Cosette Justo Valdés, conductor

With her gorgeous, passionate style and firecracking energy, Cuban-born and raised conductor Cosette Justo Valdés has garnered acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic and is a rising star on the world’s concert stage. She is presently Resident Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (Canada) where she won the hearts of musicians and audience alike with her “unique style, full of flaming energy and human warmth.” Recent highlights include a “mindblowing” (Ottawa Citizen) collaboration with Esperanza Spalding and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, and a praised Così fan tutte with the Edmonton Opera, conducted from the harpsichord.

Cosette maintains strong ties to her native Cuba, where she is celebrated as Honorary Director of the prestigious Orquesta Sinfónica de Oriente in Santiago, Cuba’s musical heartland, which she led for 9 years. During that time, she single-handedly (with a team formed by an administrator and a librarian) managed and directed the 80-musician ensemble, developing an extensive repertoire of classical and contemporary music, jazz and pop, while championing Cuban music both new and traditional. A frequent guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba in La Habana, she premiered works by Cuba’s musical luminaries including Leo Brouwer, Alfredo Diez Nieto, Roberto Valera, and many more.

With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Cosette is equally at ease leading programs from the Masters, Pops, or Kids series, garnering praise from critics, audience, and musicians alike for her “incisive presence,” “vivacity,” and “inspiring, precise, fiery” conducting. Her position with the orchestra since 2019 includes the role of Community Ambassador, through which she has developed an exceptionally warm and rewarding relationship with orchestra patrons as well as the city’s arts community. Cosette is also the Artistic Director of the Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta, the ESO’s Sistema-based program that provides free music education to some 200 children from Edmonton’s priority neighborhoods and surrounding First Nations.

Cosette holds her bachelor degree in conducting with Prof. Jorge López Marín at the Instituto Superior de Arte (La Habana, Cuba) and her master degree with Prof. Klaus Arp at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst (Mannheim, Germany). As part of her training, she has assisted many conductors in Europe and the Americas, including Klaus Arp (Germany), Francesco Belli (Italy), Alexander Prior (UK), Alexander Shelley (UK) and Mario Venzago (Switzerland).

She has guest-conducted with dozens of orchestras in Germany and Eastern Europe, such as the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, Theater und Orchester Heidelberg, and Nationaltheater Mannheim. In addition to her duties with the Edmonton Symphony, Cosette has upcoming engagements from coast to coast in Canada, as well as across the Americas. Some highlights include two concerts with Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, 5 concerts with Thunder Bay, a collaboration with the Against the Grain Experimental Opera in Toronto and a repeat invitation with NACO in Canada, Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de Guanajato (Mexico).

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 2023 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.

Top 5 SSO Stocking Stuffers!

Tickets to the SSO make a perfect stocking stuffer, so we made it simple to know what the perfect gift for your loved ones.

The remainder of our season is jam-packed with incredible concerts, so this list was hard to whittle down!

#5 – Firebird and Strauss this May


Sounds like a long time to wait for your gift of tickets to be used, but this concert is going to be one of the highlights of the SSO’s history. Maestro Nicolas Ellis is back with us this season as one of our artistic partners, and he specifically chose Stravinsky’s Firebird to represent the world returning to life after these last few difficult years. Paired with Strauss’ Op 27 Songs performed by soprano and SSO audience favourite Danika Loren, this concert is going to be sensational!

Click for tickets and info

#4 – Jan Lisiecki’s concerto return

Jan Lisiecki is one of the biggest classical artists of the 21st century – and he’s returning to Saskatoon to play some Grieg.

At just 27, Lisiecki’s career has already spanned two decades and he’s one of the most celebrated pianists of our time. He returns to Saskatoon to play Grieg’s epic Piano Concerto in A minor this February. Joining him is internationally renowned conductor Rune Bergmann. Bergmann leads your SSO in a performance of Sibelius’ stunning 1st symphony. This will be one for the SSO and Saskatoon history books!

