Introducin Matthew Pauls

Matt Pauls

For our third debut of the season we’re thrilled to welcome a voice that audiences need to hear more of!

Baritone Matthew Pauls, praised for his poise and magnificent singing (Opera Canada), is in his fourth year of a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Western Ontario. He made his operatic debut with Saskatoon Opera as Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Other stage credits include, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Speaker and 2nd Armoured Man in Die Zauberflöte, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Don Inigo Gomez in L’Heure Espagnole, the Mysterious Man in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Frank Maurant in Street Scene, and Masetto in Don Giovanni, which he performed with UWOpera and La Musica Lirica in Italy.

On the concert stage, Matthew has performed numerous works such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Handel’s Alexander’s Feast and Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae solennes de confessore, Fauré’s Requiem, Grieg’s Four Psalms, J. S. Bach’s cantata Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit (BWV 106), and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Five Mystical Songs.

Matthew has been delighted to perform with ensembles such as the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Paraguay, Windsor Symphony, Canadian Chamber Choir, Pro Coro Canada, Winnipeg Singers, Guelph Chamber Choir, Windsor Classic Chorale, and the Windsor Symphony Chorus.

In addition to performing, Matthew also maintains a small voice studio in London, Ontario.

Introducing Spencer McKnight


At 22, tenor Spencer McKnight has only been singing for a few years – but he’s really made use of those 5 years.

At age 17 he started singing when a friend of his at school wanted to do a musical theatre duet at festival – though his family wasn’t a musical one, he had spent a lot of time listening to recordings, so it seemed like a good idea to see how lessons would go.  As time went on he began studying with mezzo soprano Lisa Hornung, and over time he left his Political Studies degree to pursue music.

In 2013 Spencer won the Saskatoon Kinsmen Competition, and took home top awards at the Provincial Music Festival Finals.  In the summer of 2013 he traveled to Ontario to represent Saskatchewan at the National Music Finals – the only male singing in the competition, and one of the youngest, he took home the Jan Simmons Award for Art Song for a performance of a song cycle by Catalan composer Fredric Mompou.

Spencer is presently studying at the University of Toronto with vocal pedagogue Mark Daboll, and was recently featured as the soloist for the University of Toronto’s Men’s Chorus December concert.  And in the last few years he’s had the opportunity to work with the who’s who of the voice world: Tracy Dahl, Judith Forst, Mary Lou Fallis, Laurence Ewashko, Robert MacLaren, Laura Loewen, Elizabeth McDonald, Elizabeth Turnbull, Monica Whitcher, and Bonnie Cutsforth Huber.

His voice is fresh and brassy and exciting – and it is a pleasure to present him as our second debut of the season.

Introducing Chelsea Mahan


Canadian-American soprano Chelsea Mahan is making an impression on the independent music scene with her transparency of character in unconventional performance spaces. These intimate performances include the roles of Monica in The Medium and Laurette in Bizet’s comedy Le Docteur Miracle with Stu and Jess Productions in Montreal. Having recently completed her Masters of Music at McGill University studying with renowned Canadian soprano Joanne Kolomyjec, Ms. Mahan is currently balancing engagements in and around Montreal and her home province of Saskatchewan.

As a prize-winning competitor, her achievements include first prize in the 65th Young Artist Series Western Concert tour in conjunction with the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association. Through the CFMTA, Ms. Mahan collaborated with pianist Kathleen Lohrenz Gable, in recital, to tour the cities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Ms. Mahan also won first prize in the prestigious Gordon Wallis Opera Competition (2012), which included professional engagements with both the Saskatoon and Regina Symphony Orchestras. Most recently, Ms. Mahan was named a finalist in the Concorso Internazionale per Giovani Cantanti Lirici in Riva del Garda, Italy.

 On the operatic stage, Ms. Mahan has traveled throughout Canada performing various roles such as Ida (Die Fledermaus) and Soeur Constance (Dialogues des Carmelites) with Opera NUOVA, and Helena in Halifax Summer Opera Workshop’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Montreal, she was seen as Casilda in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers with the McGill Savoy Society and Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) and Tytania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) with Opera McGill. Comfortable on stage, as well as in a studio setting, Ms. Mahan has just finished recording excerpts from Lucia di Lammermoore for an upcoming Canadian short film by David Uloth.

 Singing the soprano soloist of Messiah with the Saskatoon and Regina Symphony Orchestras and covering it for the McGill Chamber Orchestra marked Ms. Mahan’s professional debut in 2013. She will return to her hometown of Saskatoon this December for another Messiah.

 Ms. Mahan has recently been appointed a Laureate of Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques (2014) and over the next year will be traveling to Europe for various competitions with their generous support.

