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, 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)

Season 93 Deep Dive

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CEO and Creative Producer Mark Turner took some time to chat all about the SSO’s 93rd season!


You can subscribe today by going to our Season 93 page. Click on the Order Form button and select all your favourite concerts! Need more information? You can send an email to, give us a call at 306-665-6414, or come visit our office!

Our early bird deadline is May 1st. By subscribing before May 1st you get to keep your subscriber seats (or select your preferred seats as a new subscriber), you get special discounts on ticket packages, and you are entered to win an iPad 10! Get an additional giveaway entry by adding a donation of $50, or more, to your subscription.

All donations made by May 31st are matched by the Frank & Ellen Remai Foundation.

2-for-1 Subscriptions

So you buy tickets to our shows every once in a while, and you’re ready for more. As a new subscriber, you are eligible for 2-for-1 subscription packages!

Any new subscribers can buy one full series (Masters or Pops) and get the second free.

Our Masters Series:


Our Pops Series:

Not ready to commit to a full series? It only takes 4 shows to start a subscription package to qualify for the subscriber discount. Explore  Season 93 and choose your shows today.

You can fill out an online form any time, or give us a call at our office at 306-665-6414 to subscribe.

Taking Stock

It is a bit hard to believe that this coming fall marks my 10th season with the SSO. When I first took on this role, I took to our blog to share my vision for the future. But somewhere along the way I ran out of time to blog…a good problem to have because it was the result of incredible organizational growth. 

As I’ve watched our orchestra and our organization grow this season, I wanted to take time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished.

Since its launch, we’ve had more than thirty-five million minutes of viewing on the platform. Read that again. 35 million minutes of viewing. Hundreds of thousands of people from 53 countries. From online subscribers to folks who watch our free content, what we’ve been able to do is share our music with more people. Unprecedented accessibility to the SSO has changed us forever.

This season, we’ve been the lucky ones to experience some of the most sensational performances Saskatoon has ever enjoyed. Whether you danced the night away at the Music of ABBA, laughed with the Muppets, were filled with joy at Handel’s Messiah, or had your breath taken away by Jan Lisiecki, I know you’ll agree that this season has felt like a golden age. 

The crowds have been incredible. Multiple sell-out concerts and full houses have left us feeling the love! Nothing beats the thrill of hearing the roar of the crowd. It’s been a season celebrating the exceptional talent that Saskatoon has to offer. With artistic partners like Ryan Davis and Danika Lorèn and performances with the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra, the SSO Chorus, the Greystone Singers, and Aurora Voce…those have been special moments that show this organization and community at its best. 

Then there’s been the profound performances from your SSO musicians. The orchestra, time and time again this season, have stepped up and shown how much a symphony can mean to its community. Whether lifting up homegrown talent, helping toddlers experience the joy of music, or performing alongside a legitimate musical superstar, the musicians of your orchestra have made us all proud.

It goes without saying that an orchestra needs its audience, I actually believe that the reverse is more true. The audience needs its orchestra. What an exciting thing to be able to go to a concert (or watch it on your phone!) and experience the thrill of an orchestra in full flight. It makes our community a better place to call home.

The multiplier effect of an orchestra is astonishing. Our musicians teach, mentor, and inspire students. Those students go on to be people who understand hard work, goal setting, perseverance, and the joy of complex music. The musicians on stage have influenced the lives of countless people across our province.

Our concerts change minds, burst with emotions and imagination, and lift us up out of day-to-day life.
From a child hearing the violin for the first time, to students in schools learning about the importance of living composers, to long-time subscribers hearing new sounds and falling in love with music all over again – the outcome is remarkable.

Orchestras are living, breathing, vital artistic beings that have an exponential impact in their communities. I cannot imagine Saskatoon, and indeed Saskatchewan, without their orchestras. 

This season isn’t without its challenges. The prairies are experiencing a crippling arts funding crisis. The value of music is shrinking in our education system, as it’s easy to ignore the continually growing body of evidence that musical literacy is crucial to a complete education and a student’s success. All arts organizations are feeling the deep effects and challenges of inflation. It’s hard work, and it’s worth it.

The SSO has come a long way – we’re not done. We’re focused on a robust future for music in Saskatoon, one that is filled with passion, innovation, and an ambitious plan for musical opportunities and accessibility. 

In the weeks ahead we have a fundraising campaign to finish. Our Opus 100: Share in the Future campaign crossed its first matching goal in December, and then the generosity of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation shone through and extended our matching to a goal of $500,000. To date, we’ve raised over $350,000 – giving us six more weeks to raise another $150,000 to meet our goal. 

I’ll come back to blogging to share my passion for the SSO, because it’s important for us to take stock of how much the SSO means and remind you how fiercely proud we should be.

See you at the symphony – soon,
Mark Turner
CEO and Creative Producer

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George Frideric Handel, composer

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric  Handel, baptised Georg Friedrich Händel; 23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759, was not just a one-hit-wonder. While this  German-British Baroque composer is most well known for the Hallelujah chorus from his Messiah he also composed operas, oratorios, anthems, concerti grossi, and organ concertos.

