La Cucina x SSO Encore

You loved our partnership with La Cucina so much that we decided to do it again! They’ve come up with another special menu just for our patrons that pairs with The Carnival of Venice . Take a look and then give La Cucina a call (306-952-0552) to arrange your order for pickup on Saturday.   … Read more

Marcello’s Oboe Concerto

Friendly competition, especially amongst siblings, can produce interesting results. Such a pressure can make rubble just as easily as it can produce diamonds. In the case of the Marcello Brothers (Alessandro and Benedetto), such tension produced one of the most captivatingly beautiful oboe concertos ever composed.

Both brothers were born in Venice, Italy, as members of a noble family. Alessandro Marcello was determined to prove himself a composer, and while his father encouraged his younger brother to give up music in order to pursue a career in law the older Marcello busied himself with the composition of a grand oboe concerto in D minor. 

Frustrated that his elder brother got to have all the fun of being a full-time composer, Benedetto worked hard at pursuing the path given to him by their father. Upon completion of his oboe concerto in D minor, Alessandro made the mistake of providing a copy to Bendetto. Working tirelessly in every spare moment, Benedetto reworked his brother’s concerto in a lowered key (that of C minor). The oboe of the Baroque period was tuned differently than the oboes of today, and as such it naturally produced a more evocative sound in the lowered key Benedetto had assigned it in the reworked version of his brother’s concerto. 

Alessandro Marcello

But luck was not on Benedetto’s side, at least not for the moment. The legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach took an interest in Alessandro’s original version first, and consequently transcribed its 2nd movement for the organ. To this day, many of the embellishments utilized by oboists playing the Marcello Concerto are inspired by Bach’s transcription for the organ. Professional editions include such transcriptions because they offer a strong basis upon which to further improvise musically.

Long after the passing of the Marcello Brothers, music historians put both versions of the concerto to the tes. What they found intrigued them: most professional oboists preferred playing Benedetto’s rendition of his brother’s concerto. The reason for this lay in the fact that the key of C minor was simply easier to finger for the players than the D minor original! 

As many budding oboists of professional calibre look forward to performing this piece as a staple of their repertoire, there are few who wish to go through the frustrations of learning the concerto in a key that presents more difficult fingerings to achieve nearly the same result. And so it was that Benedetto got the last laugh, his version of Alessandro’s concerto rising in popularity into more modern times as his brother’s music (referenced as the “last outpost of the classic Venetian Baroque concerto”) faded into obscurity. 

The first movement of the concerto is regal, but without the gravity required to firmly establish it as majestic. It is a stately neutral, consisting of a series of calls and responses between strings and the oboe soloist. Movement two provides a treasure trove of potential for embellishments, and this can be owed to Bach’s organ transcriptions just as much as it can be attributed to Benedetto’s re-orchestration. This is the movement which really characterizes and colors the concerto as a whole. Revered by oboists the world over, this movement provides countless opportunities to showcase improvised virtuosity. The strings and continuo pulsate throughout, providing a stable framework of support for this improvisation. Overall, this movement highlights the oboe at its most yearning and introspective, accentuating its brilliant qualities in a wide array of deep musical colors. Entirely in contrast to the 2nd movement, the final movement is all about speed and dexterity: a true test of the raw technical abilities possessed by its soloist. Comprising almost entirely of sixteenth notes, difficult running passages are peppered throughout this movement, leaving no room for even a single musical stumble. With a bright and dance-like impulsivity, this final movement shines with musical laughter even to the last note. 

Overall, the Marcello Concerto is one which does a tremendous job of showcasing the versatility of its oboe soloist, offering moments of musical anticipation and emotional payoff which clearly illustrate the oboe’s gift for moving us to our core. Resplendent with dynamic contrasts between its three movements, there are so many reasons to love the oboe when one listens to this piece.

Finding Isabella Leonarda

One of the most gifted and under-appreciated composers of the Baroque period, Isabella Leonarda spent the majority of her life in an Ursuline convent and dedicated nearly all of her compositions (nearly 200 in total) to the Virgin Mary in addition to a living person of great status (such as Austrian Emperor Leopold I). Leonarda was emphatic that she composed “…not to gain credit in the world, but so that all would know that [she was] devoted to the Virgin Mary.” 