Ukrainian Christmas Concert on St Nicholas’ Day

In Ukraine, St. Nicholas is a special saint, for it was Prince Vladimir who brought back tales of the saint after he went to Constantinople to be baptized. The Ukrainian prince Vsevolod Yaroslavych introduced the feast of St. Nicholas during the time of Pope Urban II (1088-99 AD).

St. Nicholas’ Day was a time of great fun in Ukraine. On this day, people would invite guests in and sleighs would be ridden around the village to see if the snow was slippery [icy]. This was the holiday for young children, for they would receive gifts from St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. “St. Nicholas” was often accompanied by “angels” and might have quizzed the children on their catechism. St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas, is the usual gift-giving day in much of Europe including Ukraine, although for Christmas it was the custom of all members in the family to get a new article of clothing.

st nick

Haydn Symphony Video Interviews

We had a chance to sit down with Thomas Yu and Mark Turner to discuss our Haydn Symphony Masters Series concert, this Saturday at TCU place. Tickets are going fast!

SSO Executive Director Mark Turner

On the rare and beautiful Fazioli that will make it’s debut at TCU place for this concert “Everyone loves particular pianos more than others but every pianist loves a Fazioli” 0:00

On Brahm’s tribute “In years since we’ve discovered that likely Haydn didn’t write that piece, but his name sticks with it to this day” 1:21

On Haydn and Mozart “..both thought the other was a genius, and both were right” 1:42

The Farewell Symphony “Haydn wrote the Farewell Symphony when he was wanting to stick it to his boss a little bit…” 2:17

We are happy to welcome Adam Johnson as the guest conductor for this concert “He is a pianist himself, so getting to work as a conductor in a piano concerto is going to be an excellent opportunity” 2:55

On our guest artist Thomas Yu “One of the first calls I made once I joined the SSO was to Thomas” 3:16


We are very happy to welcome pianist Thomas Yu, returning to his home town for this concert

On the concert experience and what it’s like to perform “We are all human beings and we have that innate ability to feel bigger forces” 0:00

Thomas has a great career as a periodontist in Calgary but continues to perform all over the world “There are different motivations throughout my life for performing” 1:42

Why perform “He had painted all these paintings and he had never showed them in his entire life to anybody..” 2:54

After years studying with Bonnie Nicholson in Saskatoon Thomas moved to Toronto and learned from Marc Durand, one of the first things Marc said to Thomas after hearing him play “You play like a scientist…you play all the black dots really well, I’m going to teach you how to play all the white parts on the page” 4:07

Thomas will be performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto 21 “Mozart’s not a common composer for me, so I’m also really excited to discover him now.” 5:50

There is often only two chances for rehearsal with the orchestra before a concert so preparation is very important “You try to get into the headspace of why the composer wrote it and then you listen to the other people who have interpreted it” 6:33

Orchestra’s have an important place in a cities identity and culture “There are a few things that every city needs to be defined as a city” 8:18



Rare and Remarkable Piano to be Debuted at TCU Place

thomas pianoOn Saturday, November 22nd, award winning Canadian celebrity pianist Thomas Yu will perform on a Fazioli piano made by hand in Italy and valued at $260,000. This will be the first time a Fazioli appears at TCU place. The rare piano is being loaned from Lipnicki Fine Pianos in Calgary and transported to Saskatoon for Yu’s guest appearance with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. World renowned piano technician Michael Lipnicki will travel with the Fazioli to ensure it is in perfect form for Yu’s performance.

Thomas Yu was born and raised in Saskatoon. While studying piano Yu earned his DMD with Great Distinction from the University of Saskatchewan and his Masters Degree in Periodontics at the University of Toronto. He now owns a private practice in Calgary and teaches at the Foothills Medical Hospital. Yu has performed in competitions and recitals all over the world, and now joins the list of great Canadian pianists like Angela Hewitt and Louis Lortie to perform on a Fazioli piano.

The Fazioli piano factory was founded in northeastern Italy in 1979 by pianist and engineer Paolo Fazioli who set out to make the world’s finest pianos in a corner of his parents furniture factory.  Fazioli pianos take nearly three years of person-hours to build, and have many parts plated in 18k gold to prevent corrosion.  The soundboard wood, which is at the heart of the piano, is carved from the same trees in northern Italy that Antonio Stradivari harvested for his famous violins. Today pianists, around the world, are requesting Fazioli pianos for their performances because of the incredible expression and colour in their tone.

Thomas Yu will perform Mozart’s beloved Piano Concerto 21. The concert will be lead by guest conductor Adam Johnson, a longtime friend of Yu. Johnson will also conduct the orchestra in Brahms’s tribute to Haydn and close the evening with Haydn’s delightful “Farewell” Symphony.

Core Series at PAVED Arts – feature on Lia Pas

This Friday and Saturday the SSO’s Core Musicians will be heard at PAVED Arts in one of the most unique and original music programming series in Canada.

