Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitobans in Big Apple to take in WSO's big show

They're with the band

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Maestro Alexander Mickelthwate leads the orchestra Thursday.


Maestro Alexander Mickelthwate leads the orchestra Thursday.

NEW YORK -- Until Thursday, Maurice Steinberg's most Winnipeg-y moment was spotting a man in Penn Station after a Winnipeg Jets game sporting a jersey that read "North End Pride."

Steinberg, a University of Manitoba grad, has spent much of his career practising psychiatry in New York and much of it explaining exactly where he's from.

"New Yorkers don't care about anything but New York," he laughed.

But that Penn Station moment must have been eclipsed Thursday night when Steinberg joined hundreds of Winnipeggers who crashed Carnegie Hall for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's first performance there in a generation.

Those Winnipeggers dominated the entire orchestra level of the ornate ivory-and-gold hall. They waved commemorative red hankies in the air when their hometown musicians hit the stage, jumped to their feet before the music even began and then kibitzed in the line at the bar about who they all knew in common.

"I already saw my Uncle Moe," said an excited Shira Meged, a Winnipegger finishing her graduate degree at New York University. She didn't know her uncle, Asper Foundation executive director Moe Levy, was among the hundreds of WSO groupies who flew to New York for the show. But Meged did bring her roommate, Long Islander Laurel Berkowitz, whose accent gave her away as one of the few non-Winnipeggers in the crowd.

"She kind of gave me a heads-up, but when everyone started waving the flags, that's when I knew I was outnumbered," said Berkowitz.

John Bondurant, a lawyer from Louisville, Ky., who is a fan and friend of percussionist Evelyn Glennie, came to New York especially to see her perform with the WSO.

"I didn't realize there would be this many Canadians," he said, as he chatted with Winnipeg lawyer Victoria Lehman during intermission.

"It's like a combination of a Winnipeg Jets game and the Red River Exhibition, with all the flags," said Jason Pronyk, a Winnipegger who now works with the United Nations Development Program. Pronyk read about the WSO's performance in the New York Times and brought his Italian wife, who also works for the UN and just returned to New York from Syria.

In a preview of this week's series of concerts, the New York Times warned of "boosterism aplenty" for the visiting orchestras. And Manitoba's boosters glommed onto the WSO's turn at Carnegie to promote the province.

Premier Greg Selinger hosted a pre-show cocktail party for the tourism industry, where talk of polar bears and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights abounded. The University of Manitoba hosted an alumni mixer down the street. And Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the United States, used his moment on the Carnegie stage to trumpet the province with some of his favourite former-premier's phrases, including, "We're a can-do province."

Doer praised Winnipeg for rallying behind the WSO when financial problems and labour strife nearly killed it a decade ago. "We were able to go through tough times and rise again in spectacular fashion," he told the crowd.

Despite the boosterism, it was clear the WSO was playing for the converted.

Many in the audience were symphony season-ticket holders, and it was easy to pick out familiar faces -- Gail Asper and staff from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, Mayor Sam Katz, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angus and many others.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2014 A6


Updated on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:33 AM CDT: Tweak head, subhead.

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