In 1636, at only sixteen years of age, Isabella entered the Collegio di Sant’Orsola in Novara, Italy. Her wealthy family’s political ties and status as benefactors of the convent allowed her to rise in prominence as a figure of authority who commanded a great deal of respect. She worked diligently for many years, acquiring many titles including that of mother superior. 

Isabella’s musical education prior to entering the Collegio di Sant’Orsola is shrouded in mystery. Music historians suggest that Isabella, once she had been accepted into the convent, honed much of her skill as a musician and composer under the tutelage of Gasparo Casati (who had begun serving as the maestro di cappella at the Novara cathedral only one year previous to her arrival at the convent). Other scholars dispute that such a mentoring ever occurred, citing insufficient evidence. In fact, the only record that seems to support Casati’s mentorship of Isabella lies in the former having compiled two of Isabella’s earliest known compositions for his Third Book of Sacred Songs.

Serving as a music teacher in the convent, Isabella continued to hone her abilities as a composer. Her works delved into nearly every genre of sacred music (including sacred concertos, Latin dialogues, litanies, and masses), and she also found time to compose for strings, chorus, and solo/continuo. Her Sonate da chiesa (Opus 16) is regarded as the first instrumental sonata written and published by a female composer.

Isabella specialized in the solo motet, but is remembered for her sonatas (in particular her only solo sonata, Sonata 12). Unlike many women of her time, Isabella had been educated in formal counterpoint and other advanced techniques at a young age. Her complex usage of harmonies was ahead of its time by nearly half a century, and she pushed the genre of polyphonic music as a whole forward with her intricate compositional insight. 

Leonarda is best remembered for her sonatas, in part, because of their unusually varied formal structure. In contrast to Archangelo Corelli’s standard form (four movements of alternating fast and slow tempi), some of Isabella’s sonatas feature as many as thirteen movements (as in her Sonata 4). Additionally, those sonatas she composed in four sections do not often align with Corelli’s slow-fast-slow-fast model. Her usage of the refrain in Sonata 10 characterizes just how complex her understanding of music was: instead of a single refrain unfolding in an ABAB pattern, she chooses to double the refrain in the zig-zagging pattern of ABCDEBDFBG.

She was quite fond of using canzona-style imitation and duple meter in the faster sections of her sonatas, emulating both toccata and recitative in the homophonic sections of contrasting tempi. Her dance-like sections in triple time showcase the spirited brilliance of her compositional genius. Though history has attempted to reframe her as a nun who held special privileges within the convent (privileges which would have allowed her to bypass her daily duties in favor of finding time to compose) we now know that is not the case. In the dedication to her 10th Opus, Leonarda writes that she “wrote music only during time allotted for rest so as not to neglect [her] administrative duties within the convent.”

Although Isabella Leonarda was well-known in her native Novara, other parts of Italy did not experience the joy of hearing her work performed very often. It would take several hundred years for a handful of her sonatas to reach the ears of the wider world. Her compositional career spanned six decades, and the bulk of her sonatas were completed after she turned fifty years of age. Yet the only works of hers to appear in broad circulation before 1670 were the two pieces her alleged mentor Gasparo Casati had borrowed for his Third Book of Sacred Songs.

Blessed with compositional gifts and insight ahead of her time, Isabella Leonarda lived a quiet but busy life of spiritual devotion and musical excellence.

The Carnival of Venice

The history and characters of Venice’s spectacular Carnivale are just as varied as the masks and colorful garments which have traditionally populated it. Legend has it that the bombastic celebration of all things artistic started following the military victory of the Venetian Republic over the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in the year 1162. Rejoicing at the victory, the people started to dance and gather in San Marco Square. 

Becoming an official event during the Renaissance, it was not until the seventeenth century that the Baroque Carnival was used as a way of preserving the image of Venice as a city of prestige to the rest of the world. Its popularity increased to greater heights in the eighteenth century as a means of reducing civil unrest. Unfortunately, the festival was outlawed entirely in 1797 under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and later Emperor of Austria, Francis II. The use of Carnivale masks became strictly forbidden. 

