Beethoven and Beyond: A Night at the Symphony

Classical music aficionados will only find one fully-professional orchestra in the 1,290 miles (2,077 kilometers) between Toronto and Winnipeg: the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (TBSO) team is comprised of 30 musicians in the orchestra, one music director, one conductor-in-residence, and five office staff working to promote, produce and create experiences that audiences will treasure long after the performance.

Variety in the types of shows the symphony orchestra produces guarantees that there is an option to suit just about anyone who enjoys classical—and even pop—music. From Masterworks to Pops, Classical Plus and Family-oriented shows, the variation in show style hopes to attract a range of generations and even musical preferences. Cassandra Blair, liaison officer with the TBSO, has worked for the organization for almost two years. In addition to being a point of contact for outside inquiries, she also coordinates volunteers and writes preview articles for the different shows.

“Masterworks concerts highlight some of the greatest music from the classical canon. A Masterworks concert will give you the ultimate, quintessential classical music experience. All Masterworks concerts take place at the beautiful Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, which is an amazing venue in terms of its acoustics for the orchestral music,” said Blair. “This season, the orchestra will be performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the third Masterworks concert, which is one of classical music’s most celebrated pieces to ever exist.”

A slight deviation from traditional classical performance is what the TBSO has dubbed “Pops.” For the past few years they have worked with Jeans ‘n Classics, a group whose passion is to blend pop and rock acts with symphony orchestras, to produce recognizable pieces for a general audience.

“This year, the TBSO will perform with Jeans ‘n Classics in a Bowie & Prince show. The Pops series opens on October 14 with an exciting show called ‘The Symphony Goes to the Movies,’ which will feature some soundtrack favourites from timeless films like Titanic, Jurassic Park and Star Wars,” explained Blair.

The Hilldale Lutheran Church hosts the intimate, up-close Classical Plus concerts and the Family shows are instrumental in instilling interest in the next generation of musicians.

One of the most popular family offerings of the year is the Halloween-themed Symphony Spooktacular. Both the audience and the musicians dress up for the performance, which will take place on October 29. Under the direction of conductor-in-residence Simon Rivard, the show will feature music from Harry Potter, Psycho, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Working in the schools is also a main focus of the TBSO. The TBSO aims to reach as many elementary students as possible through four program formats. Link Up, which is one of the most popular avenues with the elementary school students, is an internationally-used program that pairs orchestras with students in local communities. The program, which was developed by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in New York, culminates with a concert that involves the students singing and playing recorders along with the orchestra from their seats.

The TBSO is also preparing to perform at a “Symphony Virgins” night on October 25 at the Italian Cultural Centre, aimed at including casual fans and beginner symphony-goers. The Northern Lights series (formerly Cabaret) will feature local talent and will “present an adventurous, unique repertoire that will explore classical music beyond the orchestral canon.”

More information on the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra can be found online at: tbso.ca.



By Casey Fitchett