Putting together a 2012-13 symphony concert program

“Every year in February/ March we announce our upcoming season; this is for me, personally, a little bit like ‘giving birth’. We usually work for 12 months on the different programs of the upcoming season.” – Alexander

Members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, under the musical direction of Alexander Mickelthwate, during a performance at The Forks.
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dearest reader: I hope you are having a wonderful May. Since we moved to Winnipeg five years ago, it seems the winters have been getting shorter and summers longer. Do you agree? In March I bought bikes for my kids and myself; since then we have spent many hours riding in the parks where five years ago everything at that time was still white.

Today I want to tell you a little about our upcoming season. You know, music is all about melodies, harmonies and rhythms. Our organization itself has a yearly rhythm that is very creative and exciting for everybody involved.

Advance bookings
Every year in February/ March we announce our upcoming season; this is for me, personally, a little bit like “giving birth”. We usually work for 12 months on the different programs of the upcoming season which include the classics, pops, family and the sound bites concerts. Many artists are booked two to three years in advance, and we try to make sure that we are part of the game and get the best soloists there are.

We have a programming committee that consists of orchestra players, the director of artistic planning and myself. We meet usually once a month, when we try to come up with exciting programs that you will be interested in.

One of our internal rules is to try not to program anything that was played in the last five years, to give our concerts variety. In planning the masterworks, the process is similar to putting together an eclectic menu in a restaurant.

We try to make sure you will have the chance to hear not only North American composers or German composers but also something French or English or Russian. Then we try to present music from the barock, the classical period, the romantic, the expressionist, the impressionist and contemporary period.

I’m trying to remember to give our tuba player and our harpist enough to do. If I only programmed Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, those two instruments would be sitting out all the time because Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms didn’t compose music that uses a tuba and a harp.

I also try to find pieces that have not been played by the orchestra here in Winnipeg in order to have completely new experiences for everybody, and I’m trying to program certain pieces more often to create traditions with the players and you, the audience.

No barriers here
And in pops we try to reflect the very colourful world that the word “pop” represents. Here everything is allowed, from swing to music theatre to circus to Latin to contemporary. Gosh, there is so much out there.

So this upcoming season I am most excited about welcoming the singers Ben Heppner and Mischa Brueggergossman to perform with the symphony for the first time ever. I am thrilled to have percussionist Evelyn Glennie back. We will have the blind pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, who will blow your mind because he has to learn the music by ear and then find the keys on the piano only by touch. A total miracle.

We will be performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 for the first time here in Winnipeg. A romantic workout that probably will not come back to the city for another 65 years.
And we will have several audience favourites, starting with the most famous piano concerto ever written, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, to the Messiah and finishing the season with Beethoven’s ultimate masterpiece, his Symphony No. 9 with the famous  “Ode to Joy”.

On stage with Barenaked Ladies
In the pops we are most excited to welcome the Barenaked Ladies, who will perform with the orchestra in December for a Christmas spectacular. I’m sure you remember one of their famous songs, “The Old Apartment”, or “If  I had a Million Dollars”. Or maybe you are a fan of the television show, “The Big Bang Theory”, like me. Well, the Barenaked Ladies will be coming to Winnipeg and it will be … a big bang.

I’m also very excited about the “Pirates of the Caribbean” weekend. We will show the first movie of the franchise with Johnny Depp and perform the music live with the orchestra. What do you think? I can’t wait.

So here you have it. A little intro to the symphony.

Have a wonderful spring.

Alexander

Alexander Mickelthwate is music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

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