Category Archives: Random Notes

WSO marks a splendor-filled 70 years

As you’d expect, the season opens on a high note, with Itzak Perlman, and is still there for family fun, The Tenors and ABBA.

Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dear Friends,

As you may have heard, next year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the WSO. For 70 years, you have been our partners. Thank you!

The journey started in 1948 when Walter Kaufmann launched the first regular season of the WSO at the Winnipeg Auditorium. The years that followed were filled with one high note after another. Two tours to Carnegie Hall, international guests including Pierre Monteux, John Barbirolli, Leon Fleisher and Jacqueline du Pré, the move to the Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall, and the launch of the Winnipeg New Music Festival. Continue reading WSO marks a splendor-filled 70 years

New Music Festival 2017 to celebrate Canada’s dynamically changing landscape

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dear music lovers,

It’s been a while since my last column. First of all I would like to wish you a wonderful new year. At the symphony we are buzzing along. In autumn I conducted some fantastic concerts, Debussy’s La Mer and Wagner’s Tristan. And in the Pops, we had concerts with Jann Arden, Finjan and E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial. Oh, yes. E.T. was back. “Going Home.” Continue reading New Music Festival 2017 to celebrate Canada’s dynamically changing landscape

It’s a joy to hear a live classics concert!

It’s a joy to hear a live classics concert!

Sadly, many classical music lovers have never made that connection

Dear Readers,

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

This has been a great summer.

There is something about heading to the lake, leaving behind your regular schedule and committing fully to relaxation that cannot be beat. Itis also a time for reflection and contemplation, which, for me, tends to always revolve around concerts.

In my travels this summer I had the chance to meet a lot of people who share my love for classical music. What I found interesting was that some of them had never actually heard classical music performed live. They listen to it during their drive to work or put on a CD to relax at night, but they have never had the experience of being present at an orchestral performance. Continue reading It’s a joy to hear a live classics concert!

Not the classics, not pop – just music

With youth leading the way, our sense of genre in the music world is breaking down.

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dear Reader,

Whither classical music? This is a question I’m often asked. Is classical music on life support? Are symphonies doomed to shrivel and die in the coming decade? Are the classical performing arts simply a vestige of a simpler, pre-Internet time? Is there any hope?

In 1890, Toscanini complained about the death of classical music as he saw orchestras going bankrupt. In the 1950s, many of today’s leading orchestras didn’t even have full-year seasons. In Beethoven’s time there were no concert series. Private concerts were presented irregularly, and they were benefit concerts that only the wealthy and noble could attend!

Simply put, this question has always been asked. But why?

Funding has always been tight for the performing arts. It used to be because the arts depended primarily on the patronage of philanthropists, a model that still exists in the United States. After the Second World War, many European countries shifted support from the private to public realm, creating arts councils designed to make culture a public good. In Canada we have a mix of these two models. We have public funding for the arts (though at a fraction of what many European countries invest) and a growing pool of arts supporters.

Available to everyone
In fact, today we live in an altogether different classical music environment from even a few decades ago. The Winnipeg Symphony performs for 38 weeks of the year to thousands of audience members. You no longer need to be a wealthy arts patron to afford tickets – you can get a season pass for less than $30 a concert. Compare that to an MTS stadium show or an NHL game. I believe that is pretty affordable!

At the same time, the way we take in classical music is changing rapidly. We now have access to nearly any recording ever produced by simply going online. The Naxos catalogue – which acts as a kind of encyclopedia of classical music – contains over 10,000 titles! And classical music accounts for 12 per cent of sales on Apple’s iTunes platform.

Younger artists like 2Cello have embraced the freedom of the Internet to explore and reinvent classical music. Photo by Stephan Lupino.
Younger artists like 2Cello have embraced the freedom of the Internet to explore and reinvent classical music. Photo by Stephan Lupino.

A major revolution that the Internet has brought on is the way youth today view their relationship with music. In this YouTube generation, everyone can become an artist, and many do, creating videos of their performances and sharing them online. This creates an equalization between consumer and producer. It also means they come to the concert hall in a different way. Kids who are listening to classical music are also listening to pop, R&B and rap music. In fact, their sense of these genres is breaking down as musicians trained in one tradition take on the music of another. Think of those cello guys. Google it if you haven’t heard of them!

Music’s power lives on
So what does this mean? What we will go toward in the near future is that it’s just music, not classical or pop. What I’ve personally learned from some of the composers we’ve worked with from Iceland, where there is less of a tradition of different genres, is that they just compose. But the music, its power, its impact always survives. And the place, I believe, where you have the most intense and visceral experience of that power is in a live concert performance.

Alexander

Alexander Mickelthwate is music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Pops has a big future in our concert halls

There’s a growing audience for the symphony sound backing up our favourite pop artists in performance.

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

Dear Readers,

Today pops concerts and symphony orchestras fit hand in hand, but if you think back you may remember a time when that was a very strange idea. The symphony performed the classics and no conductor dared bridge the gap to popular music. Now people love the idea of big name acts from across the popular music spectrum performing with an orchestra. In December we had Randy Bachman for an amazing three-night run. Our Elvis show was a great hit with a quartet of Broadway singers bringing his music to life. And we just had a remarkable Simon & Garfunkel Tribute duo perform with us. Continue reading Pops has a big future in our concert halls