Celebrating 75 WSO season features familiar faces, fresh voices, symphonies and sci-fi stars

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is welcoming back some old friends for its 75th anniversary season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/04/2022 (331 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is welcoming back some old friends for its 75th anniversary season.

Those invited to the season-long party are violinist James Ehnes, whose earliest solo performances were with the WSO, and conductor Andrey Boreyko, who was the orchestra’s music director from 2001 to ‘06.

Ehnes, who was born and grew up in Brandon and now lives in Florida, will bring his priceless Stradivarius to kick off the new season Sept. 17 at the Centennial Concert Hall, with WSO music director Daniel Raiskin at the podium.

WSO’s 75th anniversary season

Absolute Classics

All conducted by Daniel Raiskin unless noted.

● Opening night with James Ehnes, Sept. 17

● Boreyko, Tchaikovsky and the Themes of Paganini, with conductor Andrey Boreyko and pianist Krzyzstof Jablonski, Nov. 5.

● Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony with trumpeter Chris Fensom, Feb. 18, 2023.

All conducted by Daniel Raiskin unless noted.

● Opening night with James Ehnes, Sept. 17

● Boreyko, Tchaikovsky and the Themes of Paganini, with conductor Andrey Boreyko and pianist Krzyzstof Jablonski, Nov. 5.

● Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony with trumpeter Chris Fensom, Feb. 18, 2023.

● Alexei Volodin plays Rachmaninoff 3, March 17, 2023

● Rachmaninoff, Berlioz and Alexei Volodin, March 18, 2023

● Ode to Joy! Beethoven’s Ninth and special guest Jan Lisiecki, May 13, 2023

Beyond Classics

● Raiskin conducts Shostakovich, with cellist Bryan Cheng, Oct. 8

● Violins of Hope, with Avshi Weinstein, Gwen Hoebig and Sonia Lazar, Dec. 3

● Greig’s Peer Gynt, with narrator John de Lancie, vocalists Andrea Lett, Kyle Briscoe, Julie Lumsden and the University of Manitoba Singers, Jan. 21, 2023

● Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony, with flutist Demarre McGill, March 4, 2023

● Brahms’ Requiem, conducted by Yuri Klaz with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir and vocalistss Gregory Dahl and Lara Ciekiewicz, April 1, 2023

Live at the WSO

All conducted by Julian Pellicano

● Crash Test Dummies, Sept. 23-24.

● Symphony of Illusions, with magician Michael Grandinetti, Oct. 22-23

● A Celebration of Nations , with artists from Folklorama, Dec. 10-11

● Symphonic Fly, with the FLY Dance Company

● The Ultimate ABBA Tribute with Rajaton, April 15-16, 2023

Night at the Movies

● Gold Rush, starring Charlie Chaplin, June 24

● Nosferatu, Oct. 29 at the Burton Cummings Theatre

● Home Alone in concert, Nov. 25-26

● Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in concert, March 24-25

Kids Concerts

All conducted by Naomi Woo

● Alligator Pie, Oct. 22

● A Flicker of Light on a Winter’s Night, with Platypus Theatre, Dec. 4

● Melodius Prime vs. the Boyz of Noise, with Mr. Mark, and WSO mascot Manny Tuba

● The Mysterious Maestro, with Dandi Productions, March 26, 2023

Untuxed Open Rehearsal Series

With conductor Daniel Raiskin unless noted

● Tchaikovsky: Suite Nov. 3 in G major, Op. 55, with conductor Andrey Boreyko, Nov. 5

● Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90, Dec. 3

● Dvorak, Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70, Feb. 18, 2023

● Amy Marcy Cheney Beach: Symphony No. 2 in E minor. Op. 32, March 4, 2023

● Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, March 18, 2023

”I think he’s considered one of the great violinists of our age,” Angela Birdsell, the WSO’s executive director, says of Ehnes, who is scheduled to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major.

About six weeks later, on Nov. 5, Boreyko will conduct the symphony once again with Polish pianist Krzysztof Jablonski as guest soloist.

”There’s a bit of a reference to our wonderful past with people Andrey Boreyko and I know there’s going to be a lot of folks thrilled to see him back with us in Winnipeg,” Birdsell says.