The festival made a comeback over the nineteenth century, but the focus shifted towards prioritizing private feasts and opening up the event to a wide variety of artisans. The Carnival returned in 1979, when the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice. Mask-making skyrocketed after some Venetian college students pursued this centuries-old hobby for the satisfaction of tourist trade. It is said that approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year just to celebrate the Carnival. 

Those who enjoy the artistic beauty of masks will always find plenty to be impressed by at the festival, in particular the contest for la maschera più bella (“the most beautiful mask”), judged by a panel of international fashion and costume designers. The masks themselves have always been an important part of Venice’s Carnival. In its early days, people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the end of the carnival season at midnight of Shrove Tuesday (usually held during February or early March). As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise.

As a result of this booming mask industry, Venetian mask makers (known as mascherari) enjoyed something of a privileged social position in the Carnival’s early years. They had their own guild, and honed their craft by importing leather, porcelain and certain types of glass. In modern times, the majority of genuine Italian masks are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate. It is likely that each mask, while unique in certain elements of form and decoration, will belong to one of several distinct styles. Let’s peruse some of the most popular options!

The bauta is a mask which features an odd, but incredibly practical design element. Originally a simple white, it was fashioned to comfortably cover the entire face, and bauta today are heavily gilded in something of a gaudy fashion. Characterized by an over-prominent nose, and a face shape which looks something like an upside-down pentagon. The beak-like chin bears no opening for the mouth, but projects outwards to enable the wearer to talk, eat, and drink without having to remove it. 

Traditionally, the bauta is accompanied by a red or black cape and a tricorn hat. This mask was endorsed for use by the Venetian government during the 18th century. In addition to a black circular or semicircular clasped cape called a tabarro, it was a required piece of uniform at certain political decision-making events (especially when the involved citizens were required to act anonymously as peers). The bauta is a stately authoritative mask, and makes one look quite the dashing commodore when paired with a tricorn.

Legend has it that female mask-wearers were disappointed at the ancient decree that only men should wear the bauta, so female mask-makers made them a subsequent design of their own.The Colombina is a half-mask, covering the wearer’s eyes, nose, and upper cheeks. Often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and feathers, it can be held up to the face by a baton or tied with a ribbon at the back for dancing. Named after a stock character in the Commedia dell’arte, Colombina was a maidservant who was an adored part of Italian theatrical productions for generations. Some claim that it was first created for an actress who did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely. However, there are no historic paintings depicting its use on the stage, and it seems to have been a modern invention primarily intended for use at masked balls.

The Larva (meaning ghost in Latin) is another iconic modern Venetian mask, one which is often made of white porcelain or plastic. It is frequently decorated, and like the bauta can be commonly observed on Carnival attendees worn with a tricorn and cloak. Heavier than a typical mask and with a much tighter fit, it is secured in the back with a ribbon. The Larva covers the entire face of the wearer and extends farther back to just before the ears. Depicting the nose and lips in simple facial expressions, this mask is nearly impossible to wear while eating and drinking. As the Larva was never a stock character in Commedia Dell’arte, the design of this mask has not been reworked to feature a hinged jaw. 

The Zanni are masked characters who often play supporting roles in commedia performances, often fulfilling societal roles such as a local policeman or shopkeeper. Zanni masks take several different shapes, but they all share several features in common: their half mask is made of leather, featuring a low forehead, bulging eyebrows and a long nose with a reverse curve towards the end. In Commedia Dell’arte, a long nose denotes a character’s stupidity (as does a low forehead). One of the most recognized of the Zanni is Arlecchino, meaning harlequin, who is meant to be a servant devoid of reason and full of emotion. His originally wooden and later leather half-mask depicts him as having a short nose, a set of wide, round, arching eyebrows, a rounded beard, and always a “bump” upon his forehead. 

The most well-known mask at Carnival is easily Pantalone, the lecherous old man whose name stems from the Italian “pianta il leone”. This bawdy reference to the character’s many lovers in Venice is only a veneer… for Pantalone is usually represented as a sad old man with an oversized nose like the beak of a bird, with high eyebrows. A half-mask worn almost exclusively by men, its popularity has begun to wane in recent years. With so many different interpretations on these classic characters, its no wonder that Carnival continues to be a Mecca of sorts for mask-enthusiasts everywhere, year after year. We hope you enjoy the dazzling sounds of the Venetian Carnival in our concert, featuring your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Tartini the Virtuoso

If you’ve ever been to a dog park, you’ve likely come across the great pyrenees: a massive canine with the look of a dandelion puffball and the courage of an elephant. But have you ever met the Greatest Piranese? That honor is reserved for Giuseppe Tartini, a composer born in the small town of Piran (which was situated on the peninsula of Istria, and which is now a part of Slovenia).

