Remembering Randi Nelson

Randi Nelson was a member of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and our principal flute for 47 years. More than just a member of the orchestra, she was a pillar of the music community in Saskatoon and across the country. When she retired we had hoped to see her smiling face in our audience for years to come. Unfortunately, life had other plans and we lost Randi to cancer in 2020.

When Randi retired in 2016 CEO Mark Turner wrote:

“If we had to pick one word to describe Randi Nelson it would be “classy”. She is kind, supportive, meticulous and extremely hard-working. Her lifelong dedication to this orchestra is an inspiration. She will always strive for the best in any situation. With a gift for organization, Randi is always taking the initiative to help coordinate her fellow musicians.”

Randi joined the SSO in the fall of 1969 and in the later part of her career she was a fountain of knowledge about the SSO. Her many memories and stories were great reminders of how far the SSO has come. She also shared her wisdom and was considered a great mentor in the SSO and the greater musical community.

Being a part of the orchestra wasn’t the only connection Randi had to the SSO. Her father, Dwayne Nelson, was the Music Director from 1971–1976. It’s safe to say her passion for music began at home. In an interview when asked about the role of music in her early life she said

“It was a major part of my family’s life. I remember all of my parents’ students sitting around in our living room listening to recordings late into the night. I would lay awake and listen.”

In the same interview, Randi lists her biggest influences in classical music as her parents and noted she was still working on a solution for nerves before a performance.

In her role as a principal, she was part of the SSO’s core. This group of musicians performs in all of the main series concerts and all the smaller gigs including school shows, touring shows, Time for Toddlers, and visits to assisted living facilities.

We love the story principal violist James Legge shares about Randi’s school show introduction about Beethoven’s 5th and those “first 5 notes”.

“Randi has taught me that it’s not all about the final concert. Rehearsals can be just as inspiring and fun. Since the beginning of my time here, she has set the example of what it means to be a good colleague, dedicated teacher, wonderful performer and caring friend.”

– Stephanie Unverricht, principal bassoon (Taken from the program notes at Randi’s retirement)

Her dedication, work ethic, and joy in making music were infectious. As noted by Margaret Wilson, principal clarinet in this lovely snippet.

“Always meticulously prepared, Randi has been such a good leader in our orchestra. Known for her ‘smoke and whisky” sound, her precise musical leadership will be sorely missed.”

– Mark Turner (Taken from the program notes at Randi’s retirement)

Erin Brophey, principal oboe, speaks of how Randi was really the core’s mom. Randi’s leadership and mentorship showed themselves in countless ways –  most of all in her actions as remembered by so many.

Due to Covid-19, there was no opportunity to have a celebration of Randi’s life. Randi’s husband Terry (cellist & longtime SSO collaborator), and her children, opened up her beloved garden for friends and family to give people a chance to grieve together safely. In that garden, SSO CEO Mark Turner announced that the SSO was going to commission a piece in honour of Randi’s memory. Terry shared a beautiful memory of seeing his wife “up to her waist in lupins” which was passed on to composer Christos Hatzis and led to the creation of the work we premiere on September 24th during our season opening concert Orchestration.

Terry graciously spoke with CBC’s Shauna Powers about Randi and the new piece. You can listen to the chat here.

When we premiere “Up to her Waist in Lupins” our current principal flute, Allison Miller, is the featured soloist. We had a chance to ask her about how she felt giving the world premiere of this work by Christos Hatzis in honour of Randi.

Before her retirement, we asked Randi what her hope was for the future of classical music in Saskatoon. She answered by saying she hoped

“that it continues to be relevant and understood as an important measure of a societal worth.”

We can’t think of a more worthy cause than a new piece of music commemorating the incredible Randi Nelson.

As Erin Brophey said in a recent CBC interview,

” it is absolutely fitting that there’s a new, incredibly gorgeous, piece that is going to be added to the flute canon. That there will be people that will continue to perform this piece and have to research who Randi was. It keeps her legacy going.”

