Janna Sailor, conductor

Hailed by critics as “charismatic, crisp, precise, and elegant”, Janna Sailor has firmly established herself as a conductor, violinist, and groundbreaking visionary on the Canadian music scene. Originally from rural Saskatchewan, Janna completed her studies in violin and conducting at the Brandon School of Music and the University of British Columbia.

Recently listed on the Women in Music Canada’s “Honour Roll ­ 10 Female Artists to Watch” in March of 2023, and Winner of the Betty Webster Award for Orchestral Innovation from Orchestras Canada, Janna combines diverse experiences on the international stage with a deep sense of community, equality, and social justice. Janna’s creative output is firmly rooted in the conviction that classical music should be inclusive and accessible to all. This guiding principle has led Janna to work on a number of arts­based social initiatives, including music instruction for disadvantaged youth in downtown Vancouver’s Eastside, fundraising and outreach activities for immigrants, establishing music therapy programs, and the founding of the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, an all­female professional ensemble with a social action mandate to champion the works of female minority artists and to enact change through music.

Highlights for Janna Sailor in 2024 include presenting at the International Conductor Guild Conference in New York as well as at the Global Leaders Institute Innovation Summit in Arequipa, Peru. In January, Janna conducts the debut of IndigiDivas: Indigenous Stories and Opera Hits in Vancouver with Allegra Chamber Orchestra, and with guest artist Marion Newman and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Janna Sailor leads the Saskatoon Symphony in YXE Divas, showcasing local female artists in pops, rock, blues and jazz, and returns to conduct Torch Songs with Julie Nesrallah with the Saskatoon Symphony.

Janna has conducted major orchestras and ensembles including Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Kingston Symphony, Brott Festival (National Academy Orchestra), Winnipeg Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, Vancouver Inter­Cultural Orchestra, Kensington Sinfonia, Saskatoon Symphony, Regina Symphony, Symphony New Brunswick, and Société de musique contemporaine du Québec.

Active as a concert producer, Janna’s work can be seen on stages across Canada, and heard on the airwaves as a producer for CBC Calgary.


Oli Guselle, alto

Oli Guselle is a settler born in Saskatoon (Treaty 6) now residing in Toronto (Treaty 13). They just graduated this spring with their Bachelors of Music in vocal performance from the University of Toronto, and though they are a classically trained mezzo, they put no limit on their musical expression and enjoy singing everything from musical theatre to R&B and are currently in 3 punk bands. Recent credits include: Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus (SO 2019), Marie Anna von Mozart in Mozart Re-reimagined (SO and SSO 2021), Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Sparrow Theatre 2021), and The Hero in The Sinai Sessions concept album (Dandelion Theatre 2022). They are so grateful to be performing among such wonderful colleagues, and would like to thank their family, friends, and the Saskatoon arts community for supporting them on their musical journey thus far.

Spencer McKnight, tenor

Tenor Spencer McKnight has been described as “one of the finest tenor voices” in Canada.

McKnight began singing at the age of 17. He was encouraged to pursue music by an adjudicator who heard him sing at his local music festival. His passion for music finds him frequently immersed in the music of Handel, Rossini, and Britten.

Spencer has garnered much attention both in concert and in competition over the course of the last six years, including multiple awards at a national level, and the 2018 winner of the Gordon C. Wallis Opera Competition.  Though early in his career, Spencer has had the opportunity to sing a wealth of oratorio repertoire and had recent engagements with the Regina and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestras.

He recently toured with a recital program entitled Songs of the Great War.  An artistic project many years in the making, the recital featured songs, both popular and art, from the World War One era, including the Canadian premieres of two songs by composer William Dennis Browne.

Spencer had the pleasure of making his international opera debut in Vicenza, Italy in 2019 as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He was reviewed as having a “clear timbre” by the Giornale di Vicenza.

McKnight will tour a new recital programme called “Within a Dream” in 2024 with longtime collaborator Mark Turner.

Spencer studied with teacher and mentor Lisa Hornung for many years, and now he studies with Toronto-based vocal pedagogue Mark Daboll.