Click for Info and Tickets

#3 – FROZEN!

Third time is a charm right?!?

One of the most beloved movies and soundtracks of all time – a memorable performance as the SSO performs the orchestral score live while you watch the movie on the big screen above the orchestra!

Experience Disney’s award-winning “Frozen” in a new way with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO). As “Frozen” plays on a large movie screen, Martin MacDonald will lead the SSO performing the film’s score live to film. Tickets are available through or the TCU Place box office.

Click for Info and Tickets


#2 An SSO Gift Certificate!

Not sure what the perfect gift is for the music lover on your list?  We’ve got your back!

You can call the SSO or stop by our new offices to get an SSO Gift Certificate – you can get it in any amount and it can be redeemed for any SSO event.  It let’s you give the gift of musical exploration to someone on your list. This way they can use it to get tickets to Dancing Queen, Baroque Soul, Farm Fresh, anything their musical heart desires!

Click here to buy an SSO gift certificate!


and the #1 gift…

A Gift Card

The SSO’s is a hit – our very own Netflix that allows you to enjoy the SSO live streams from home or on the go, and gives you a chance to enjoy concerts on demand whenever you want!

On top of all of the SSO’s streaming, hosts streaming for lots of other incredible arts organizations like the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra, Flamenco Borealis, the Fireside Singers, and more!

You can give someone a gift card for whatever amount you choose or you can buy them access to a particular performance or an SSO Streaming Subscription.

You can even set it up to deliver to their email on Christmas morning!

Visit for a gift card!









From the snare drum’s opening notes, even before the infamous melody begins, we instantly recognize Boléro. This oddly compelling music has entered popular culture through various media: the 1979 film 10, numerous television commercials, and the gold medal-winning performance by ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Maurice Ravel would not have been surprised by Boléro’s enduring popularity; while he worked on it, the composer commented, “The piece I am working on will be so popular, even fruit peddlers will whistle it in the street.” Originally a ballet commission from Ida Rubenstein, formerly of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Boléro was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska, sister of Vaslav Nijinsky, and featured a Gypsy woman dancing on a table in a Spanish tavern, who whips her audience into uncontrolled sexual frenzy.

Rubenstein’s ballet was successful, but Boléro’s lasting fame came in the concert hall, most notably from a controversial performance conducted by Arturo Toscanini in 1930. Not all listeners were seduced, however. One critic described Boléro as “… the most insolent monstrosity ever perpetrated in the history of music … it is simply the incredible repetition of a single rhythm … and above it is the blatant recurrence of an overwhelmingly vulgar cabaret tune.”

In response, Ravel wrote a letter in 1931 to the London Daily Telegraph: “It [Boléro] is an experiment in a very special and limited direction, and it should not be suspected of aiming at achieving anything different from, or anything more than, it actually does achieve. Before the first performance, I issued a warning to the effect that what I had written was a piece … consisting wholly of orchestral texture without music – of one long, very gradual crescendo … I have done exactly what I have set out to do, and it is for listeners to take it or leave it.”

In 2012, the award-winning science podcast Radiolab presented an episode titled “Unraveling Bolero,” which suggested that Ravel might have been experiencing early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia (a degenerative brain disease involving the frontal lobe of the brain), as he wrote Boléro. One aspect of this disease manifests as an obsessive need for repetition, which is reflected in Boléro’s complete lack of thematic or rhythmic musical development. Six years after finishing Boléro, Ravel began to forget words and lose short-term memory. By 1935, two years before his death, he could no longer write or speak.


© 2020 Elizabeth Schwartz

Fernando Velázquez, composer

Fernando Velázquez (Getxo, 1976) is a composer of music for film, television and theatre, a creator of concerto music, a cellist and an orchestra conductor.