In Tartini’s childhood, his native Piran was a part of the Republic of Venice, the local governor being an appointed man from Florence (Gianantonio Zangrando) and his wife Caterina (who was a descendant of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Piran). Tartini’s parents were set on him becoming a Fransiscan friar, and so they took the appropriate measures to ensure he was musically trained. But it soon became clear that Tartini was not destined for monastic greatness, as he had his eye set on law. Leaving Piran, he journeyed to the University of Padua, where he began to study law and hone his fencing skills. 

The death of his father in 1710 prompted him to settle down, but he defied his parents’ expectations of him once more: he married Elisabetta Premazore, a woman his father would never have given him blessing to wed. Elizabetta’s lower social class and age difference to Tartini didn’t bother the latter one bit, and it seemed as though a happy ending were in store for the two newly-weds. That is, until the intervention of the powerful Cardinal Giorgio Cornaro!

Elizabetta was the apple of Cardinal Cornaro’s eye, and he promptly charged Tartini with abduction. Fleeing Padua and a distraught Elizabetta, Tartini took refuge in the monastery of St. Francis in Assisi in order to escape prosecution. It was almost as if his parents had been trying to help him avoid this traumatic turn of events all along. During his stay with the Fransiscan friars, Tartini began practicing the violin as a hobby. 

But Tartini was competitive by nature, and when he heard Francesco Maria Veracini’s playing in 1716 (and realized he had a long way to go before reaching violin mastery), he fled the friars to find lodgings in Ancona. According to music historian Charles Burney, Tartini would lock himself inside his chambers for hours every day with his violin “in order to study the use of the bow in more tranquility, and with more convenience than at Venice.”

Tartini’s violin playing improved greatly over the next five years, so much so that he was appointed Maestro di Cappella at the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua, the very same Padua he had fled at the “encouragement” of Cardinal Cornaro. His contract there allowed him to play for other institutions if he wished, and while in Padua he befriended fellow composer and theorist Francesco Antonio Vallotti. By now the Cardinal had all but forgotten about Tartini, and he was able to reinvent his life in Padua with a new friend by his side.

Tartini was the first known owner of a violin made by the famed instrument builder Antonio Stradivari. The violin itself was his pride and joy, fashioned in 1715 and passed down to Tartini’s student Salvini, who in turn gave it to Polish composer and virtuoso violinist Karol Lipiński upon hearing him perform. One of the most famous violins in the world, the instrument is known today as the Lipinski Stradivarius. Tartini was also fortunate enough to own and play another Stradivarius violin (the ex-Vogelweith) which had been fashioned in 1711.

Five years into his position in Padua, Tartini started a violin school which attracted students from across Europe. As he grew more proficient on the violin he became more fascinated in the theory of harmony and acoustics, and published treatises on this subject from 1750 to the end of his life. Giuseppe Tartini laid down his bow for the last time surrounded by friends and students in Padua. A statue of Tartini was erected in the square of the composer’s home town of Piran to commemorate him and all he contributed to the world of music during his lifetime. Not only that, they named the entire square and even a hotel after him! His birthday is celebrated by a concert in the main town cathedral to this very day.

While the vast majority of Tartini’s compositional output are violin concerti and sonatas, he did pen a few sacred works (such as Miserere, composed between 1739 and 1741 at the request of Pope Clement XII). Tartini’s music poses increasing problems for scholars and editors interested in sharing his music with the world, because the composer never dated his manuscripts. He also had the infuriating habit of revising his finished works, meaning that placing his compositions on a timeline is nearly impossible to do. The greatest effort made towards solving this problem was undertaken by scholars Minos Dounias and Paul Brainard (who have attempted to divide Tartini’s works into stylistic periods based on the musical characteristics of each individual piece.