Handel’s Zadok the Priest, one of his four coronation anthems, has been performed at every British coronation since 1727. His orchestral works Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks are also incredibly popular and are often performed at the BBC Proms.

Handel’s parents had split views on music. His father banned all musical instruments from the house and decided his son would study law. His mother on the other hand snuck a small harpsichord into their attic and did what she could to foster her son’s talent. Handel’s father had to give in and allow some music studies to continue after the Duke of Saxe-Weisenfels heard a young Handel playing the organ and declared that it would be a shame to stifle what was a God-given gift.

Handel’s father still wanted him to become a lawyer so at age 17 George Frideric Handel enrolled a the University in Halle to study law. When his father died a year later Handel dropped out and moved to Hamburg to play harpsichord in the opera house. This was a successful move as he presented his first two operas in his early 20s and then moved to Italy to continue his career.

In 1710, Handel garnered the attention of another George – the elector of Hanover. Handel was hired as the Kappellmeister (choir master) but quickly found a loophole in his contract that allowed him to move to London, England. Though this thoroughly annoyed his employer, it eventually worked out in his favour as George the elector later became King George I of England. The new king commissioned Handel to create several works including the much-loved Water Music.

Handel started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera.  The lavish productions included live birds, fireworks, and incredibly complex parts that led to some off-stage drama with his leading ladies. One soprano apparently refused to sing a difficult piece and argued with Handel until he lifted her in the air and threatened to throw her out the window. In another argument with artists, again sopranos, Handel ended up writing each singer an aria of equal length down to the number of notes to try to appease their jealousy and ease tensions. The public took sides, and at one famed performance in 1927 the evening ended with the two singers in a hair-pulling brawl on stage.

Handel saw himself first and foremost as a composer of operas and only turned to Oratorio once Italian operas went out of style in the late 1730s. In 1737, after a disastrous opera season, Handel became so ill his friends worried he would never recover. Thankfully he did, but he realized it was time to switch gears and leave his Italian operas behind.

Handel returned to fame when he focused his attention on oratorios. In 1941 he wrote his most famous oratorio, really his most famous work, when the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland requested an oratorio be performed in Dublin as a benefit concert for various charities. It’s said that the demand for tickets for the first performance of Handel’s Messiah was so great they asked female concertgoers to forego their hoops in an effort to fit more people into the concert hall. (Much like how we ask people to hang their coats at Knox!)

Handel’s health declined and he lost his sight by 1752 despite many treatment attempts. He passed away in 1759 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Handel’s Messiah has been a hit ever since its first performance and we are delighted to continue that tradition each December (minus the 3-year Covid-19 hiatus).

Want to see a piece of Messiah history? The British Library has a digital scan of an original handwritten Messiah score.

What’s happening at the Bassment

The Bassment is one of Canada’s premier jazz clubs and provides musicians of all skill levels a venue to showcase their talents in front of a live audience while accessing a variety of professional, concert-grade instruments. The club offers an intimate, personal concert space with a world-class stage for local, national, and international artists.

Here’s a sample of what’s happening next at The Bassment

Stephen Fearing
March 22, 2023



Stephen Fearing’s music is a mesmerizing blend of roots, folk, and pop. Co-founder of Canadian roots-rock supergroup Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, he is a beguiling teller of tales and a master guitarist who has delighted audiences throughout North America, the UK, and Europe. A multi-JUNO and Canadian Folk Music award winner, Stephen has collaborated with Bruce Cockburn, Rosanne Cash, Richard Thompson, Sarah McLachlan, Margo Timmins, Keb’ Mo’, and Suzie Vinnick.

Sponsored David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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The Slocan Ramblers
March 27, 2023


The reigning champions of Canadian bluegrass, the Slocan Ramblers are back showcasing their unique blend of bluegrass, old-time, and folk. The band’s set list is marked by thoughtful songwriting, lightning fast-instrumentals, and sawdust-thick vocals.

This show will feature the Ramblers at the top of their game playing selections from their three previous releases and their latest album, Up the Hill and Through the Fog. Say hello to your new favourite band!

Sponsored by Northern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Music Society

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Erin Propp and Larry Roy
April 1, 2023


Erin Propp (vocals) and Larry Roy (guitar) reach into the everyday and blur the edges, creating works that are deeply personal and achingly relatable. Erin and Larry’s musical abilities are tools of exacting expression, expertly honed. Their debut stunner, Courage, My Love, won Best Jazz Album of the Year at the 2013 Western Canadian Music Awards and a 2014 JUNO nomination for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. Touring in support of their latest recording, We Want All The Same Things, Erin and Larry will be joined by Mark DeJong (sax) and Kodi Hutchinson (bass).