Other familiar faces from past seasons are scattered among the lineup of classical music concerts, including Russian pianist Alexei Volodin — known for having the stamina of a marathoner at the keyboard — taking on back-to-back nights of Sergei Rachmaninoff works (March 17 and 18), Calgary virtuoso pianist Jan Lisiecki (May 13, 2023), and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir (April 1).

Earlier this month, the WSO performed with Paul Shaffer, who led the CBS Orchestra and the World’s Most Dangerous Band on David Letterman’s talk shows for many years, and its brush with television fame will continue in 2023.

John de Lancie, who plays Q, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard’s nemesis, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Picard, will be the narrator for the orchestra’s performance of Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt on Jan. 21, 2023.

A bit of happenstance delivered de Lancie — who has narrated Peer Gynt with orchestras around the world in addition to his acting career, which includes roles in films such as The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and The Fisher King and on television in the Breaking Bad and Star Trek universes — to the season lineup.

“He visited us this past year when he was in Winnipeg for the ComicCon conference and he heard the orchestra,” she says. “Apparently he’s had incredible success with this version (of Peer Gynt). It’ll be quite engaging and we’re excited about that.”

Birdsell says the WSO will make a bit of history on March 4 when it performs Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony with Demarre McGill, the principal flutist of the Seattle Symphony, as guest soloist.

The Gaelic Symphony is the first symphony composed and published by an American woman.

“It may be the first time we’ve had the main piece of a Masterworks dedicated to a woman composer,” Birdsell says.

“In terms of composers and women on the podium, there’s seems to be a tipping point in the past couple of years, where we’re seeing women take their place in a prominent way. It’s really encouraging to see and to hear some of the amazing works from women composers and to hear some of the amazing interpretations from women (conductors).

The symphony is unveiling Live at the WSO in 2022-23, its new name for its pops program, and it kicks off with the WSO accompanying two performances from the Crash Test Dummies on Sept. 23 and 24.

The Dummies became one of Winnipeg’s most successful rock acts thanks to 1990s-era hits The Superman Song and Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.

Illusionist Michael Grandinetti (Oct. 22-23), performances with Folklorama artists (Dec. 10-11), the Fly Dance Company from Houston (Feb. 11-12), and Rajaton, described as the ultimate ABBA tribute vocal group (April 15-16), are also part of the Live at the WSO schedule.

The new name reflects the wide range of entertainment the series, conducted by Julian Pellicano, will offer, Birdsell says.

”The word ‘pops’ is quite dated now,” she says. “We felt it was time to give it a new image, refresh it a bit for our 75th. We have everything from a rap, hip-hop dance company to one of the best cover groups, with Rajaton… The Folklorama partnership where we have a celebration of nations will be really exciting.”

The WSO’s Kids Concerts lineup includes four shows: Alligator Pie, which has the orchestra accompanying children’s poets by Dennis Lee (Oct. 2); a holiday show called A Flicker of Light on a Winter’s Night with Ottawa’s Platypus Theatre (Dec. 4); a collaboration with Winnipeg children’s entertainer Mr. Mark titled Melodius Prime vs. the Boyz of Noise (Jan. 15); and a musical homage to the Pied Piper of Hamelin titled The Mysterious Maestro (March 26).

Four movies are on the WSO’s itinerary as well, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (March 24-25) the next instalment of the WSO’s Harry Potter film series and Home Alone (Nov. 24-25).

The orchestra will also provide the live scores for The Gold Rush, which stars Charlie Chaplin (June 24), and Nosferatu (1927), one of the first film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s oft-told Dracula novel, which will be shown Oct. 29 at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

”The film score is almost coming into its own as an art form and there’s a lot of interest in the impact that a film score has on the (movie-going) experience,” she says. “We’re going to reach an entirely different film audience than our blockbusters.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the WSO’s season launch this year, and Birdsell says there will be other special concerts announced later, including a new unconventional concert site for the Winnipeg New Music Festival in January 2023.

The WSO has set a June 30 deadline for early-bird subscription renewals, which can be made at wso.ca or by calling the WSO box office at 204-949-3999.

“(The season preview) also marks the feeling from the organization that we’re back in business for real,” she says. “It does finally feel like we can make plans and anticipate we can honour those plans.”


Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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