Okanagan Symphony trumpets successes, looks to future

Okanagan Symphony Orchestra starts 2014 with a trip down the Blue Danube to Vienna.

Alumni from the UBC Opera Ensemble

Alumni from the UBC Opera Ensemble

With its successful sold-out concerts ode to Handel’s Messiah before Christmas, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra enters 2014 in the black with a fresh outlook and some exciting journeys ahead.

The third largest professional symphony orchestra in B.C., the OSO has a clear vision for the future thanks in part to long-range strategic planning conducted recently, said OSO general manager Scott Wilson, who visited The Morning Star office just before the holidays began.

“We are looking down the road at our programming and where the potential reach is outside our core audience,” said Wilson, adding the OSO received some help from strategist Donna Finley, former executive director of the Calgary Philharmonic.

“We have relied heavily on seniors as the renewal audience base of the orchestra, and we need to consider them while also looking to the future.”

The OSO has also come up with a new three-year master agreement with its musicians, and is exploring the idea of staging more matinée performances.

“The one thing we are looking at is to extend our season beyond October to May,” said Wilson.

Summer performances could take place in the great outdoors with the possible purchase a portable stage, added Wilson.

“You can’t take an orchestra which utilizes 300-year-old instruments out in the sun, so to have a covered stage would make sense,” he said.

With the face of the orchestra on the very respected shoulders of music director/conductor Rosemary Thomson, the OSO leaps into the new year with a diverse program that starts with a trip down the Danube to the ballrooms of Vienna and later enters into new territory that crosses some spoken word terrain.

“We have an interesting concert in March when Shane Koyczan joins us. I think he will wind up creating a new way of making music with words,” said Wilson about the former world slam poetry champion from Penticton, whose spoken word performance during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics earned him an international audience.

Koyczan will perform his own lyrics to two commissioned pieces written by contemporary composers Jocelyn Morlock and Jordan Nobles, the latter with whom Koyczan is working on an opera that is expected to premiere in October.

“It’s a symphonic show that Shane would like to take around the world, and is making its premiere here,” said Wilson.

The symphony also cannot ignore its past successes and is returning with an all-new Viennese program to kick off the new year.

“Last time we had the UBC Opera Ensemble join us and this year we are using graduates from the program who will form a quartet,” said Wilson.

Sopranos Chelsea Rus and Taylor Pardell, tenor Martin Sadd and baritone Aaron Durand will join the OSO in performing romantic and comical arias, carefree polkas and swirling waltzes by the likes of Johann Strauss Jr. and Sr., Lehar, Von Suppe and others.

From Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna, through Thunder and Lighting, The Beautiful Blue Danube, and the Land of Smiles, this program will enchant and dazzle,  said Thomson.

“The golden era of Vienna is brought to life in its popular music, and this concert brings this magic to life,” she said. “We are excited to welcome back four alumni from UBC’s Opera Ensemble to share our stage.”

In February, the OSO is welcoming  “wunderkind” Alberta pianist Jan Lisiecki as its solo artist to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 (Jeunehomme.)

“He just signed with (German classical label) Deutsche Grammophon,” said Wilson. “Rosemary Thomson conducted him back when she was with the Calgary Philharmonic and he is a phenomenon.”

April is the start of the OSO school concert season, and Vernon’s date has been moved to the recreation complex auditorium to meet the large capacity.

“Our school concert sales have gone through the roof. They are up 117 per cent. Rosemary has met with school districts and with teachers and I think that has had the momentum building,” said Wilson.

April will also welcome back dynamic duo, trumpeter Guy Few and bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson, to the Okanagan as part of the OSO’s Masterworks performances. They will perform a blend of music from the Baroque era as well as more contemporary repertoire.

The final concert in the season is an Asian celebration in May with guest artists, violinist Susanne Hou, Ensemble Liberta  and taiko drummers Yamabiko Taiko.

First up is the OSO’s Romance in Vienna, which takes the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. A pre-concert talk will be given by Thomson in the Marie Fleming Hall at 6 p.m. Tickets for the concert are available at the Ticket Seller box office. Call 250-549-7469 or visit www.ticketseller.ca.

To learn more about the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, visit their website at www.okanagansymphony.com.