Classically trained, he studied at the conservatories of Getxo, Bilbao and Vitoria, where he obtained the Extraordinary Prize at the end of his course. He completed his studies in Paris and at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Madrid and graduated in History at Deusto. Above all, Fernando is a lover of music and musical creation, ever since a cello was placed in his hands at the age of 12.

Cinema came into his life later on. “Bad company”, he says with a smile on his face. Since 1999, when he collaborated on a short film made by some friends (Amor de madre [Mother’s Love], Koldo Serra), his career has continued to flourish and impress with great successes such as The Impossible, Ocho apellidos vascos (Spanish Affair) and El Orfanato (The Orphanage).

The soundtrack genre has allowed him to bring symphonic music to mass audiences and, above all, to explore very different expressive and narrative possibilities, from fantasy films to drama and comedy.

Looking beyond the imagined dividing line between popular and classical music, Fernando asserts the value of good music for the general public, with compositions that excite, transcend and “become an entity of their own” (El Ojo Crítico Award, 2012).

Among his more than 250 symphonic compositions, the following concertos are particular highlights:

Concierto para violoncello y orquesta (Concerto for Cello and Orchestra), recorded in 2020 with Johannes Moser and Euskadiko Orkestra for the Pentatone label.

Humanity At Music, a cantata that has been translated into several languages and has become the international anthem of cooperativism. It is part of an inter-cooperative artistic project that brings together artistic disciplines such as music, storytelling, singing, illustration, bertsolaritza, theatre and dance.

Concierto para trombón y orquesta (Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra), recorded by Ximo Vicedo and Euskadiko Orkestra in 2020.
Cantata de Estío, recorded in 2020 with Euskadiko Orkestra.
Viento del Oeste (Wind from the East), a work commissioned by the Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras (AEOS) and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra (BOS). Gabon dut anunzio, Christmas cantata, performed by the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and the Bilbao Choral Society, among others. Piano Espressivo, recently performed by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Víctor Pablo Pérez.

He has conducted London’s Philharmonia, the London Metropolitan, the Czech National Orchestra, the Budapest Radio Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of RTVE, Bilbao, Euskadi, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Navarra, Murcia, Asturias and Seville, among others.

In recent years he has recorded the vast majority of his productions with Spanish public orchestras, a matter regarding which he has made a personal commitment.

He has also produced music and live concerts by Amancio Prada, Leire Martínez (La Oreja de Van Gogh), Ken Zazpi, Raphael, Doctor Deseo, Pasión Vega, Zea Mays, En Tol Sarmiento, Zetak, Izaro, Olatz Salvador, Huntza, Idoia, Eñaut Elorrieta, Gatibu, Mikel Urdangarin, El Drogas, Mabü, among many others.

He has also collaborated with singers such as Caetano Veloso, Jorge Drexler, Raphael, Mikel Erentxun, Pedro Guerra, Zahara and groups such as Love of Lesbian and Mc Enroe…

Learn more about Fernando Velázquez, and listen to his compositions on his website.

La Vida Breve

La vida breve (Spanish Life is Short or The Brief Life) is an opera in two acts and four scenes by Manuel de Falla to an original Spanish libretto by Carlos Fernández-Shaw. Local (Andalusian) dialect is used. It was written between August 1904 and March 1905, but not produced until 1913. The first performance was given (in a French translation by Paul Millet) at the Casino Municipal in Nice on 1 April 1913. Paris and Madrid performances followed, later in 1913 and in 1914 respectively. Claude Debussy played a major role in influencing Falla to transform it from the number opera it was at its Nice premiere to an opera with a more continuous musical texture and more mature orchestration. This revision was first heard at the Paris premiere at the Opéra-Comique in December 1913, and is the standard version.