For more information and tickets please CLICK HERE


In this feature we learn about the ideas and process behind the world premier performance of Book, Chair, Table by Lia Pas:

I’ve been working on a collaborative piece with new media artist Ellen Moffat for the past number of months and am very excited to announce the premiere this November 7 & 8.

Book. Chair. Table. is a three-movement work based on three poems from Gertrude Stein‘s Tender Buttons. I’ve been calling it a new media chamber music theatre piece. I’ve written the music for voice, oboe, double bass, and new electronic instruments. Ellen Moffat has created new electronic instruments which integrate amplified sound, recorded texts, and video projection.

Book. Chair. Table. will be performed by Lia Pas on voice, Erin Brophey on oboe, Richard Carnegie on double bass, and Ellen Moffat on electronic instruments.

A bit more about the piece:

Late in 2012, Ellen Moffat asked me and Saskatoon actor Rob Benz to record three poems by Gertrude Stein from Stein’s book of prose poems, Tender Buttons. I’ve always loved the rhythms and repetitions of Stein’s poetry and was very happy to work with Ellen on one of her projects. Ellen used the recordings in a collaboration with an actor/dancer in Vancouver and when she returned asked me if I was interested in collaborating on a piece of music involving the recordings and the idea of triggering them from an amplified table.

In 2013 Ellen and I approached Erin Brophey of the SSO Chamber Players and Alex Rogalski at PAVED Arts about whether this might be a suitable project for one of the CORE series concerts. Erin & Alex were both excited about the possibilities of Ellen and I working together and so we began the work.

The main source material is the recordings of Stein’s poems Book. Chair. and Table. While listening to them I noticed immediately that not only did Rob and I speak in very different ranges, but in very different rhythms. With the help of some fancy computer programming (thanks to my son, Jarrod, for help with that), I was able to come up with a fairly accurate pitch and rhythm transcription of the recordings and these became the source for melody and ostinati (repeating phrases). Erin had expressed interest in the piece having some stage directions and I had always been impressed by Richard Carnegie’s speaking while playing bass so integrated these things into the piece.

I have always been fascinated by rhythm and process and the entire piece explores both.

In the beginning of Book. the pitches and rhythms of the phrases are slowed down significantly and become quite melodic. All the players speak and then play their phrases as ostinati and the movement ends with jarring sparse rhythms in the bass and oboe with the voice singing melodically above. During the music, Ellen performs on her glass amplified table, writing, fanning pages, and triggering the recordings.

In Chair. Ellen and I perform on a metal folding chair. The seat of the chair becomes my microphone and my part is quite melodic. Ellen is in charge of effects and the recordings triggered from the chair. While Ellen and I perform on the chair one side of the room, Erin and Richard play a game of ostinato cards that are shuffled at the beginning of the movement. These cards have notated phrases from the text recordings that are played in tandem with each other, shifting when either player decides to choose a new card.

In Table. we begin by all using the glass table as a percussion instrument and speak the entirety of Stein’s poem (the shortest poem of the three). One by one, we go back to our own music stands and repeat our spoken phrases as music. Ellen’s part involves glasses struck and bowed and playing with all six recordings of the poems while we speak and play. In the middle there is a chorale-like section created from our ostinati played very slowly.

There are small moments where the meaning of the text and what is happening in the music become apparent, either through the music, Ellen’s actions on the table, or on the screen which projects images of Ellen’s work on the table.

Lia Pas

An incredible achievement

It’s time for a good news story. Your orchestra broke even on last season.

This is no small accomplishment – this is the result of a complete analysis of how we were spending money.  It is the achievement of months of careful decision making and the hard work of every single member of the SSO team – management, staff, board of directors, even musicians.  This is something to celebrate.

For those of you keeping score at home – last year we had a loss of more than $265,000; this year we broke even with the minimal loss of $2300; and in this new season we are on track to not only begin the process of deficit reduction but show a surplus on the season.

Subscriptions are up – this is huge news.  It may not make the nightly news, but it is definitely note worthy in an arts climate where orchestras are constantly bemoaning the loss of subscribers.  Subscribers are up, and we didn’t spend a dime on acquiring those new subscribers.

We have new initiatives – this is significant because if classical music didn’t matter anymore we wouldn’t have people excited about new ideas.  Whether you’ve join the Patrons Club, or you’re excited about the rumours of the after parties, or you’re hoping to snag a Christmas gift at the lobby boutique, you are seeing what can happen when a symphony decides to get relevant.

I firmly believe that people are responding to the programming of the upcoming season – the response has been overwhelming.  People are in love with the idea of a bunch of prairie folk setting off in search of what it means to be an orchestra in the west.  People are excited about the chance to see home grown heroes taking the stage to prove that we grow them talented here!  People are feeling like their symphony is back.  And it is.

