Celebrating Margaret Wilson

StarPhoenix article with Margaret Wilson (Née Bluhm)

Our beloved principal clarinet Margaret Wilson is retiring after 47 seasons with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

We are fairly certain that Margaret is the longest-serving principal clarinet of any organization in Canada. She’s also close to having been the longest-serving principal clarinet in North America beaten out only by Stanley Drucker of the New York Philharmonic whose 49 years made the Guinness Book of World Records. Needless to say, Margaret has given an incredible amount of her time and talents to the SSO and her retirement is well-earned.

In September 1977, Margaret Bluhm arrived from British Columbia and began her career as an artist in residence and the principal clarinet of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Lucky for us, Margaret met her husband within the first month of moving to Saskatoon and her prairie roots only continued to grow.

She began playing the clarinet in grade 7 as a part of her school’s band program. (We love our band teachers!) In a 2020 chat with Music Director Emeritus Eric Paetkau Margaret mentioned that she didn’t know anything about the instrument when she picked it out but “it wasn’t too big” and that she “loved it from the very beginning”.

It’s incredibly special to have talent like Margaret be a part of an organization for so long. She has played well over a thousand concerts with the SSO, in Saskatoon and the surrounding area, including shows at TCU place, chamber shows at venues like the Bessborough and now Grosvenor Park United, elementary schools around the city, assisted living facilities, toddler shows, tours, and so much more.

We aren’t the only ones that have benefited from Margaret’s talents. She has collaborated with musicians and groups around the city as a performer, and she has taught many young clarinettists over the years. Between her private studio and her work at the University of Saskatchewan, Margaret has an incredible legacy of students who have benefited from her wisdom.

Margaret is always a joy to play with. Not only is she talented and incredibly well-prepared, but she has a calm and joyful presence. This presence seems to radiate out and elevate every ensemble she performs with. Ask any of our musicians and they can tell you how Margaret has influenced them over the years both as artists and in their everyday lives.

At our concert on May 4, 2024, CEO Mark Turner will gift Margaret with the title Clarinet Emeritus. While she will no longer be our principal clarinet as of next fall, she will always have a place with the SSO. We hope you join us in giving Margaret a very well-deserved standing ovation. We owe her that, and so much more.

While we are very selfishly sad to see her go, we look forward to seeing photos of Margaret’s incredible garden (with 18+ varieties of tomato plants) and hope that she has a well-earned rest before she tackles her next adventure. (Perhaps she’s learning other new instruments? At one time she was learning the bassoon!)

In 2020 we did a series of “Meet the Musician” interviews hosted by Eric Paetkau while everyone was isolating at home. So you can hear Margaret chat a little bit about herself, and answer questions that came up in the chat from friends, fans, and colleagues.

 

(We’ve learned a lot about live streams since the spring of 2020!)

We have so many fond memories of working and making music with Margaret, and we’re grateful to have captured the last few years of our time together on video. You can revisit many wonderful Margaret moments over on ConcertStream.tv

As a special treat, we will finish with some lovely photos and a link to Margaret’s holiday treat Pfeffernüsse!

Judith Yan, conductor

Equally adept at conducting symphony, opera, and ballet, Judith Yan’s career has taken her internationally, conducting for major companies in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. She has held Staff Conductor positions at San Francisco OperaCanadian Opera Company, and National Ballet of Canada.

Her recent debuts were celebrated with critical acclaim: “In her Vancouver Opera debut, Canadian Conductor Judith Yan really shone in the pit, bringing extraordinarily lyrical and expressive playing from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra.” (Vancouver Opera, La Boheme, Opera Canada 2018). “Under the direction of Canadian conductor Judith Yan, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is simply wonderful.” (West Australian Ballet, Don Quixote, Greg Ross, 2018). “Judith Yan, her Seattle Opera debut, conducted the orchestra with vigour and deep sympathy for the score.” (Seattle Opera, An American Dream, Classical Voice America, 2017). “Under the baton of Judith Yan, the music just came to life.” (Kentucky OperaOrfeo​, Arts-Louisville Reviews). “The Edmonton Symphony played splendidly under Judith Yan…coaxed many vivid, dramatically transparent moments from the players.” (Edmonton OperaLa Traviata, Opera Canada 2019).

While with the San Francisco Opera, she served as Staff Conductor, assistant to Maestro Sir Donald Runnicles, where her performances of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for San Francisco Opera was included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top Ten Classical Performances of the Year. Prior to San Francisco Opera, she served as the first Conductor-in-Residence of the Canadian Opera Company, where she made her debut with Britten’s Rape of Lucretia. As the Principal Conductor of Opera on the Avalon since 2010, she has lead numerous productions including Ours, Shawnadithit, Tosca, La Boheme, Tosca, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, La Traviata, Albert Herring, and Dead Man Walking.