His voice is described as fresh and brassy with stratospheric high notes.

Sing-Along Messiah FAQ

Messiah time is almost here! We love putting together and performing Handel’s Messiah each year. If it were possible we would fit everyone from Saskatoon’s large choral community on stage with us for one amazing choir. Since there isn’t nearly enough room up front (and scheduling rehearsals would be a nightmare) we have the Sing-Along Messiah the afternoon after the Messiah performance. Choral professionals and enthusiasts alike join in singing beloved Messiah choruses as one huge choir.

Always wondered about the Sing-Along but you’ve never taken the leap? Have no fear! Here are some answers to the frequently asked Messiah Sing-Along questions.

Where and when is the Sing-Along?

Sing-Along Messiah is Saturday, December 16th at 2:30 pm in Knox United Church. This is the same location for the Friday night performance. Doors open at 1:45 pm so come early to get your seat (and perhaps do a warmup or two)!

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available online and at the door. Singers tickets are just $20 and our Scotiabank 25Below is in effect at the door! ($15 for anyone 25 and under with ID at the ticket table)

Do I have to sing?

No! We do not force everyone to sing. If you want to come enjoy our soloists, and an incredibly large choir, come watch and listen. We recommend you sit in one of the balconies at Knox to have the full experience.

Where do the singers sit?

We divide the main floor into sections (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) so you can sit with your voice type (your people!). This way it is easier for those sight reading or experiencing their first Sing-Along. Confidence in numbers!

How do I know when to sing?

Our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus Conductor Duff Warkentin and Maestra Cosette Justso Valdés will be there to lead the charge! Keep your eyes on the baton as there are changes in tempi. All sing-along portions are bolded in the program with title numbers.

Can I sing the soloists part?

We invite you to sing along with our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus. Our soloists will be there for the recits and arias. In this relaxed setting, they might try out a  few new ornaments! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful sounds of our special guests.

What if I don’t have a messiah score?

Not to worry. We will have several copies that we lend out for the performance. Please make sure to return them after as they belong to the University of Saskatchewan Music Department!

Or you may want to put it on your tablet!



Strata Festival of New Music 2023

The Strata Festival of New Music is pleased to announce its return for 2023, featuring a lineup of innovative and boundary-pushing artists from across Saskatchewan and Canada. The festival will take place from June 1 – 4 at multiple venues, including Remai Modern, Zion Lutheran Church and PAVED Arts in Saskatoon.

Now in its 11th year, the Strata Festival remains dedicated to showcasing Saskatchewan-based composers and musicians creating cutting-edge new music. This year’s festival contains four days of concerts and masterclasses featuring a range of composers and performers, exploring a wide range of genres and styles.

Some of the highlights of the festival include performances by Véronique Mathieu and Stephanie Chua, playing a perfect pairing of an Amati violin and grand piano; the chance to explore the connection between taste and sound at Cinq Morceaux; the extraordinary Strata Ensemble playing the music of Carmen Braden, a celebrated sub-arctic Canadian composer; and the premiere concert of the newly formed Saskatoon Experimental Music Ensemble.

The Strata Festival of New Music is made possible with support from SK Arts, the City of Saskatoon, Sask Lotteries, CFCR 90.5FM, Becker Design & Media, Remai Modern, PAVED Arts, Zion Lutheran Church, the University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. For more information about the Strata Festival of New Music and its lineup, please visit www.stratafest.com, or follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram at @stratafestival.


The Strata Ensemble featuring Guest Composer Carmen Braden


Thursday, June 1 2023, 7:30 PM
Remai Modern
Admission by donation


For ages 18 to 118


Friday, June 2 2023, 1:00 PM
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church


Featuring Stephanie Chua and Véronique Mathieu, plus Darren Miller with Amati Strings


Friday, June 2 2023, 6:30 PM
Remai Modern
Admission by donation


For ages 18 to 118


Saturday, June 3 2023, 1:00 PM
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church


Explore the connection between taste and sound in a whole new way, as you indulge in the exquisite flavours of each appetizer, expertly paired with the perfect piece of music.


