More than just decking the halls

Music lovers look forward to the holiday season in a unique way – maybe it’s the anticipation of hearing their favourite Christmas carol, or the joy that comes with the crop of new Christmas albums out there.

This year we wanted to do something really meaningful for our Christmas performances – so we asked ourselves how Saskatoon’s orchestra can best celebrate the holidays – and the answer was clear.  Build community.

Orchestras, including ours, have always played an important role in a city’s holiday traditions.  And there’s no better time in the season to remember that making music is about coming together.  It’s more than just tradition.  In fact it’s more than just music, it’s become a part of what makes a city’s cultural identity.

So over the course of the next two weeks Maestro Sawa and Saskatoon’s finest musicians build some community right there on stage.  The Lastiwka Orthodox Choir has never performed with the SSO, and the renowned Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble will join the orchestra for the first time as well.  It’s hard to believe that the orchestra hasn’t performed with these groups as each are ambassadors of the city’s culture.  Not to mention that the exploration of Saskatchewan’s rich Ukrainian traditions is the perfect way for us to explore how a symphony orchestra can be relevant in a modern context.

It is crucial to the future of a music community that the music performed have a clear reason for being programmed – gone are the days when people go to concerts just because the concert is on.  There are so many incredible events going on each and every day in Saskatoon, so it’s even more important for the orchestra to give the audience experiences that meet their musical needs.

So with that goal, how then do you make Handel’s Messiah more relevant to a modern audience?  How can we make a 300 year old piece of music resonate deeper for us?

Earlier this fall we began auditions for our first symphonic chorus – the result has been quite exciting.  A choir that brings together passionate singers of all ages, backgrounds, and from all across the province – performers who are exploring the notes of Herr Handel and the texts of Carl Jennens in a new way.  They are a totally new group.  They’ve never worked together before, in fact until the first rehearsal many of them had never met.  And rehearsals are intense, so there’s not a lot of time to mingle.  But they’ve bonded.

There is countless studies that show that people who make music together, especially choirs, create a unique unspoken connection – they quite literally build community.

It’s no longer enough to just make music – your smart phone can do that now.  Being an orchestra in the prairies is about going back to what made the prairies great.  People coming together in the face of adversity, usually in winter, and building a community.

Your December is completely packed with events and parties and way too many things on the to-do list – but you need to make time to come to these concerts.  Do it to relax.  Do it to have a personal check-in during a crazy time of year.  Do it to get inspired for the holidays.  Do it to build your community.

See you at the symphony,


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