Tartini and the Devil

Today, musical scholars can all agree that Tartini’s most enduring work is the “Devil’s Trill Sonata”. This solo violin sonata requires a number of demanding double stop trills, difficult even by modern standards. An urban legend spread by the Russian Philosopher Madame Blavatsky claimed that Tartini was “inspired to write the sonata by a dream in which the Devil appeared at the foot of his bed playing the violin”. This hectic piece is daunting even to the most experienced violinists, and only played in public by those who are willing to risk carpal tunnel syndrome!

But Tartini’s genius was not merely reserved to his compositions for the violin. Tartini was also a music theorist, and is credited with the discovery of sum and difference tones. His treatise on ornamentation was eventually translated into French in 1771, and is still useful as the first published text devoted entirely to ornament. In modern times, this text has provided first-hand information on violin technique for historically informed performances. A later edition of this text includes a facsimile of the original Italian, copied in the hand of Giovanni Nicolai (one of Tartini’s best known students) and which features an opening section on bowing and a closing section on how to compose cadenzas not previously known.

A remarkable composer and violinist, Giuseppe Tartini will forever be remembered for his seemingly “supernatural” abilities on the violin, earned through a great deal of practice and dedication to his craft! 

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!

Adriana Isabel Figueroa Mañas

One of Argentina’s most celebrated female composers, Adriana Figueroa Mañas is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist who graduated with a licentiate in music and flute from The National University of Cuyo’s School of Music in 1997. She pursued further studies at her Argentine alma mater,  completing Masters courses in Latino-American music as well as several courses in jazz, improvisation, chamber music composition and orchestration. 

Mañas served as flautist to several professional orchestras in Mendoza, Argentina, before establishing her own studio to offer flute, saxophone, and composition instruction. A member of the West Jazz Band and Camerata Barroca, she has also lent her incredible musical talents as a cellist to the Academic Orchestra of Mendoza.

Accepted as an associate member of the Latin Grammy Academy for her contributions as a composer, she has also served as media composer and musical producer to Film Andes. A member of the Argentinian Foundation of Women Composers, she helps to promote the music of female composers throughout Argentina so that they can receive a wider audience.

 Her symphonic works have premiered throughout South America, Spain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia, China, Sweden and the United States. Some of the more notable orchestras who have had the honor of debuting her work include: I Solisti Veneti, The Symphonic Orchestra of Unicamp, The Arizona Southern Symphonic Orchestra, and Artura Toscanini. In addition to producing original music for animations, video games, film, and television, since 1992 Mañas has devoted herself to the formation of instrumental groups for children, and has recorded several children’s albums to date.

 She received a plaque of recognition for her contribution to the art and culture of Mendoza, Argentina, in 2009. The international chamber music festival “Por los Caminos del Vino” honored her music in 2014, and she provided scoring for the documentary “La mirada del colibri” in 2016. Her 2009 composition for flute, violin, and cello, (“Misteros Urbanos”) constructs a sprawling array of exciting musical architecture in its opening bars: a city of music coming to life before your very ears! And when this city goes to bed, a captivating blanket of stars slowly flit across the night sky…

Misteros Urbanos incorporates jazz elements and constructs a musical narrative through which the listener is exposed to all sides of this remarkable painted city. It utilizes dissonance to provoke wonder, finding beauty in the strangest of shapes. The first rays of the sun break over the hill, led by passionate rumbling passages from the piano, and a new day breaks fresh and clean over the silent city. An invigorating wind is blown through the clouds by a cluster of flutes, and you can taste the romance in the air. A percussive and undulating finale is sure to leave you feeling warmed from head to toe…and utterly inspired. Don’t miss your ticket to Buenos Aires, where your Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra will bring Adriana Figueroa Mañas’ “Misteros Urbanos” to life!

Local Gift Guide

We asked our musicians and staff to come up with their favourite local spots for holiday shopping. Looking for some last minute gift ideas? Check out our local gift guides! You can visit our retail page for gift cards, prints, and more!

Free Christmas Streams

We knew our holiday concerts would be special, but we were blown away by the response!

Our two December live streams had a combined viewership of nearly 12,000 people from across the province and all over the world – thank you for making our spirits bright! Live streaming in this pandemic has meant a lot of hard and challenging work to bring the music to life, both on screen and off, and we’re so grateful to see the response.