Saturday, June 3 2023, 7:30 PM
Zion Lutheran Church


A community-oriented ensemble with a focus on collectively-created experimental music


Sunday, June 4 2023, 2:00 PM
Pay What You Can (Suggestion: $10)

Alexa Haynes-Pilon, cello

Canadian-born Alexa Haynes-Pilon has been described by Early Music America as “a special artist with a brilliant future,” Alexa Haynes-Pilon has quickly established herself in the early music scene, performing on baroque cello, viola da gamba, baroque bassoon and dulcian. She is the principal cellist of both Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra and Opera Neo, and co-director and cellist/gambist of Musica Pacifica. She has performed with numerous American ensembles, including the American Bach Soloists, The Washington Bach Consort, Pacific Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Choir, Bach Collegium San Diego, Burning River Baroque, the Albany Consort, the American Contemporary Ballet, Handel Choir of Baltimore, Con Gioia, and more. In Toronto, she was a founding member of the early music ensemble, Rezonance, and performed with Accenti Vocali and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. She has concertized throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Bogotà, Mexico City, and, most recently, Budapest, where she collaborated with the Hungarian State Opera. She has recorded for the TV show, Hannibal, and was the featured solo cellist on the soundtrack to the highly acclaimed 2017 documentary That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations. Her recent album recordings include Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen Sings Gluck, Handel, & Vivaldi with the American Bach Soloists, Agostino Steffani: A son trés-humble service, Duets for Sophie Charlotte of Hanover under the direction of harpsichordist, Jory Vinikour on the Musica Omnia label, and François Couperin: Concert Royaux with Stephen Schultz, Mindy Rosenfeld, and Jory Vinikour on the Music and Arts label.

After completing her BMus and MMus in cello performance at Brandon University, Alexa Haynes-Pilon earned a performance certificate from the University of Toronto in connection with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, studying cello with Christina Mahler and viola da gamba with Joëlle Morton. Alexa recently completed her doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, where she studied baroque cello and viola da gamba with William Skeen, and baroque bassoon and dulcian with Charlie Koster. She has participated in most of the major Early Music festivals and workshops in North America including the Tafelmusik Winter and Summer Institutes, the American Bach Soloists Academy in San Francisco, the Vancouver Early Music Festival, the Twin Cities Early Music Festival, and the Boston and Berkeley Early Music Festivals.

Alexa’s passion is to create music and connect with members of the community, and because of this, she co-founded and was the Artistic Director of Los Angeles Baroque (LAB), a community baroque orchestra based in South Pasadena, CA. In addition, she has introduced thousands of elementary and secondary school students to Renaissance and baroque winds and viols through her work with the Crumhorn Collective, in collaboration with Ars Lyrica Houston’s outreach program in Houston. Alexa has been a guest conductor for the Orange County Recorder Society, the Pacifica Viola da Gamba Society, The Central Coast Recorder Society, the Sacramento Recorder Society, the San Francisco Recorder Society, and the Southern California Recorder Society. She has been a faculty member at the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) Recorder workshop and Baroque workshop (cello and viola da gamba), as well as a faculty member at the Road Scholar Hidden Valley Workshop in Carmel Valley, CA (viola da gamba and dulcian), and at the Port Townsend Early Music Workshop near Seattle (viola da gamba). She has also taught at Claremont Graduate University, and she has given masterclasses at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

She is directing a program for Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra in January 2023. She will be going home to conduct the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in May 2023, and will join the Orchester Wiener Akademie in Austria for a few performances in August 2023.


Strauss Opus 27 Translations

Vier Lieder, opus 27

by Richard Georg Strauss (1864 – 1949)

1. Ruhe, meine Seele!

Nicht ein Lüftchen
Regt sich leise,
Sanft entschlummert
Ruht der Hain;
Durch der Blätter
Dunkle Hülle
Stiehlt sich lichter
Ruhe, ruhe,
Meine Seele,
Deine Stürme
Gingen wild,
Hast getobt und
Hast gezittert,
Wie die Brandung,
Wenn sie schwillt.
Diese Zeiten
Sind gewaltig,
Bringen Herz
Und Hirn in Not —
Ruhe, ruhe,
Meine Seele,
Und vergiß,
Was dich bedroht!

