Orchestra Digest: Tours & tributes

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This week: OSM and NACO on tour; Gary Hanson's TSO agenda; defending Canadian culture from digital disrupters; and remembering Gord Downie. Here are stories we're following in the news...
 
 
On tour and in concert
 
The National Arts Centre Orchestra is touring western Canada this month, with stops in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC in celebration of Canada's 150th. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix interviewed music director Alexander Shelley on his way out west. 
 
CBC News Manitoba interviewed Peter Herrndorf, the president of the National Arts Centre since 1999, who recently announced he will resign in 2018. Born in the Netherlands, Herrndorf moved to Winnipeg with his family and began his career began with the CBC. 
 
As NACO tours the west, those in Ottawa are getting a look at its renovated home. The NAC recently completed the second of 3 phases of its renovation, and the Ottawa Citizen checked out the upgrades in two separate reports, finding that the once fortress-like NAC has come to resemble a friendly community centre. 
 
The Montreal Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this week, and the NY Times acclaimed their capturing of "Bartok's strangeness". ZealNYC, an arts blog, also posted interviews with Kent Nagano and composer Samy Moussa.
 
 
Institutional news
 
The past two Toronto Symphony seasons brought "lifeboat drama" worthy of the Life of Pi, writes Globe and Mail critic Marsha Lederman - but interim president Gary Hanson and interim music director Sir Andrew Davis are determined to put the house in order. Lederman spoke with Hanson, Bramwell Tovey, and arts management experts, offering analysis of this tumultuous period and the prospects for stability. 
 
The Winnipeg Symphony announced its 10th consecutive surplus, albeit a small one: $2,540 on a budget of $9.2m, the Free Press reports. Board president Terry Sergeant spoke to the WSO's strong financial position as well as challenges, including the need for an endowment and upgrades to Centennial Concert Hall.
 
The Windsor Symphony has a new Steinway piano, thanks to a donation from the late Joyce Weingarden, CBC reports. The instrument will make its debut at the Capitol Theatre in November.
 
Ridiculous as it may seem, opera consistently enchants, writes Russell Smith for the Globe and Mail. His essay was inspired by a recent visit to the Canadian Opera Company, which recently announced a small surplus and record fundraising for the 2016-17 season.  
 
 
Composers and others in the news 
 
Jared Miller's 2-minute piece Buzzer Beater pays homage to basketball's Canadian origins -- and introduces its use as a percussion instrument, CBC News Toronto reports. As part of the Toronto Symphony's commissions for Canada's 150th, the piece will be performed both by the TSO and the Victoria Symphony this season. 
 
Montreal Gazette critic Arthur Kaptainis reconsidered the works of André Mathieu, a composer best known for his Concerto de Quebec. Two recent recordings -- of an earlier, longer version of the work, and a new orchestrated version of the later work -- prompted Kaptainis' reassessment.
 
Alexander Neef is marking his 10th year as General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, and the Toronto Star took the occasion to interview him on premiering new works, moving to a new hall, and other highlights of his career so far. Neef just extended his contract through 2026, The Canadian Press reported
 
Outgoing music director Alexander Mickelthwate learned a lot through his tenure with the Winnipeg Symphony; he shared some lessons on leadership with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, in a speech covered by the Free Press
 
 
Advocacy
 
Are multinational tech companies threatening Canada's media and cultural industries? A new petition, Declaration for the sustainability and vitality of national culture in the digital era, launched in Quebec last month, calling on federal and provincial governments to more forcefully regulate tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix.
 
The Canadian Arts Coalition will convene its Arts Day on the Hill on Thursday, November 2nd, including meetings and budget briefings with key leaders in Ottawa. The activities will be more limited than in past years, but CAC is encouraging arts advocates to meet with their MPs in their own ridings the week of November 13-17; visit the CAC website for guidance and resources.
 
 
Also of note
 
ICSOM's newsletter, Senza Sordino, has posted a new edition for October - including reports on Houston after Hurricane Harvey, AFM-EPF pension news, reports from the 2017 conference, and more. Former ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge also wrote a notable essay on Puerto Rico, La Tierra de Borinquen. ICSOM has a call to action to assist the musicians of the Puerto Rico Symphony.
 
And with news of the passing of Gord Downie, cultural commentators are paying tribute to his legacy - one such tribute was posted at MacLean's, where Patrick Finn places Downie in a tradition of Canadian cultural figures. 
 
