Orchestra Digest: Holiday reckonings edition

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On tour, and in the ether

The NAC Orchestra finished a series of Canada 150 tours with a visit to the North, with stops in Iqaluit and Yellowknife, the Ottawa Citizen reports. The trip brought 9 musicians, several staff members, and music director Alexander Shelley to the Nunavut capital, where they worked with music students, performed a fundraiser for a new performing arts centre, and saw a breathtaking display of the Northern Lights. 

Orchestre Métropolitain just concluded a 7-concert European tour, with stops in Paris and Amsterdam. Several journalists accompanied the tour and filed reports: Christophe Huss posted an essay for Le Devoir (in French) and Arthur Kaptainis previewed the tour for the Montreal Gazette (in English). Christophe Huss also wrote a piece for Le Devoir following the tour, arguing that OM has outgrown its profile as Montreal's "second" orchestra.
The Calgary Philharmonic is celebrating the sesquicentennial by giving all Canadians a gift: a free subscription to Meludia, a Paris-based online ear-training platform. CBC News reports that anyone with a Canadian IP address can log in and use the service for free for one year, courtesy of the CPO. 
For all occasions
As we're all awash in Christmas music, Rob Kapilow reminds Toronto Star readers how and why many favourites were written by Jewish songwriters, from Irving Berlin to Mel Tormé. It's a fascinating story that starts with an exodus of Jewish refugees from Russia in the late 19th century, many of whose children became fixtures of Tin Pan Alley. 

The Vancouver Sun proposes several classical music concerts that aren't holiday-specific, including chamber music performances by members of the Vancouver Symphony.
For the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion (Dec. 6, 1917), Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke teamed up with Symphony Nova Scotia for an original work, the Chronicle Herald reported. Titled Achieving Disaster, Dreaming Resurrection, the work was premiered last Wednesday. 
The New York Times recently previewed arts events around the world, singling out one Montreal Symphony weekend for special mention: a premiere of a double bass concerto by Iranian-born composer Behzad Ranjbaran in a programme also featuring Mahler, Wagner, and the OSM's octobass. 
Conductors and the current moment
Midway through his first season as Edmonton Symphony music director, Alexander Prior is winning over audiences with a combination of enthusiasm, passion, and an "impish" sense of humour, Edmonton Journal critic Mark Morris writes. Morris caught up with Prior to talk about orchestra traditions that could use revising, his own music, and how to capture the hearts and minds of Oilers fans. 
Regina Symphony music director Gordon Gerrard is earning similarly rave reviews, in just his second season at the helm. The Regina Post's Jeff Dedekker interviewedGerrard and others, reviewing his tenure so far. 
Following widely reported allegations against former Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine, who was suspended last week from further appearances with the company, the Met Orchestra musicians released a statement expressing support for the accusers, and calling on management to share results of the investigation as transparently as possible. 
It's the "year of the conductor" at the Winnipeg Symphony, with 11 maestros taking a turn on the podium, the Free Press reports -- all of which led Holly Harris to ask why women have been so underrepresented as conductors. Just one of the 11 conductors (Canadian Keri-Lynn Wilson) is a woman. 
Do cultural works, including classics of the ballet and opera repertoire, re-enact harmful gender stereotypes on stage? Looking at the current Toronto arts season, Globe and Mail journalist Martha Schabas argues that the ways we justify violent, misogynist works can be disingenuous. 
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. , or post 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: 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
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. 
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!

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.
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