It has been a pleasure to bring this music to you when we can’t be together to make music again.  The launch of our Digital Concert Stream has been transformational for the SSO, and to show our thanks we’re giving you a special Christmas gift.

From December 24th (at noon) until January 1st you will be able to stream our holiday concerts for free right here on our website!

The two concerts showcase both sides of Christmas music – fun and festive, and traditional and timeless. The SSO is conducted by William Rowson, and over the course of the two concerts is joined by guests Casey Peden, Lisa Hornung, Spencer McKnight, and Dean McNeill, with special performances by the SSO Brass and the SSO Winds, conducted by Brian Unverricht.

On top of A Night at the North Pole and A Candlelight Christmas, we’ve included special interviews, behind the scenes footage, and even a couple of extra never before seen performances!

We’re excited to feature Aurora Voce, conducted by Jennifer Lang, in a special performance of Joni Mitchell’s timeless classic River in an arrangement we commissioned for them by Saskatoon’s own Andrew Kesler (Accent). As well we have the SSO’s own Stephanie Unverricht in an intimate solo performance filmed in the stunning St John’s Cathedral from the night before our Candlelight Christmas concert.

Whether you’re watching them for the first time or watching them again, please feel free to share these free holiday streams with your loved ones and let their days be merry and bright!

We couldn’t have done anything this fall without the incredible support of our patrons – there are no words to properly express how grateful the musicians and staff of the SSO are that you have adapted and supported us through this challenging year.

From all of us at the SSO to you and yours, happy holidays – let your hearts be light!

Toffee for Christmas – Watch Party Idea

At the SSO offices, December means one thing…our Director of Administration is bringing Toffee to work.

Natal Laycock’s role at the SSO is an important one (not just because of the toffee!), and we all think she’s part super-human as she handles work, home, kids, even piano lessons! In her 5 years at the SSO, her toffee has become the stuff of legends – its not every day that someone has made toffee for you, so when it happens its a memorable moment.

We invaded Natal’s toffee making this year to steal her recipe for you to give a try as a pairing with our Candlelight Christmas concert!

 

Delicious – let’s get started!

Here’s what you need – Ingredients:
1 can condensed milk (Orignal, not low fat)
1 cup cane sugar (ie Roger’s Brand)
1/2 cup butter (scant)
2 cups golden or brown sugar

But you’ll also need…
Heavy bottom sauce pan (2.5L or larger)
Long handled wooden spoon
Candy thermometer (optional, but recommended)
cookie sheet
parchment paper (or extra butter)

Optional – up to you, but not in ours:
chopped nuts

Now let’s get to it!

Step 1: Line the cookie sheet with parchment, or grease with butter and set aside. If using nuts, sprinkle on the sheet now.

Step 2: Combine all ingredients into sauce pan, and set the burner to at least med-high.

Step 3: Stir continuously, scraping the bottom, so the sugar does not burn to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will begin to change color, and fleck with darker pieces.

Warning: boiling candy splatters, and it burns!

The mixture will need to boil until it reaches over 300*F (hard crack). This will take roughly 20 minutes, depending on your burners. Keep stirring and scraping! Stick the candy thermometer in after about 10 minutes, ensuring it stays below the surface, and off the bottom of the pan to get an accurate read.

Step 4: Once the mixture has reached hard crack, remove from heat and pour over prepared cookie sheet.

Optional step: ‘score’ the toffee when it is partially set. Leave the toffee out at room temperature. Drag a butter knife across the surface to create break or ‘score’ lines in roughly the size of the pieces you want to make. If the toffee sticks to the knife, or the lines fill back in, it’s still too hot.

Step 5: Set tray in fridge/freezer/snow bank until set and then break apart. If you’ve scored it, turn the toffee upside down so the score lines are facing down.

Step 6: Break it up! As you can see from the video, even a screwdriver works…

Important: Store in a ziploc bag, or sealed container, and keep refrigerated.

It’s an incredibly tasty treat that is worth all that time standing over the heat! And once you’re done, it can be enjoyed with a number of classic holiday drinks…hot cocoa, milk, tea, coffee (Baileys optional!), and peppermint schnapps.

If you’ve never tried to make homemade toffee, this is your year. Let us know how it turned out!