You can be a part of continuing Randi’s legacy by donating towards the cost of the commission.

Join us at the Hub

The concert ends, you exit TCU Place, and you’re still brimming with excitement after such a fabulous evening. Where to next?

Cross the street and join us over at the Hub at Holiday Inn!

It’s the perfect place to grab a post-concert drink, and snack, alongside fellow SSO patrons, musicians, and the feature guest artists.

For September 24th we have complimentary appetizers on a first come first serve basis!


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

Suzie Vinnick
October 15, 2022


A Saskatoon native transplanted to the Niagara region of Ontario, roots and blues singer-songwriter Suzie Vinnick is the proud owner of a gorgeous voice, impressive guitar and bass chops, and an engagingly candid performance style. Her voice soars, it growls, it whispers, and it shouts from a deep, deep well of emotion. Suzie is a three-time JUNO nominee, a Canadian Folk Music award winner, a winner of 10 Maple Blues awards, and was the voice of Tim Horton’s commercials for five years. She’s toured with the Downchild Blues Band, Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Café, and has performed for Canadian Peacekeepers in Bosnia and the Persian Gulf. Suzie will be performing songs from her latest release, Fall Back Home, as well as selections from her six previous albums.

Sponsored by McEown Avenue Dental Clinic

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Christine Tassan et les imposteurs
November 6, 2022


Christine Tassan has been steering her musical ship with boundless enthusiasm and confidence for over 20 years. Blessed with an absolutely contagious dynamism, she is one of the rare female jazz and gypsy jazz guitar soloists; and she stands out for her sensitive playing, her quiet strength, and her irresistible audacity. As a singer, composer, writer, director, and producer, she has contributed to numerous musical projects in Quebec and internationally, both as a leader and as a guest musician.

Classically trained, Christine became interested in gypsy jazz improvisation upon discovery of Django Reinhardt’s music in 1998. Her gypsy jazz group les Imposteures has performed in over 600 festivals and venues in Quebec, Canada, Europe, the United States, and China. The group has 7 albums to its credit, including Entre Félix et Django which was awarded the 2017 Opus Prize for Jazz Album of the Year.

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Ariel Posen
November 7, 2022


Ariel Posen’s music occupies the space between genres. It’s a rootsy sound that nods to his influences — heartland rock & roll, electrified Americana, blue-eyed soul, R&B, Beatles-inspired pop — while still moving forward, pushing Posen into territory that’s uniquely his own.

Along the way, Posen has received standing ovations not only from his audiences, but also from outlets like Rolling Stone, who dubbed him “a modern-day guitar hero,” Music Radar who listed him as a fan voted top 10 rock guitarist of the year, and the Western Canadian Music Awards who nominated him for Breakout Artist of the Year in 2020 and 2021 and for both Rock Artist of the Year and Recording of the Year in 2022.

Alt-country singer songwriter Del Barber plays the opening set.


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Daniel Karlsson Trio
November 12, 2022


Since its album debut Das Taxibåt in September of 2013, The Daniel Karlsson Trio has been building a well-deserved reputation as being one of the leading groups in Swedish and European jazz. With a total of six critically acclaimed albums, the trio’s output has been recognized with the Swedish Radio’s Jazz Group of the Year Award, Swedish jazz magazine OJ’s Golden Disc Award, and a Swedish Jazz Grammy Award. Led by pianist/composer Daniel Karlsson, the trio also features Christian Spering (bass) and Fredrik Rundqvist (drums).

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Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar
November 13, 2022


Samantha Martin is a dynamic front woman possessed with a stunning voice capable of summoning tidal waves of spine-tingling emotion in one instance, while delicately bringing out the nuances of a gut-wrenching lyric in the next. As lead singer, songwriter, and focal point of Delta Sugar, she takes audiences to emotional peaks leaving them amazed with her sheer pin-you-against-the-wall power. But the vocal alchemy of Delta Sugar is not the work of a single talent – it’s the vocal blend produced by Samantha and her co-vocalists that creates pure, unadulterated gospel-tinged, neuron-tingling magic.