1. Rest, my soul!

Not a breeze
is stirring lightly,
the wood lies
slumbering gently;
through the dark
cover of leaves
steals bright
Rest, rest,
my soul,
your storms
have gone wild,
have raged
and trembled
like the surf
when it breaks.
These times
are powerful,
bringing torment
to heart and mind;
rest, rest,
my soul,
and forget
what is threatening you!

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
from the LiederNet Archive — https://www.lieder.net/

2. Cäcilie

Wenn du es wüßtest,
Was träumen heißt von brennenden Küssen,
Von Wandern und Ruhen mit der Geliebten,
Aug in Auge,
Und kosend und plaudernd,
Wenn du es wüßtest,
Du neigtest dein Herz!

Wenn du es wüßtest,
Was bangen heißt in einsamen Nächten,
Umschauert vom Sturm, da niemand tröstet
Milden Mundes die kampfmüde Seele,
Wenn du es wüßtest,
Du [kämst]1 zu mir.

Wenn du es wüßtest,
Was leben heißt, umhaucht von der Gottheit
Weltschaffendem Atem,
Zu schweben empor, lichtgetragen,
Zu seligen [Höhen],
Wenn du es wüßtest,
Du lebtest mit mir!

2. Cecily

If you only knew
what it’s like to dream of burning kisses,
of wandering and resting with one’s beloved,
eye turned to eye,
and cuddling and chatting –
if you only knew,
you would incline your heart to me!

If you only knew
what it’s like to feel dread on lonely nights,
surrounded by a raging storm, while no one comforts
with a mild voice your struggle-weary soul –
if you only knew,
you would come to me.

If you only knew
what it’s like to live, surrounded by God’s
world-creating breath,
to float up, carried by the light,
to blessed heights –
if you only knew,
then you would live with me!

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
from the LiederNet Archive — https://www.lieder.net/


3. Heimliche Aufforderung

Auf, hebe die funkelnde Schale empor zum Mund,
Und trinke beim Freudenmahle dein Herz gesund.
Und wenn du sie hebst, so winke mir heimlich zu,
Dann lächle ich und dann trinke ich still wie du…

Und still gleich mir betrachte um uns das Heer
Der trunknen [Schwätzer] — verachte sie nicht zu sehr.
Nein, hebe die blinkende Schale, gefüllt mit Wein,
Und laß beim lärmenden Mahle sie glücklich sein.

Doch hast du das Mahl genossen, den Durst gestillt,
Dann verlasse der lauten Genossen festfreudiges Bild,
Und wandle hinaus in den Garten zum Rosenstrauch,
Dort will ich dich dann erwarten nach altem Brauch,

Und will an die Brust dir sinken, eh du’s [erhofft],
Und deine Küsse trinken, wie ehmals oft,
Und flechten in deine Haare der Rose Pracht.
O [komme], du wunderbare, ersehnte Nacht!

3. Secret invitation

Up, raise the sparkling cup to your lips,
And drink your heart’s fill at the joyous feast.
And when you raise it, so wink secretly at me,
Then I’ll smile and drink quietly, as you…

And quietly as I, look around at the crowd
Of drunken revelers — don’t think too ill of them.
No, lift the twinkling cup, filled with wine,
And let them be happy at the noisy meal.

But when you’ve savored the meal, your thirst quenched,
Then quit the loud gathering’s joyful fest,
And wander out into the garden, to the rosebush,
There shall I await you, as often of old.

And ere you know it shall I sink upon your breast,
And drink your kisses, as so often before,
And twine the rose’s splendour into your hair.
Oh, come, you wondrous, longed-for night!

Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © by Lawrence Snyder and Rebecca Plack


4. Morgen!

Und morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen,
Und auf dem Wege, den ich gehen werde,
Wird uns, die Glücklichen, sie wieder einen
Inmitten dieser [sonne-athmenden]1 Erde . . .

