Saturday, October 3, 2009

News from the Niagara Symphony as a new season starts...

Hard to believe we are already well into the month of October, and Thanksgiving is not that far off. Also not that far off is the launch of the 62nd season of the Niagara Symphony, and with it, a lot of interest and excitement over the prospect of choosing a new Music Director. You might remember last year at this time, long-time Music Director Daniel Swift made, well, a 'swift' exit from the symphony just shortly before the season was about to begin. That lead to a string of guest conductors taking over the podium all last season.

This season, new ideas and renewed hope prevail as the new season is set to get underway Sunday afternoon, October 4th, at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre at Brock University. Not only do we have the active search on for a new Music Director, but the newly-installed Executive Director Jack Mills is set to make his mark as the new head of the organization. He has his work cut out for him, of course, as the symphony has been floundering for a couple of years now with interim conductors, executive directors and what have you. People have been waiting to see how everything shakes out, and with good reason. In the past, there seemed to be a feeling of 'temporary' status hanging over the entire organization. Now, it seems, a steady hand is at the helm, ready to right the ship as it heads into another season.

I have not met Jack yet, although we've talked on the phone a couple of times, and he has graciously invited me back to sell in the lobby during the concerts again this season, which is great news. I always feel a special connection to the symphony and their patrons, and my business, A Web of Fine Music, will be there once again this season to find the music you are looking for during the symphony season. You can email your orders and requests to me directly, of course, at

Jack has said he wants to make the orchestra a more 'populist'organization and less elitist, and that will be good for the organization, I think. Too many people still think of the symphony as something 'other' people go to, when in reality it is everyone's orchestra, and it will now endeavour to prove that point by reaching out to a broader spectrum of the public in order to grow its audience. Truth be told, the audience is aging, as is the case with most orchestras today, so we have to find ways to reach out and draw new, younger members into the concerts. It is a challenge, to be sure, but I suspect Jack, who has been in this rebuilding situation before, most notably in Winnipeg, is ready for the job at hand.

The first Masters concert of the season this weekend features the first of four conductors vying for the post of Music Director, to be chosen after all four conduct one Pops! and one Masters concert this season and the audience has had a chance to evaluate each candidates' talents. First up this weekend is Timothy Hankewich, presently conductor of the Cedar Rapids Symphony, and a native of British Columbia. Timothy conducts a program that includes Carrabre's 'Chase the Sun', which all four conductors will interpret this season; Malcolm Forsyth's 'Siyajabula! We Rejoice!'; and the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4. Also on the program is Mozart's fourth violin concerto, K. 218, with guest artist Xiaoling Li, Associate Concertmaster for the NSA. It promises to be a nicely balanced program of new discoveries and tried-and-true classics.

Tickets are still available by calling the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257. And if you go, be sure to stop by my table in the lobby before, after and during intermission to see what I have in store for you at the symphony this weekend!

Also with the symphony, news came out just this week Associate Conductor Laura Thomas, long an indispensible part of the orchestra both as performer/conductor and administrator, was recognized for her "significant professional achievement by an established artist" at the 25th Annual City of St. Catharines Trillium Awards. Laura was given the "Excellence in the Arts" award for her more than thirty years as an outstanding musician, teacher, clinician and conductor. Laura has not only been associated with the Niagara Symphony for many years, she was at one time Music Director of the Niagara Youth Orchestra, and been part of many smaller musical organizations, including the choir Choralis Camerata, of which she is presently Music Director, and a member of the group Broadband. Also with the Niagara Symphony, Laura has also served for many years as director of the symphony's Summer Music Camp and has been a driving force behind the orchestra's 'Composer in the Classroom' program.

I have known Laura for many years, going all the way back to when she conducted a jazz band at Winston Churchill Secondary School back in the 1980s, and she has been a great friend and colleague, as well as customer of A Web of Fine Music from the very beginning.

Congratulations, Laura, on a well-deserved honour, and good luck to the entire Niagara Symphony organization as the new season gets underway this weekend!

October 3rd, 2009.

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