Sponsored David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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Florian Hoefner Trio
April 22, 2023


Born and raised in Germany, trained in New York, and now based in St. John’s, JUNO-nominated jazz pianist and composer Florian Hoefner draws from a myriad of influences that cumulate in his unique brand of modern jazz. His Canadian trio featuring Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums) released its initial album, First Spring, in 2019. Featuring Florian’s arrangements of folk tunes from around the world, the album won Instrumental Recording of the Year and Jazz Recording of the Year at the 2020 East Coast Music Awards. The trio is touring Canada to promote its second release, Desert Bloom.

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Don Vappie & Jazz Créole
May 13, 2023


An award-winning Créole banjoist/vocalist, Don Vappie is the living embodiment of 300 years of the melting pot that is New Orleans music. Best known as the banjoist in Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz and the Lincoln Centre Orchestra, Don is also recognized for his nurturing approach to Créole culture and its preservation. Widely considered one of the best banjoists in the history of New Orleans, he’s kept alive the tradition of his predecessor Danny Barker and has been honoured with awards from Créole society for preserving this cultural treasure.

Jazz Créole combines all genres of New Orleans music, from traditional to modern-day funk, with the classic tradition of a string band. The group features three musicians from the UK band the Dime Notes: David Horniblow (clarinet), Dave Kelbie (guitar), and Tom Wheatley (bass). Don Vappie has received numerous acclamations from other musicians, including one from Iggy Pop: “He can start the party with his banjo. He sure can!”

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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The Virtuoso Vivaldi

While some fans of rock music are more partial to an electric guitar solo, others prefer the passionate folk strummings of a well-loved acoustic. But all fans of virtuosic string playing owe a debt of gratitude to one rock star in particular: Antonio Vivaldi. 

The year was 1700. Violin virtuosity had been steadily building for nearly a hundred years, with instrument builders like Antonio Stradivari, and Giuseppe Guarneri creating violins whose sound quality was unrivalled throughout all of Europe. With the music publishing industry taking off, composers from around the world saw an opportunity to create truly unique musical works. If you wanted to be known as a composer of merit during this period of music history, you needed to know how to write increasingly complex works for the orchestra. Enter the Venetian Virtuoso, Antonio Vivaldi…

Born in 1678, Vivaldi quickly established himself as a master of writing for the violin. A superbly innovative player himself, Vivaldi had an intimate understanding of those conventions of traditional violin playing which might be bent (or in some cases completely broken) in order to create the daring music people wanted to hear. His playing was lightning across a darkened sky, one contemporary of his going so far as to exclaim that the sounds he made on the violin were “terrifying”. 

During his early years as a composer, Italian instrumental music was still held firm under the conventions of Arcangelo Corelli’s concerto form. Developing from the trio sonata (which featured two violins and one cello supported by strings and continuo), this form was regarded as highly-respected and tasteful for its time. It was daring… but not so much as to abandon the traditional aspects of string music. Vivaldi’s response to Corelli’s established form of concerto occurred in the former’s publication of Léstro armonico , something of a musical manifesto which changed violin-playing for all time. 

L’estro armonico didn’t pull any punches, it set straight away at establishing new standards in violin playing for Vivaldi’s contemporaries. Some of the more revolutionary shifts Vivaldi incorporated into his compositional style included increasing the depth and singing quality of the violin’s voice in slower movements, and imitating the brassy qualities associated with a trumpet by way of arpeggios and quick repeated notes. This latter innovation encouraged violin players to insert bits of virtuosic passagework into their playing at a much more prolific rate than ever before.

As a whole, L’estro armonico served to establish Vivaldi’s preference for three contrasting movements (fast-slow-fast) while utilizing the ritornello form in new and exciting ways. Ritornello (which translates to “return”) constituted a sort of musical interlude which functioned as a refrain, and Vivaldi was brilliant enough to see how it might be used as the standard form for all concerto movements. Ensemble ritornello sections in Vivaldi’s music begin in a tonally stable fashion, establishing the home key at the start and end of each movement. The solo sections which are scattered among these movements, however, are tonally unstable: they leap, dive, and soar through key modulations to increase tension and build the 

In Vivaldi’s music for concerto, ensemble ritornello sections are tonally stable to establish the home key at the start and end of the movement and reinforce each change of key during the movement. The solo sections, in turn, are tonally unstable, modulating between keys, which amps up the tension during the daring solo passages. Just as we can’t look away from a tight-rope walker as they perform their daring act under a circus big-top, so too were Vivaldi’s audiences mesmerized by the sheer musical bravery and bravado these solo sections demonstrated. 

They were lucky instrumentalists indeed, those who were the first to play Vivaldi’s glorious new music… customized as it was for a bold new breed of concerto. Those who criticized his musical vision early on would come to adopt the spirit of his instrumental virtuosity later in their careers as composers and music-makers. Antonio Vivaldi died penniless in Vienna, having invested all his wealth of musical experience in bringing a clear structure and dynamic power to the Baroque concerto. His work for the violin made him a household name, a true Baroque star. So we say long live the King of the Strings, Viva Vivaldi!