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)

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

Marianne Trudel & John Hollenbeck: Dédé Java Espiritu
Thursday, April 11


A piano, a drum set, and a thousand ideas. This is the happy and highly creative encounter ofpianist and composer Marianne Trudel with world-renowned drummer and composer John Hollenbeck. An electrifying, fascinating, enveloping duo, Dédé Java Espiritu plunges the listener into an infinite panorama of colours and grooves inspired by nature. Filled with catchy grooves, enchanting melodies, surprising sonorities, and joyous spontaneity, these compositions are rhythmically and melodically arranged to perfection.

Marianne Trudel is a veritable powerhouse in Canada’s jazz scene. She has produced and multiple artistic projects that showcase her considerable skills as well as her keen sense of creativity. Both energetic and passionate, her music covers a wide array of musical interests. Marianne has performed across North America, Europe, and China and has released 10 critically acclaimed recordings as a leader.

John Hollenbeck possesses a playful versatility and a virtuosic wit. Whether putting pen to paper or conjuring spontaneous sound allergic to repetition, he is essentially a musical thinker and is forever seeking to surprise himself and his audiences. John has received five GRAMMY nominations, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is currently a member of the faculty at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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Dallas Alexander
Thursday, April 18


Hailing from a rough-and-tumble backwoods upbringing in Fishing Lake Métis Settlement in Northern Alberta, Dallas Alexander weaves his Métis roots with stories amassed over a decade-plus career serving in a tier-one special operations unit in the Canadian military. Dallas serves up a unique sound and country music lovers are in for a gritty-outlaw vibe inspired by music legends Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.

Sponsored by Black Fox Farm & Distillery

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Abigail Lapell
Friday, April 19

SONGWRITER SERIES • DOORS @ 7:30pm • SHOW @ 8:30pm

Toronto songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Lapell returns with Anniversary, an evocative collection of original love songs produced by Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker. Lapell’s deft lyrics jostle with love song tropes, grappling with love’s finitude and the irony of how codependency and longing are revered in popular music. Balancing upbeat earworms with elegiac ballads, Anniversary ultimately emerges as an earnest celebration of commitment. A stellar cast of musicians rounds out Lapell’s powerhouse vocals, piano, harmonica and fingerstyle guitar. Anniversary is out May 10, 2024 on Outside Music.

Sponsored by Backyard Living Center

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Claude Bourbon
Tuesday, April 23


Guitarist Claude Bourbon is known for his amazing performances that are a breathtaking acoustic fusion of blues, jazz, classical, and Spanish guitar. His inimitable style takes the acoustic guitar into uncharted territories, with all five digits on each hand dancing independently but in unison, plucking, picking, and strumming with such speed and precision that his fingers often merge into a blur. Having built up a following of loyal fans all over the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America, Claude returns for his fifth visit to the Bassment.

Sponsored by CFCR

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Daniel Champagne
Wednesday, April 24


Daniel Champagne lives and breathes live music. Described as “a leading light in acoustic music”, Daniel picked up the guitar as a five-year-old following in the footsteps of his musical father. He began writing songs at 12, training classically throughout his teens and performing wherever he could. At 18 he finished school, turned professional, and hit the road. Since then Daniel has released seven studio albums, toured relentlessly around the globe playing some of the biggest festivals under the sun, and shared stages with the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, INXS, Lucinda Williams, and Judy Collins. His latest Canadian tour will include 56 shows from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland!

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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The Mary Ancheta Quartet
Friday, April 26


Keyboardist Mary Ancheta is a Canadian Filipina artist who steps into the spotlight with her genre-bending organic, modern take on jazz and electro-funk. Inspired by the likes of Squarepusher, The Meters, John Scofield, and Prince, Ancheta knows what’s up when it comes to arresting melodies and irresistible grooves. Her quartet includes Trent Otter (drums), Dominic Conway (sax), and Matt Reid (bass). Encompassing her experience in film scoring Ancheta seeks to tap into raw fuelled moments favouring grittiness over perfection.

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!