Und zu dem Strand, dem weiten, wogenblauen,
Werden wir still und langsam niedersteigen,
Stumm werden wir uns in die Augen schauen,
Und auf uns sinkt des Glückes stummes Schweigen . . .

4. Tomorrow

And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and on the path I will take,
it will unite us again, we happy ones,
upon this sun-breathing earth…

And to the shore, the wide shore with blue waves,
we will descend quietly and slowly;
we will look mutely into each other’s eyes
and the silence of happiness will settle upon us.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
from the LiederNet Archive — https://www.lieder.net/


Danika Lorèn, Soprano

Multifaceted artist Danika Lorèn has not only made a name as a vocalist, but also as a composer. Having obtained a masters degree in opera at the University of Toronto, Danika continued training as a vocalist with the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Program from 2016-18. Some of Danika’s signature roles include: Gilda (Rigoletto), Musetta (La Bohème), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Ginevra/Dalinda (Ariodante), Despina (Così fan Tutte) and Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro).

From 2014-2019, Danika produced and directed five original shows with an ensemble that she founded called Collectìf. In addition to their self-produced work, Collectìf has been featured across Canada with performances with the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Festival Pontiac Enchanté, Canadian Opera Company and Saskatoon Opera Company. Earlier this year, Danika created and directed “Mozart ReReimagined”: a digital concert pastiche in collaboration with Saskatoon Opera, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and Free Flow Dance Theatre.

As a composer, Danika’s work has been presented across Canada by the CBC, the Canadian Art Song Project, Canadian Opera Company, Pacific Opera Victoria and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Internationally, Danika’s work has been performed at the National Sawdust Theatre, at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, at the Leeds Lieder Festival and at Wigmore Hall. Danika has recently joined Barbara Hannigan’s Equilibrium Young Artists, and continues to build a unique career as a composer and vocalist.

Les Préludes

Liszt himself declared, after becoming an abbé in the Catholic Church, “The best of me is in my religious music.” However, the composer’s judgment has not coincided with posterity’s, which has set the seal of approval on Liszt’s piano concertos and many of his solo piano pieces, and on a select few of his orchestral works. Les préludes is one of these, being the most famous of his 12 symphonic poems. Liszt had a very strong conviction on the subject of program music, namely, that a given story is a symbol of an idea, and that the expounding of the inherent philosophical and humanistic elements of the idea in pure lyricism should be the goal.

In theory, and most often in practice, Liszt, of all the 19th-century composers of program music, was closer to realizing the sense of Beethoven’s preface to his “Pastoral” Symphony: “More the expression of sentiment than painting.” Of course, Liszt, like Beethoven, with his drenchingly graphic rain and thunderstorm, acceded to certain specific picturesque temptations. But essentially the Lisztian imagery is poetically suggestive rather than concretely descriptive, and it was arrived at in original musical ways that worked a profound influence on all those, including Wagner, prepared to accept a new order.

Liszt’s structural means for attaining his goal was the devising of a free form in which a few basic themes undergo continuous transformations of melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre, dynamics, or tempo (any one, or several, or all of these simultaneously). Thus, for example, a Lisztian love theme can emerge as a blazing march, or vice-versa. The first-mentioned is precisely what happens in Les préludes. In the climactic section, the pair of lyric themes labeled by Liszt “the enchanted dawn of every life” and containing the work’s pervading three-note motif, are transformed into surging battle calls.

Les préludes was composed in 1854 and to it was appended a program note written by Liszt, indicating that the piece is to be considered a musical depiction of a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine.

“What is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown song whose first solemn note is tolled by death? The enchanted dawn of every life is love. But where is the destiny on whose first delicious joys some storm does not break?… And what soul thus cruelly bruised, when the tempest rolls away, seeks not to rest its memories in the pleasant calm of pastoral life? Yet man does not long permit himself to taste the kindly quiet that first attracted him to nature’s lap. For when the trumpet sounds he hastens to danger’s post, that in the struggle he may once more regain full knowledge of himself and his strength.”

— Orrin Howard