As a conductor of symphony, she served as the Artistic Director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra for 8 seasons, where she expanded the orchestra’s symphonic and operatic repertoire with works by composers Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, Francis Poulenc, Leonard Bernstein. Along with new works and premieres, she added operatic repertoire by Puccini, Verdi, Strauss, Humperdinck, and created the unique Triple-Feature “Symphony, Opera, and Ballet” Gala. As a guest conductor, she has collaborated with orchestras such as Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, Hong Kong PhilharmonicManitoba Chamber Orchestra and Saskatoon Symphony.

As a conductor of ballet, she has conducted over 90 performances at the Four Season’s Centre for the National Ballet of Canada, working with the world’s foremost choreographers including John Neumeier, Ronald Hynd, and James Kuldelka. With National Ballet of Canada and as a guest internationally, she has conducted the ballets of Balanchine, Cranko, Aldous, Bart, Harvey, Kiliàn, Lander, Stowell, Wright, and Grigorovich. Since 2010, she has had a close association with several ballet companies, including Hong Kong Ballet, conducting the company’s production of Swan Lake as well as premiering four of the company’s productions: Cynthia Harvey’s Sleeping Beauty, Terence Kohler’s The Nutcracker, Nina Ananiashvili’s Don Quixote, and the Asian world-premiere of Anna-Marie Holme’s Le Corsaire. She conducted the Polish premiere of Cranko’s ​The Taming of the Shrew in 2015 for Polish National Ballet, at Teatr Wielki in Warsaw.

In 2014, she made her Seoul conducting debut with Korean National Ballet, conducting the Korean Symphony in Yury Grigorovich’s La Bayadère, returning in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 to conduct Patrice Bart’s Giselle, Grigorovich’s Swan Lake, and a revival of La Bayadère. She made her Australian conducting debut in 2017 with West Australian Ballet, conducting the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Lucette Aldous’s Don Quixote, returning in 2018 for the world-premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Dracula and 2019 for Greg Horsman’s La Bayadère.

Recent performances include 3 critically acclaimed world-premieres: Jack Perla’s An American Dream for Seattle Opera and John Estacio’s Ours for Opera on the Avalon, Krzysztof Pastor’s Dracula for West Australian Ballet, company debuts with National Arts Centre Orchestra for Cynthia Harvey’s Sleeping BeautyTeatr Wielki in Warsaw for the Polish premiere of Cranko’s The Taming of the ShrewWest Australian Ballet and West Australian Symphony for Lucette Aldous’s Don Quixote, and Yury Grigorovich’s La Bayadère for Korean National Ballet and Korean Symphony.

2018/19 season included Vancouver Opera for La Boheme and Edmonton Opera for La Traviata, the season-opening gala concert for the Elora Festival, a revival of the opera Ours at Opera on the AvalonDvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and Beethoven’s Mass in C with Guelph Symphony Orchestra, productions of Greg Horsman’s La Bayadère and the world-première of Krzysztof Pastor’s Dracula for West Australian Ballet.

​For 2019/20, she opened both Korean National Ballet’s season with Yury Grigorovich’s Swan Lake, and Edmonton Opera’s with Verdi’s Rigoletto, ​Sleeping Beauty ​with West Australian Ballet, and concerts with Guelph Symphony Orchestra.

During the pandemic seasons of 2020/21 and 2021/22, she travelled to Hong Kong Ballet for a production of Don Quixote, made her debut with Saskatoon Symphony in programme of Sibelius, Copland, and Bernstein, and conducted a concert with Opera on the Avalon and Newfoundland Symphony. In 2021/22, she made her debut with Kentucky Opera with Orfeo, and returned to Saskatoon Symphony with a programme of Franklin and Tchaikovsky.

This 2022/23 season includes productions with Opera Omaha for Suor AngelicaNew Orleans Opera for a new production of Madama ButterflyOpera on the Avalon for Jake Heggie’s Three DecembersSan Francisco Opera (Merola) for The Rape of Lucretia, continues her collaboration with Saskatoon Symphony, opening its 92nd season with a Canadian premiere of Gipps’s Symphony No. 2, Forsyth’s Viola Concerto, and a world-premiere SSO commission of Canadian composer, Christos Hatzis. She returns to Saskatoon in November for a programme of De Falla and Ravel, and again in 2023 for a concert of Copland and Wagner.

Also in the 22/23 season is the much anticipated world-premiere of Laura Kaminsky and Lisa Moore’s February for Opera on the Avalon.