Only an hour long, the complete opera is seldom performed today, but its orchestral sections are, especially the act 2 music published as Interlude and Dance, which is popular at concerts of Spanish music. (Fritz Kreisler in 1926 arranged for violin and piano the dance from this pairing under the spurious title Danse espagnole.) Indeed the opera is unusual for having nearly as much instrumental music as vocal: act 1, scene 2 consists entirely of a short symphonic poem (with distant voices) called Intermedio, depicting sunset in Granada; act 2, Scene 1 includes the above-referenced Danza and Interludio, with the latter ending the scene, i.e. in the opposite sequence to the excerpted pairing; and act 2, scene 2 begins with a second and longer Danza (with vocal punctuation).

–  From Wikipedia 

Nights in the Gardens of Spain

NOCHES EN LOS JARDINS DE ESPAÑA                                                                 

While composers of all periods of Western music have at times made use of popular or folk tunes in their music, the Spaniards seemed obsessed with the practice. The Italian import keyboard composer, Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1750), set the fashion for incorporating “street music” into his sonatas for the brilliant harpsichordist, Queen Maria Barbara. The practice continues to this day.

Born in Cadiz, Manuel de Falla received his first music lessons from his mother. He studied piano and composition in Madrid, where he became interested in Spanish music, especially Andalusian flamenco. But he realized early on that he was not good enough to make a career as pianist, and the symphonic institutions in Spain were too limited to make a living as a classical composer. In 1907, he left Spain in order to achieve international exposure for his music, settling in Paris where he came under the influence of Paul Dukas, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. His music, however, even during the height of the French influence, remained solidly Spanish in style. With the outbreak of World War I, he returned to his native country.

A deeply religious – almost fanatic – Catholic, de Falla expressed his faith in a magnum opus, Atlántida, an epic based on what he regarded as the holy mission of his boyhood hero Christopher Columbus. The cantata, in which the Spanish nation, rising from the ruins of Atlantis, goes forth under the banner of Christ to the New World, remained incomplete at de Falla’s death. He actually submitted parts of it to Church authorities for approval.

De Falla began Noches en los Jardins de España in 1909 in Paris as a set of three nocturnes for piano. But friends, and especially the pianist Ricardo Viñes, advised him to transform it into a work for piano and orchestra. Instead, the composer put the work aside and did not return to it until 1915, after his return to Spain. He described the work as “Symphonic impressions,” insisting that it was not a piano concerto, and that the piano was an integral part of the orchestral fabric. Originally de Falla planned a fourth movement, based on a tango rhythm, but that movement ended up as the “Pantomime” movement of El amor brujo.

Nights is a purely atmospheric work, at times almost hypnotic in its simple melodies and understated orchestration. The first movement En el Generalife, describes the famous Palace garden of the Generalife (from the Arabic Jannat al-‘Arif – Architect’s Garden) on the Alhambra hill in Granada. It opens with what sounds like an accompaniment, but is actually the main theme that recalls Debussy. The theme has a Moorish flavor, first heard as if played on a guitar; the strings imitate the strumming sound, while the piano part is often a single line avoiding chords.

In the second movement, Danza lejana (Distant Dance), once again the themes are brief and simple, the rhythm and harmonies evoking the Flamenco style. The dance gradually increases in volume and tempo before receding again into the distance. The piano leads without interruption into the third movement, En los jardines de la Sierra de Córdoba (The gardens of the Sierra Cordoba mountains). In the middle, the piano takes the role of the singer of cante jondo, a vocal Flamenco style in which a florid melody in the high treble sings over a throbbing bass. The movement begins energetically but slows to a brooding conclusion.

Program notes by:
Joseph & Elizabeth Kahn

Manuel de Falla

Manuel de Falla, (born November 23, 1876, Cádiz, Spain—died November 14, 1946, Alta Gracia, Argentina), was the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. In his music, he achieved a fusion of poetry, asceticism, and ardour that represents the spirit of Spain at its purest.

Falla took piano lessons from his mother and later went to Madrid to continue studying piano under José Tragó and to study composition with Felipe Pedrell. Pedrell inspired Falla with his own enthusiasm for 16th-century Spanish church music, folk music, and native opera, or zarzuela. In 1905 Falla won two prizes, one for piano playing and the other for a national opera, La vida breve (first performed in Nice, France, 1913).