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JazzLab Orchestra
November 19, 2022


Montreal’s JazzLab Orchestra has been a respected and creative force of the Canadian jazz scene since 2004. The group explores musical writing in many styles, each time supported by stunning composers and musicians. Always keen on staying original, always gravitating to a core of esteemed artists, each subsequent JLO project teems with inspiration and audacity. The group has released 7 albums and given more then 300 concerts, performing at major jazz festivals and in prestigious venues in North America and Europe, including New York’s Jazz at the Lincoln Center and Rome’s Casa del Jazz..

Band leader and bassist Alain Bedard has assembled an orchestra featuring the talents of eight of the most respected jazz artists in Quebec. JLO has been honoured by its peers with nominations from the JUNOs, Prix OPUS, JazzMan, ADISQ, and Downbeat Magazine.

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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Michael Kaeshammer
November 27, 2022


Michael Kaeshammer has invested a lot – countless hours at the keyboard, hundreds of recordings, thousands of live performances, and millions of miles in the air and on the road – all in pursuit of a mastery of 12 notes across 88 keys. Over the course of decades as a professional performer, Kaeshammer has developed a style that weaves threads of classical, jazz, blues, boogie-woogie, stride, and even pop into a signature and sought-after sonic tapestry. Born and bred in Germany, Kaeshammer began performing club, theatre, and festival stages throughout Europe in his early teens and continued on that trajectory after emigrating to Canada’s West Coast with his family in the mid-‘90s. His first studio album, Blue Keys, dropped in 1996 and spurred a consistent sequence of heralded releases and high-profile international performances. Through it all, the world watched as he grew from child prodigy to full-fledged phenom; from unparalleled pianist to virtuosic songwriter.

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Forsyth’s Viola Concerto

When Forsyth’s Viola Concerto in G minor was first performed at the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts on 12 September 1903 it represented a significant development – possibly the first full-blown concerto for viola by a British composer. It is interesting that when it was published in 1904, by Schott of Mainz, the title was given in French and the piano reduction was by the composer John Ireland – this was presumably Forsyth offering a paid job to supplement Ireland’s meagre income as a church organist. The first performance was played by the violist Émile Férir, to whom the published score is dedicated (‘à son ami Férir’). It was repeated by Dan Godfrey at Bournemouth on 28 March 1907, when the soloist was the Dutchman Siegfried Wertheim, Tertis’s successor as the first viola of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra. Yet Tertis ignored it.

It is interesting to see the status of solo viola players before Tertis came on the scene. At the first performance Tertis would have been the first viola in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra, yet he does not mention the work. This reinforces the impression that Tertis appears not to have related to this concerto: he does not include it in his list of British viola concertos in his autobiography. Soon afterwards Férir went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with whom he appeared as a soloist on twenty-four occasions between 1903 and 1918, and in 1912 he appeared with the Boston Symphony as soloist in Forsyth’s Chanson Celtique. When Sir Henry Wood conducted at the Hollywood Bowl in 1926, he tells us, he again encountered Férir.

Forsyth is certainly a master of the singing line, and was clearly writing for a player whose instrumental timbre was known to him. The concerto’s unusual introduction is notable for the solo viola’s questionings and contrasting assertive double-stoppings (appassionato), followed by wistful musings (lento dolce), all of which is eventually elaborated into a long statement. An orchestral tutti announces another idea without the soloist, but there is a pause before we reach the movement proper with the soloist’s ever-extended lyrical line, propelled forward by oft-repeated triplets, and soon repeated by the orchestra.