Judith is fluent in English and Cantonese. She is a Canadian citizen and American Resident, eligible to work in USA, Canada, and Hong Kong.

https://judithyan.com/

2-for-1 Subscriptions

Trying to find date night ideas? Looking for a new way to get away from it all? Just love the music?

If you’ve never subscribed to the SSO but think it’s time we have special offers for you.

2-for-1 Subscription Packages

New subscribers can purchase a full-priced Masters or Pops series package and get the second one free!

 

Masters

Enigma
September 21, 2024

Controlled Burn
October 26, 2024

Sleeping Beauty
February 15, 2025

The Lost Birds
March 8, 2025

Pictures at an Exhibition
March 29, 2025

Chopin and the New World
May 3, 2025

Pops

An Evening of Pink Floyd
November 16, 2024

Elf in Concert
December 7, 2024

Disney In Concert Once Upon A Time
January 25, 2025

Symphonic Sci-Fi
April 12, 2025

See the full season lineup.

Prices for 2-for-1 packages can be found on our pricing sheet. Click here to download your copy.

Give us a call (306-665-6414), fill out the online form, or stop by our office to subscribe today (602B 51st Street E, Saskatoon).

 

The Genius of William Grant Still

Called “the Dean of African-American composers”, William Grant Still (1895–1978) worked in all genres of music – from jazz to Broadway musicals to modern classical music (he studied in New York with Edgard Varèse, who encouraged Still to find his own voice as a composer, explore his black heritage and exploit his talent for melody). Still achieved many firsts for an African-American – the first to have a symphony performed by a major symphony orchestra; first to conduct a major orchestra; first to conduct an orchestra in the Deep South; first to have an opera (‘Troubled Island’) produced by a major company; and first to have an opera (‘A Bayou Legend’) broadcast on television (posthumously in 1981).

Like his contemporary George Gershwin, Still successfully mixed the idioms of jazz with classical music. In his Suite for Violin and Piano, the third movement contains a syncopated violin line and a jazz piano style called stride. His African-American Symphony is infused with the blues of the Deep South. More subtle than Gershwin’s ‘Broadway jazz’, Still used the African American elements not simply for orchestral colour but places them at the heart of the work. The symphony boasts rich harmonies, brilliant orchestration, jazz-inflected rhythms in a work which can easily stand up against the best of the genre. There is sweetness and sadness, depression and joy, and a beautiful, heart-rending finale. His piano music, notably Three Visions, demonstrates his remarkable talent for blending and contrasting colours to support a melody with wonderful subtlety, and the spiritual qualities of this music, most evident in ‘Summerland’, are on a par with the late piano music of Beethoven or Schubert.

Still’s musical language was not bound to one genre, nor did he set out to write distinctly “African-American” music, and he firmly believed that one should be a master of all styles. Some of his music displays distinctly modernist idioms, especially that written in the latter part of his life, while his experiences as an orchestrator and pit musician informed his later compositions and led to his success in both popular and art music.

The SSO is thrilled to perform Still’s Symphony No 1 on February 10th as part of our concert Roaring Twenties – see it live or stream it from home!

David Blamires, Vocalist

David Blamires was born in Yorkshire, England but grew up in London, Ontario, Canada.

David got his start in music as a very busy session vocalist in Toronto, singing on thousands of jingles, album recordings, and soundtracks. As a member of the (U.S.-based) Pat Metheny Group from 1986-1997, he appeared on three Grammy Award-winning albums and performed for multitudes of fans all over the world. During this time he also recorded and released his own self-titled contemporary jazz album, “The David Blamires Group”, throughout the U.S. and Canada.

In 1997, David and his family moved from Toronto to Chicago, where he began working as a staff composer for a very successful music and audio production company. David writes and records music for TV and radio commercials, for clients such as American Airlines, Coors, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s, Kraft, and many more.

David performs regularly around the Chicago area, both as a solo artist and as a guest vocalist with “Tributosaurus”, a phenomenally successful tribute/cover band. David is the father of an AAA hockey-playing daughter, and is consequently never home and always broke.

www.jeansnclassics.com/artists/david-blamires

Sing-Along Messiah FAQ

Messiah time is almost here! We love putting together and performing Handel’s Messiah each year. If it were possible we would fit everyone from Saskatoon’s large choral community on stage with us for one amazing choir. Since there isn’t nearly enough room up front (and scheduling rehearsals would be a nightmare) we have the Sing-Along Messiah the afternoon after the Messiah performance. Choral professionals and enthusiasts alike join in singing beloved Messiah choruses as one huge choir.

Always wondered about the Sing-Along but you’ve never taken the leap? Have no fear! Here are some answers to the frequently asked Messiah Sing-Along questions.

Where and when is the Sing-Along?