Zarazuelas are is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular songs, as well as dance.

Falla moved to Paris in 1907, where he remained for seven years. There he met a number of composers who had an influence on his style, including Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Paul Dukas, as well as Igor Stravinsky. From Paris, he published his first piano pieces and songs. In 1914 he returned to Madrid, where he wrote the music for a ballet, El amor brujo (Love, the Magician; Madrid, 1915), remarkable for its distillation of Andalusian folk music. Falla followed this with El corregidor y la molinera (Madrid, 1917), which Diaghilev persuaded him to rescore for a ballet by Léonide Massine called El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat; London, 1919). Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain; Madrid, 1916), a suite of three impressions for piano and orchestra, evoked the Andalusian atmosphere through erotic and suggestive orchestration. All these works established Falla internationally as the leading Spanish composer.

Falla then retired to Granada, where in 1922 he organized a cante hondo festival and composed a puppet opera, El retablo de Maese Pedro. Like the subsequent Harpsichord Concerto (1926), containing echoes of Domenico Scarlatti, the Retablo shows Falla much influenced by Igor Stravinsky. Falla’s style was then Neoclassical instead of Romantic, still essentially Spanish, but Castilian rather than Andalusian.

Also in Granada, de Falla began work on the large-scale orchestral cantata Atlàntida (Atlantis) based on the Catalan text L’Atlàntida by Jacint Verdaguer, which he considered to be the most important of all his works. Verdaguer’s text gives a mythological account of how the submersion of Atlantis created the Atlantic ocean, thus separating Spain and Latin America, and how later the Spanish discovery of America reunited what had always belonged together. De Falla continued work on the cantata after moving to Argentina in 1939. The orchestration of the piece remained incomplete at his death and was completed posthumously by Ernesto Halffter.

De Falla tried but failed to prevent the murder of his close friend the poet Federico García Lorca in 1936. Following Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War, de Falla left Spain for Argentina. He died in Alta Gracia, in the Argentine province of Córdoba. In 1947 his remains were brought back to Spain and entombed in the cathedral at Cádiz. One of the lasting honors to his memory is the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at Complutense University of Madrid.

“Sing Choir of Angels” by Saskatoon Children’s Choir

Saskatoon Children’s Choir presents their annual Christmas concert “Sing Choirs of Angels” on November 25 and 26, 2022 at 7:30 PM at Knox United Church.

Tickets are available at and at the door, $36 and $21 (limited sight-lines), plus online fees. Reserved seating.

When children sing beautifully, it speaks directly to the soul. The Saskatoon Children’s Choir has developed an international reputation for artistic excellence, creative performances and their commitment to initiatives that promote global understanding. Appearing on choral stages across Canada, in Europe, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Asia, they return to the stage this month to perform their annual Christmas concert: Sing Choirs of Angels. Join us for an evening of choral repertoire that promises to inspire joy and offer hope.

Kevin Power

It began with a childhood dream growing up in Nova Scotia.  At the age of 18 months, Kevin’s first teacher was his mom.

Since then, he has gone on to an International career appearing in blockbuster Broadway musicals, film, television, jazz, new operatic works, and in concert with some of the best orchestras playing today.  Kevin has received critical acclaim from the Times of London, to Opera Canada and more.

He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in composition & performance and is a published composer and playwright.

Equally rewarding has been the chance to adjudicate thousands of young hopeful singer across Canada in music festivals and provincial competitions for 20 years. For Kevin, it has been a chance to pass on the wisdom handed down from teachers, directors, and mentors with whom he has worked throughout his career. An opportunity to witness the young creative spirit grow.

Kevin is also the producer and host of the podcast series SaskScapes which is downloaded around the world every day has been featured on CBC national radio, and CBC Saskatchewan.

Find out more on Kevin’s website.