the size of the pieces you want to make. If the toffee sticks to the knife, or the lines fill back in, it’s still too hot.

Step 5: Set tray in fridge/freezer/snow bank until set and then break apart. If you’ve scored it, turn the toffee upside down so the score lines are facing down.

Step 6: Break it up! As you can see from the video, even a screwdriver works…

Important: Store in a ziploc bag, or sealed container, and keep refrigerated.

It’s an incredibly tasty treat that is worth all that time standing over the heat! And once you’re done, it can be enjoyed with a number of classic holiday drinks…hot cocoa, milk, tea, coffee (Baileys optional!), and peppermint schnapps.

If you’ve never tried to make homemade toffee, this is your year. Let us know how it turned out!

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 Holiday Pops! presented by Nutrien.

Experiencing the Music Together & Safely

We have an incredible track record here at the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. There has not been a single Covid-19 related incident at the SSO since the start of the pandemic. We are also one of the only orchestras who were able to perform all of our planned concerts in the last year. (Minus the one canceled due to a snowstorm!) That is no accident. It is thanks to careful planning and precautions agreed to by all of our people that we have been able to continue our artistry and livelihood safely.

Now that we have an audience in the room it’s more important to us than ever that we keep our events covid free. Since Opening Night we’ve required that everyone, and we mean everyone, interacting with your orchestra is fully vaccinated. All our musicians, guest artists, staff, and volunteers have proven their vaccination status. Before your ticket is scanned there is a wonderful volunteer checking your vaccine status. Everyone in the room is wearing masks and we’ve encouraged you to spread out in our concert spaces to your comfort level.

As much as possible we have eliminated intermissions from our concerts to minimize mingling so most shows run just over an hour. All of our venues have great air circulation and we improve that on stage with fans as several studies have shown increased air circulation is important to stop the potential spread of the virus. These are just some of the steps we take every time we are gathered in a performance space to create a safe and Covid-19 free environment.

Not every concert is able to be live-streamed this season for various reasons, but we are planning to have our audience present for every single performance. Having you in the room with us is a magical experience. The energy improves performances and there’s nothing quite like the thunderous applause we’ve been fortunate to receive after our first few events. It really is quite something to be in the room as the music happens.

Keeping you safe, keeping all of us safe, is the only way we can continue. We mainly rely on ticket sales and donations to keep this organization going and in return, we offer innovative and moving performances, meaningful connections, and countless unforgettable moments.

We laugh, we cry, we experience the music together. Most of all we continue to keep everyone safe so we can make it to 100 years of the SSO, and many years beyond that, all the while enjoying the incredible performances along the way.