Sing-Along Messiah is Saturday, December 16th at 2:30 pm in Knox United Church. This is the same location for the Friday night performance. Doors open at 1:45 pm so come early to get your seat (and perhaps do a warmup or two)!

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available online and at the door. Singers tickets are just $20 and our Scotiabank 25Below is in effect at the door! ($15 for anyone 25 and under with ID at the ticket table)

Do I have to sing?

No! We do not force everyone to sing. If you want to come enjoy our soloists, and an incredibly large choir, come watch and listen. We recommend you sit in one of the balconies at Knox to have the full experience.

Where do the singers sit?

We divide the main floor into sections (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) so you can sit with your voice type (your people!). This way it is easier for those sight reading or experiencing their first Sing-Along. Confidence in numbers!

How do I know when to sing?

Our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus Conductor Duff Warkentin and Maestra Cosette Justso Valdés will be there to lead the charge! Keep your eyes on the baton as there are changes in tempi. All sing-along portions are bolded in the program with title numbers.

Can I sing the soloists part?

We invite you to sing along with our Saskatoon Symphony Chorus. Our soloists will be there for the recits and arias. In this relaxed setting, they might try out a  few new ornaments! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful sounds of our special guests.

What if I don’t have a messiah score?

Not to worry. We will have several copies that we lend out for the performance. Please make sure to return them after as they belong to the University of Saskatchewan Music Department!

Or you may want to put it on your tablet!

 

 

Museum of the Moon and Vicissitude

It’s not often that you get to experience art from above and below! Here’s all you need to know about the art installations you get to explore tonight.

 

Look up and see

The Museum of the Moon

by Luke Jerram

 

Learn More

Look down and see

Vicissitude

by Monique Martin and Alexandra Hedberg

 

Learn More

ConcertStream.tv

A completely new way to experience the music – get up close and personal with the sound – ConcertStream.tv

What does this mean? It means your orchestra wherever you are. 

Log In to ConcertStream.tv

At the current time, purchases of tickets and subscription to the streaming must be made on the ConcertStream.tv website

Live Streaming Ticket

For as little as $21 per Digital Ticket you and your household can watch the concert as it happens from the comfort of your own home, or wherever you have internet access.

This could be you, enjoying the SSO from home!
You can watch all SSO concerts from home

When you purchase live stream access you will need to sign in to or create an account. Once your account is set up you can log in any time to see what you have access to. There will be a countdown for the upcoming live stream and you can even add a calendar reminder! You will get an email alert when the concert begins, but you can log in and get ready to view the live stream at any time. Once the live stream is complete there will be a recording available for you for 24 hours. It may take an hour or two to appear in your library.

Digital Tickets start at $19.99 and gives you access to one concert for 24 hours. You can also purchase $39 Supporter Tickets – these still get you the same 24hr streaming, but give you a way to support the SSO at this time!

Click Here to See Upcoming Events

Tickets must be purchased on the ConcertStream.tv website – no in-app purchases are allowed at this time.

Plan on watching 6 or more concerts? Wish you could watch them whenever you want and as many times as you want? An SSO Streaming Subscription is for you! 


SSO Streaming Subscription

Log In to ConcertStream

For only $99.99 you can have access to all SSO live streamed concerts for the year. You will also have full access to the SSO’s concert videos on demand. This means you can watch all our concert and bonus content wherever you want, whenever you want, and as many times as you want.

Love our opening night concert and want to see it again? You could watch it every day and its all covered by your $99.99 subscription!

Have major FOMO because you missed one of the live streams? Have no fear! You can catch all our incredible concerts at a later date and it still only costs you $99.99.

No FOMO for these lake goers. They have a subscription to the SSO Digital Concert Stream.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Purchase your SSO Streaming Subscription by clicking here (you can checkout as a guest)
    Purchase your SSO Streaming Subscription
  2. You’ll be able to set up your account, with your own password, and you’ll get a confirmation email for your purchase.
  3. Once your subscription is set up you’ll be able to login to watch videos whenever you want!
  4. Live streamed performances are available for 24 hours – 7 days after all live streamed concerts you’ll be able to watch the concert film of that concert on demand by logging into ConcertStream.tv.
  5. Enjoy unprecedented access to the SSO for a year!

You not only get a fantastic discount for all the live-streamed concerts by getting the SSO Streaming Subscription, but you also get the benefits of video on demand all while supporting your orchestra. How can you go wrong?

Subscriptions must be purchased on the ConcertStream.tv website – no in-app purchases are allowed at this time. But once you’re logged in on the apps, you’ll stay logged to be able to enjoy concerts whenever you want!

 

 

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 ConcertStream.tv 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

Make a Donation