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Got a correction, or an orchestra news story I missed? Please email me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Thank you! - Matt Heller

Compiled by Matt Heller, with editorial assistance from Francine Schutzman. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php. Visit OCSM on Facebook, or tweet us @ocsm-omosc.

Orchestra Digest: Season-opening edition

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This week: As Canadian orchestra seasons get underway, we've compiled a selection of notable headlines from the late summer - including collaborations, awards, profiles, retirements, and new initiatives. Thanks for reading!
 
 
Collaborations 

The Regina Symphony and Buffy Sainte-Marie are partnering for a concert in October and tour next spring, aimed at furthering a conversation about reconciliation, the Leader Post reports. Both emphasize that the project is about cultural exchange between the RSO and First Nations communities. 

Rarely does a concert capture the attention of an entire city -- but Montréal's 375th birthday did just that: both the Montreal Gazette and CBC News posted reviews. The concert drew a crowd of 80,000 to Mount Royal for performances by the Montreal SymphonyMcGill Symphony, and Orchestre Metropolitain, alongside Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Patrick Watson, Isabelle Boulay, and other popular artists. CBC Music also posted a video of "Concordia", an original symphony composed for the occasion by Samy Moussa
 
The Windsor Symphony is celebrating its 70th year -- as well as the city of Windsor's 125th and Canada's 150th. The festivities converge with a performance of Beethoven's 9th this Saturday, previewed by the Windsor Star.
 
The Edmonton Journal previewed the Edmonton Symphony's new season, along with Edmonton Opera, Alberta Baroque Ensemble, and local choral groups. The ESO and National Arts Centre Orchestra will join forces under Alexander Shelley on Oct. 28.
 
And Tafelmusik is launching a new chapter with music director Elisa Citterio, who left Milan's La Scala orchestra to lead the ensemble. Both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail met up with Citterio as she prepared for Tafelmusik's opening concerts this weekend. 
 
 
Awards, arguments, and edifices
 
And the International Federation of Musicians, or FIM, recognized Air Canada with its first-ever Airline of Choice Award for 2017. The award was announced in a ceremony in Montreal, during FIM's International Orchestra Conference.
 
In a Toronto Star opinion piece, Bob Ramsay noted that the boards of Toronto's Big Six arts organizations have become more diverse over the past four years -- but argued that both the Toronto Symphony and National Ballet of Canada boards underrepresent people of colour. 
 
The Niagara Symphony kicks off its 70th season this weekend, the Niagara Falls Review reports -- and the buzz continues over the new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. "It changed literally everything," according to music director Bradley Thachuck.
 
Urban Toronto posted designs and renderings for Phase 2 of renovations to Toronto's Massey Hall, recipient of a recent $4 million provincial grant. Massey Hall will close next summer through completion in summer 2020. 
 
And the Toronto Star chronicled the history of Roy Thomson Hall, including shifting architectural designs, a spat over naming rights, a major renovation, and several decades of world-class music-making.
 
 
People in the news
 
Peter Herrndorf will leave his post as president and CEO of the National Arts Centre next June, the Globe and Mail reports. Capping a long career as an arts administrator, Herrndorf oversaw the extensive renovation of the NAC, completed this fall. 
 
McGill music professor Eleanor Stubley, who died tragically at age 57, was remembered for her profound intellect and devotion to students. The Montreal Gazette featured a remembrance. 
 
A recent documentary, Integral Man, profiles mathematician and violinist James Stewart, whose many accomplishments include a long tenure as professor at McMaster University, early advocacy for gay rights, guiding the creation of Integral House, and performing as a member of the Hamilton Philharmonic. A magazine at McMaster, The Silhouetteprofiled Stewart in August
 
During a busy season-opening week, Edmonton Symphony music director Alexander Prior spoke with the Edmonton Examiner about his ambitious goals for the ESO this season, as well as the importance of several upcoming auditions in moulding the orchestra's sound for years to come. 
 
The Spectator reported on Hamilton Philharmonic music director Gemma New's busy summer schedule, which included the HPO's first-ever Young Musician's Boot Camp - a weekend-long workshop for amateur musicians, coached by New and several HPO musicians. 
 
 
Got an orchestra news story I missed? Please forward it to me ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), or post it to the list yourself! (Remember to include your name and orchestra in your post.) Thank you! - Matt Heller

Compiled by Matt Heller, with editorial assistance from Francine Schutzman. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php. Visit OCSM on Facebook, or tweet us @ocsm-omosc.