Each and every one of us has a part to play in the future of the SSO – each musician, each audience member, each volunteer.  We are all going to be part of Saskatoon’s orchestra.  We can each be ambassadors of the SSO through marketing, development, and public knowledge of the orchestra – don’t be shy to tell your friends you’re going to the symphony; don’t be ashamed to say that you’re playing a part in making sure that there is exceptional music in Saskatoon.  This is the time to show your pride.

I often think that the arts could learn a lot from professional sports – maybe not in terms of dress code, but in terms of team spirit.  Sports teams know that the win is only worth it if there is someone their to share in their moment.  Sports teams make sure that their fans know how important they are, how much they matter in the stands.  And the same is true for music.

This orchestra needs a cheering section because it is doing incredible things.  These musicians need everyone to take pride in piece well played, in a moment on stage that changes the life of a listener hearing it for the first time.  We aren’t asking you to paint your face green and blow those horns from your seats – but we are asking that you celebrate with us!

From deficit to break even to lasting sustainability – this is something to cheer about. And how can you help, you ask? Share the news of upcoming events with people – as the Executive Director for the next three years, I want to have us all sell more tickets.  The musicians are committed to making incredibly artistic music, the management is committed to fiscal responsibility, but the best thing possible would be to start having sell outs.

The fact is, we can’t afford modern advertising – for us to ‘keep up with the jones’ we’d have to quadruple the money we spend on advertising – BUT we do have all of you.  If every single person who loved going to the symphony sold another two tickets to friends or relatives or coworkers, we’d sell out.  We’d have waiting lists.  We’d have people scrambling to get tickets.  We’d have more people taking pride in their music scene, and that my friends is how we create a climate of culture.

If you want something go out and get it – so let’s start packing the place.  Let’s see people realizing that its not about stuffy music and long second halves.  Let’s show people what a little prairie voice can do.

It’s little wonder this orchestra is a survivor.  This is Saskatchewan, its what we do.

See you at the Symphony!

The Road to a Fresh Start

Invitation - 2014-2015 SSO Season Launch

Mark Turner, SSO Interim General Manager

A season launch can say so much about an orchestra.  Whether you know it or not, the launch is so much more than the announcement of what music you can expect to hear in the upcoming year.

At the SSO, we took the last few months to ask ourselves who are we and what role do we play in our city, province, and beyond.

The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is not only a long standing artistic institution in the city, but we are the orchestra for central and northern Saskatchewan—we play to audiences who trudge through cold wind and dust storms, and wear their dress shoes through snow banks and mud puddles. Each and every person in our audience knows the sheer joy of experiencing a quiet sunset and has been dumbfounded by the northern lights. Our audience is proud that it knows what a combine is and what it does. We all know that the Saskatoon Berry is far superior to other lesser berries. We understand the smell of fresh wet dirt, of a field of wheat, and of pig barns. And you don’t have to live on a farm to know these. Our city is filled with all sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the prairie.

The SSO is not a big city orchestra—and that’s ok. We don’t need to be a big city orchestra. As one of two professional orchestras in Saskatchewan, we have an important role to play. We have to bring an audio identity to our city. Music plays a key role in the authenticity of a city—it is real people, real music, real experiences; it is central to creating real communities. A symphony orchestra is crucial to the identity of a city.

You might not believe me, but it’s true. Sounds, songs, and musical memories are the strongest and easiest to remember—music infects our ears, our minds, our thoughts, it mixes with emotions, and becomes a part of our soul. Each and every one of us has a personal musical soundtrack to our life.

A prairie symphony needs to be a part of that.

Invitation - 2014-2015 SSO Season Launch

A season needs to address all this and more—it must not only be artistically creative, but it has to make sense. It’s no secret that the SSO has a deficit, so it should be no secret that we approached this new season with a very real goal of ensuring that the programming not only is affordable but will have a lasting impact in reducing our deficit. That means that we have to give you a ‘wow’ factor. We have to give you a chance to see true artists take the stage. We have to make sure that at the end of the day we know we have a responsibility to make programming affordable. If we can’t afford to do it, we can’t do it—but it also means we get to truly explore the things we do well.

This season was designed with an intent of financial stability and growing the artistic quality of performance. If you always come to the symphony, you are in for a serious treat. If you haven’t been to the symphony in a while, I challenge you to come back and see what we’re doing. If you have never been to the symphony, turn off Netflix and be social. It is far too easy to stay home than go out. It’s easier to use a cake mix than start from scratch … but we all know which cake is more rewarding, to mention nothing of taste and quality.

A night out at the arts is one of the last true social experiences in our world—come see what the SSO is doing to be relevant, inspiring, passionate, fun, and responsible.

See you at the symphony,