The slow movement is very simple. It opens portentously with a trumpet call, soon repeated by horns, before the soloist sings its elegiac tune elaborated over forty-six bars, this mood being underlined by the ensuing cor anglais. The viola returns more passionately with new material and over a broad span builds to a climax when the orchestra sings out the opening theme. The long closing viola cantilena returns us to the elegiac mood and the vision fades as if in a dream.

The finale opens with much orchestral huffing and puffing, in no way typical of the lyrical movement that follows which is constructed from a jerky dotted idea and a lovely tune that might have been written by Dvorák. The soloist is sometimes emphatic with much double-stopping, especially towards the end, but the overall impression of good humour remains.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2005

Ruth Gipps

Composer Ruth Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England in 1921. Gipps’ family was very musical and her mother was the principal of the Bexhill School of Music.

Gipps was considered a child prodigy. She won competitions where she was the youngest participant by far, and had her first composition bought by a publishing house when she was 8 years old. She entered the Royal College of Music at the age of 16 and studied oboe, piano, and composition. At age 26 she became the youngest British woman to receive a doctorate in music.

At age 33 a shoulder injury ended her performance career and Gipps decided to focus on composition and conducting. These days, there is a small but growing number of women on the podium, when Gipps began conducting she was one of very few and faced harsh criticism from her peers. Gipps used this as a driving force to prove herself through her work, and it was probably the reason she founded so many groups that created performing opportunities for living composers and young professional musicians. She founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955 as an opportunity for young professional musicians to become exposed to a wide range of music. She founded the Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, a professional ensemble that included a work by a living composer in each of its programs, often a premiere performance. Later in her life, she served as chairwoman of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Gipps composed music in a wide range of genres, including five symphonies, seven concertos, and numerous chamber and choral works.

Ruth Gipps Symphony No. 2

Ruth Gipps Symphony No. 2
Not heard of Ruth Gipps? No. Not surprised. Gipps was a phenomenal composer who lived between 1921 and 1999 who also happened to be a pianist, conductor, and oboist. She studied at the Royal College of Music in 1937, played with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, had a short-lived performance career before a shoulder injury stopped things, and penned the second of her five symphonies in 1945.

The second symphony feels like a continuous sequence of contrasting short movements that the series of four movements you might expect from a more orthodox symphony of the time. But what makes it a Thoroughly Good Symphony is that there’s something, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is exactly, that holds the whole thing together – the story of a film without the film getting in the way, if you like.

Gipps writes brilliantly for the brass section – listen out close after the start for some blistering brass ensemble writing which should make you go weak at the knees. Listen out for The March too – highly descriptive, with an irrepressibly rousing English folk music influence to it that is reminiscent of Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suites (assuming you’re familiar with them). The slow movement around which the entire 20-minute work pivots is utterly ravishing, with a horn solo that seems to hang in mid-air. The ‘tranquil’ moment which follows has at its heart a playful pastoral melody that still manages a modern and original feel to it. Glorious stuff. It seems incredible to me this was written and premiered in the same year as Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes.

Be sure to listen out for Ramon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ recording of Ruth Gipps’ second symphony on Chandos, including the work she wrote in 1942 which was premiered at the Last Night of the Proms that year, ‘A Knight in Armour’.

Jon Jacob – Thoroughly Good

Music Talk – Orchestration

Conductor Judith Yan and CEO Mark Turner chat all about our season 92 opener Orchestration.

It’s our first hybrid Music Talk from the travel section of McNally Robinson Booksellers!

Cecil Forsyth

Cecil Forsyth was an English composer who studied at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Music in London, England. He also played the viola in various London orchestras.

He had a bit of success with his compositions including the Viola Concerto in G minor (which was premiered at the Proms in 1903 with Émile Férir as soloist and recorded in 2004 by Lawrence Power on the Hyperion label), the operas Westward Ho! and Cinderella, the “choral ballad” Tinker, Tailor, and a piece for viola and piano called Chanson celtique.

While he and his compositions are well known amongst viola players for giving their instrument the opportunity to shine, he is best known as an author. In 1914 he published a book titled Orchestration.