Orchestra Digest: Summer edition

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Comings and goings: Music directors and execs
 
The Winnipeg Symphony announced that Alexander Mickelthwate will leave following the 2017/18 season, his 12th as music director. CBC News and the Free Press reported on the circumstances of Mickelthwate's departure, and Free Press columnist Holly Harris posted an appraisal of his tenure. 
 
Kent Nagano has announced he will leave his music director post with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal in 2020, the Globe and Mail reportsMontreal Gazette critic Arthur Kaptainis praised the decision, arguing he leaves the orchestra in strong form and with time for a smooth succession. 
 
The Thunder Bay Symphony announced the appointment of Paul Haas as its music director, effective this month, CBC News reports. Haas was among 7 finalists for the role; he also serves as music director of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. The Symphony also recently announced Gerald McEachern as its new executive director, TB Newswatch reports.
 
The Hamilton Philharmonic renewed music director Gemma New's contract through the 2020/21 season, the Spectator reportsColumnist Emma Reilly assessed the HPO's "bold and innovative" direction, and found that the orchestra is thriving.
 
Roberto Minczuk, music director laureate of the Calgary Philharmonic, will become the first music director of the New Mexico Philharmonic, the Albuquerque Journal reports
 
Canadian conductor Alain Trudel will be the new music director of the Toledo Symphony, the Blade reports
 
Stephane Deneve will take over as music director of the St. Louis Symphony next season, as David Robertson leaves the post next season, the St Louis Business Journal reports.  
Canada's new Governor General, Julie Payette, is best known as an astronaut, but she is also an accomplished singer, who has performed with both Tafelmusik and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, CTV News reports.
 
The Minnesota Orchestra has extended music director Osmo Vänskä's contract through the 2021-22 season, the Star Tribune reports. At 19 seasons, his tenure will match that of the Orchestra's longest-serving music directors, Emil Oberhoffer and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. 
 
The San Francisco Symphony has appointed Mark Hanson as its new executive director, replacing Brent Assink, the Chronicle reports. Hanson is currently CEO of the Houston Symphony. 
 
 
Tours, broadcasts, and venue news
 
The Philadelphia Orchestra recently signed a broadcast deal with SiriusXM radio, which will produce 26 concert broadcasts through the course of next season. the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Inquirer also reported that president/CEO Alison Vulgamore will leave the orchestra at the conclusion of her current contract, Dec. 31st.
 
The Toronto Symphony's May tour to Europe and Israel was its most high-profile trip in decades; the TSO was also the first North American orchestra to tour Israel in 20 years. Toronto Star music critic William Littler summarized the successful tour.
 
A Muslim-Canadian audience member at the TSO's final weekend of concerts claimed she was physically assaulted by another patron, the Toronto Star reported. The incident sparked controversy and discussion, including an interview on CBC's As It Happensletters to the Star's editorial page, and commentary in the Huffington Post. The TSO responded to the incident with a plan to give free tickets to 100 young musicians from underrepresented communities, the Star reports
 
The Winspear Centre, home of the Edmonton Symphony, celebrates its 20th year in 2017. There are also plans to renovate the Centre over the next 5 years, with a $53 million "Winspear Completion Project", CBC News reports.
 
Calgary's city council is considering a one-time grant of $2 million to be shared among ten "cornerstone" arts organizations, including the Calgary Philharmonic, the Herald reports. The proposal will go before council on Tuesday, July 18. 
 
Symphony Nova Scotia is launching a two-week summer season, July 17-31, LocalExpress.ca reports. The series brings a varied schedule of ensemble and orchestral concerts to venues throughout Halifax. 
 
 
Above and beyond
 
Canada's next Governor General, Julie Payette, is best known for her work as an astronaut -- but she is also an accomplished singer, having performed with Tafelmusik and the Orchestre Symphonique de MontrealCTV News reports
 
Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr also found a recent opportunity to show off his musical talents, as an oboe soloist with the Winnipeg SymphonyCTV News reports. Carr's performance was part of a 70th-anniversary celebration for the Symphony. 
 
And London's Royal College of Music is surveying classical instrumentalists on their pre-performance routines. You're invited to take the survey at this link
 
 
Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM 1st VP. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php. Visit OCSM on Facebook, or tweet us @ocsm-omosc.
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