Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gary Doer honoured to chair WSO committee

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For the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, landing Gary Doer as the honorary chairman of its Carnegie Hall campaign committee is a diplomatic coup.

But for Canada's ambassador to the United States, and Manitoba's premier from 1999 to 2009, the honour is all his.

"They approached me on this Carnegie Hall concert -- Live in New York, it's the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra -- so as a Winnipegger and a Manitoban I'm very proud of it," Doer said Thursday from Park City, Utah, where he was preparing to give a speech to the Western Governors Association on Friday. "It's an iconic place to play and it will bring the appropriate attention to a great symphony orchestra."

The orchestra will perform at New York's Carnegie Hall on Thursday, May 8, 2014, as part of the final year of the Spring for Music Festival. The WSO, which has dubbed the campaign "Manitoba to Manhattan Experience," was selected in a competition with 33 other orchestras from North America.

Doer recalls crossing paths with the symphony on several occasions during his 10 years as premier. Some, like a northern tour stop in Churchill, where he says almost the whole town came out to watch and listen to the WSO, are pleasant memories.

Others, such as the symphony's restructuring in 2003, which the provincial government played a role, were tough times, he admits.

"I was involved in the restructuring of the orchestra, which was difficult for the musicians and for our community, but I'm glad that it's survived and thrived since that decision," Doer says.

The WSO has bounced back financially, and earlier this week announced a profit of $128,000 on the 2012-13 season, its sixth consecutive surplus.

Doer will fit in the WSO work between his usual workload, which this week included meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, talks in British Columbia regarding softwood lumber and his speech at the governors' conference, which will be about the contentious issue of country-of-origin labelling.

"Whatever they ask me to do and whatever I can do, I'll do," Doer says.

The symphony first approached Doer about the new position six months ago, he says, and since then, they've filmed some promotional material that will be used to raise awareness of the concert and help raise funds for the orchestra's journey to the Big Apple.

"I've done some video, I was in New York for some meetings and I did a couple of standups right in front of Carnegie Hall," Doer says. "I don't know how good or bad they are -- they might have edited me out of them.

"Who knows? I've gotta be humble until I see them."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 G2

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