Forsyth described the history and inner workings of orchestral instruments as well as techniques and what is considered “playable” by musicians. The book is described as “an unparalleled insight into the inner working of an orchestra–a vivid impression of what it is like to be a violinist, clarinetist, trombonist, or other orchestral player.”


Up to Her Waist in Lupins

Up to her Waist in Lupins was commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in memory of Randi Nelson, their departed former principal flutist who served in that position for over forty years. I did not know Randi personally but she knew my music from performances by the SSO including “Departures”, my second flute concerto. Her reaction after that concert prompted Mark Turner, the CEO of the orchestra, to propose to me a ten-minute-long concerto-like composition dedicated to her. Mark’s request came with the title, which in turn came with a story. Terry Sturge, Randi’s husband, was a cellist with the orchestra. Terry’s first encounter of Randi was in 1986 in her garden. She was “up to her waist in lupins”. As it often happens with soulmates, he knew from the first moment that they were meant to be together.

Their story touched me deeply. Even though I had not met them before, I felt inexplicably connected to their story and, through it, to them. I entered their story as if they were both dear friends and I began to musically explore my own feelings feverishly and with frantic speed. The composition was completed in less than ten days. Like their story, the music has come from a place of aching familiarity and longing, a psychic state that connects people across time and space; like a quantum entanglement, uninhibited by the causal linearities of our everyday reality. I am grateful to Mark and Terry for their support and for the stories and photographs that they shared to help me enter the psychic space of this remarkable woman and the legacy she has left behind in her community. I emerged from the experience as if I had known Randi all my life and needed to send to her a musical farewell for her endless continuing journey across an endless universe.

—Christos Hatzis

Christos Hatzis

Christos Hatzis was the easy choice when it came to picking someone to write a piece in honour of flute emeritus Randi Nelson. His composition Departures breathes life into the instrument that Randi loved so much and she was thrilled when the SSO performed the work in 2019. The SSO is delighted to work with Hatzis and to give the world premiere of his new work Up to Her Waist in Lupins.

“I feel strongly that with my music, I am trying to force a tiny opening in the clouds that will allow His Light to shine through. At best, I am a follower, not a master, and my MASTER holds the patterns and patents of my being and work. So, in the best of circumstances, I can only think of myself as an imitator.”


With two earlier Juno awards, two 2017 Juno nominations and a 2017 Juno award for his double CD Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation, several national and international awards and a slew of recent commissions by internationally recognized touring artists and orchestras, University of Toronto professor Christos Hatzis is constantly active on the international music scene. Hatzis’s music is continuously presented in performance and broadcast (approx. 100 performances worldwide each of the past three pre-Covid years,) an online audio playlist with over 1,700,000 hits, and a stream of CD recordings on Naxos, Deutsche Grammophon, Centrediscs, EMI, Analekta, Sony, CBC and other major and independent labels, several of them all-Hatzis albums. The Hilary Hahn’s Deutsche Grammophon recording In 27 Pieces, which includes Hatzis’s Coming To won a Grammy Award in 2015 and topped many international top 10 lists that year. Christos Hatzis is widely recognized as “one of the most important composers writing today” (CBC) and “a contemporary Canadian master” (New Yorker). He is pioneering a distinct breed of 21st Century music which combines intellectual complexity and clarity, emotional/psychological directness and technical mastery of various media and musical idioms. His recent work focuses on climate change, geopolitical diversity, indigenous issues, migration, environmental consciousness and human rights. Recent premieres include Vernal Equinox, a marimba concerto commissioned by marimbist Theodor Milkov on the theme of the of the Greek independence war and its recent Bicentennial. Hatzis often writes about contemporary music and its relationship to today’s society and has recently completed the writing of a book on Pythagorean harmonic and metaphysical philosophy titled Resonance: A Journey of Connections Made by Intuition and an esoteric memoir titled Searching for the Right Key: The First Forty Years.