One of the East Kootenay’s greatest cultural institutions is back after a year’s hiatus.
The Symphony of the Kootenays is returning with a new artistic musical director, an exciting new program of concerts, and a special mission to bring the symphony to the people.
Symphony president Steen Jorgensen and Musical Director Jeff Faragher dropped into the Townsman last week to give an update and outline of a new rejuvenated Symphony.
“I think it’s going to be a very good season,” Jorgensen said. “We’re doing new things as far as the events go. Making each performance, each concert, an event for people, so it’s not just coming and listening to the music. There are other things happening. There will be pre-concert festivities, some open rehearsals — which we’ve never done before — and Lorraine Kneier (a music educator and author of the book “Music: The Window to the Soul”) will be holding workshops before some of the concerts, specifically about the music Jeff will be presenting.”
Jorgensen said the workshops and open rehearsals are free, open to the public, aimed at youth and whoever else wants to come.
The Symphony of the Kootenays draws from a pool of musicians from around the region — 36 to 40 musicians, depending on the program.
The main base of musicians is from the Kootenays, and there are other players who come from places like Calgary or Lethbridge.
The Symphony took a year off to re-organize, after a troubled period where it was doubtful whether the institution could even continue. However, the new board and muscial director have been working hard to bring the orchestra back to viability.
“In the past year and somewhat we’ve had to reorganize the finances, we’ve had to look for additional support, we’ve had to go to grant funding agencies, sponsors, donors, and organize the board to determine who has what talent,” Jorgensen said.
“Our subscription drive is about at 50 per cent of our projection. We thought we’d be about there, but now, of course, the hard sledding starts. It’s the last 50 per cent that’s important.”
Jorgensen says all the planning for the upcoming season is generating renewed interest in the Symphony. However, as vital as the corporate and community support has been, the most important is bringing the audiences in.
“This is the season that’s going to tell us whether we’re going to have further seasons — it’s really that simple,” he said.
“We have a good demographic — we have a potential of 4,000 people who could attend. We’re not worried about changing the demographic, we’re interested in attracting that demographic group.”
Jeff Faragher has been the principal cellist for the Symphony, and is also known for his involvement with the La Cafamore String Quartet and the Selkirk Trio. He said he is extremely excited about taking on the new role with the Symphony.
“I think all this renewed energy and the new direction is going to be a really exciting thing,” Faragher said.
“We are so fortunate to have an organization like this where we live. There are lots of communities that are as wonderful to live in as the Kootenays, but they don’t have the same cultural organizations. I’m really passionate about seeing this succeed.”
Faragher said that the key to this success is connecting with the community — connecting with the audience and making the Symphony an experience that’s worth coming out to.
“I have yet to meet anyone that’s been to a symphony concert who’s said, ‘I didn’t enjoy that,'” he said. “The key is getting them there and making it enticing enough.”
With that in mind, Faragher and the Symphony have put together a program of concerts that is respectful of the great legacy of classical music but also looks into the future.
“There’s so much good music, but it’s also a challenge,” Faragher said. “There’s a lot of things to consider. You want to put together a program that’s exciting for the audience and exciting for the musicians, but is also manageable in that you present it well.
“I think we’ve put together a program that really does well at that. It will be presented at a professional level and yet will be very enjoyable and exciting for the audience.
“We’ve come together with a program that I think presents a lot of familiar classics as well as some different things — there’s some world music on the program, some larger classical works that people may not have heard of. But again, we’re not necessarily playing obscure music just for the sake of playing obscure music, we’re playing music that will get people’s toes tapping and get them humming.”
Jorgensen and Faraghar mention two concerts in particular that illustrate the Symphony’s direction.
“We tried to create at least one program that really appeals to a larger demographic than the typical symphony concert-goer,” Faragher said. “So we’ve put together sort of a ‘pops show,’ if you will (February 1, and 2, 2014), and that’s featuring the band Sultans of String playing with the Symphony.”
Sultans of String are an instrumental music group based in Toronto, led by well-known Canadian musician Chris McKhool. The group combines elements of Spanish flamenco, Arabic folk, Cuban rhythms, and French Manouche Gypsy-jazz.
“They’ve just put together a really solid symphonic program that was tested with the Toronto Symphony, so we’re getting a well-oiled machine coming here,” Faragher said. “So it’s going to be a whole variety of world music — lots of flavours there.
“We’re also presenting a children’s program the next day (Feb. 2), that’s more specific to youth. It’s a dedicated program called Fiddlefire,” that Chris McKhool has put together.”
Another performance of note is the final concert of the season — two shows, April 12 and 13 — that will feature the band program out of Mount Baker Secondary School with the Symphony.
“We’re going to be highlighting some of the players with that program as well as inviting Evan Bueckert, the director of that program, to lead the Symphony orchestra,” Faragher said.
“This was an idea that came up, and I loved it, because I really think an important component of an arts institution’s success is to connect with the community. And from everything that I’ve heard, this band program is extremely well done. So these young musicians will be able to join us, and play with the symphony, we’re going to be playing pieces that feature them. And I’m going to be playing a cello concerto (the Elgar) with the symphony.”
Faraghar has his whole year mapped out, making sure there’s lots of space around Symphony weekends but also to invest energy into connecting with the community.
“What I feel we’re really trying to do is present something to the community that’s exciting, accessible and something that people will value.
“We’re working hard to connect with the community, going into the schools, connect with the kids, inviting them to come to our open rehearsals — just engaging our audience, letting them know what we’re all about. Part of this idea of having the workshops is to bring the symphony to the people. There’s been a bit of a split — a chasm — between the stage and the audience, and we want to involve everybody.”
For subscriptions to the 2013/14 season of the Symphony of the Kootenays, write to Box 512, Cranbrook, V1C 4G1, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 250-489-4932.
The 2013-14 Season:
Theme: New Beginnings
Oct. 19 – Capitol Theatre, Nelson
Oct. 20 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook
Featuring Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.
Theme: A World of Joy
Nov. 30 – Alliance Church, Cranbrook
Featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Christmas carols with the Symphony of the Kootenays Chorus.
Theme: World Popular Music for All Ages
Feb. 1 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook
Evening concert featuring the Sultans of String and Symphony.
Feb. 2 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook
Afternoon children and family concert featuring McKhool Fiddlefire and the Symphony.
Theme: Celebration of Excellence – Youth, Culture & Regional Diversity
Apr. 12 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook
Apr. 13 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook
Featuring guest conductor Evan Bueckert, soloist Jeff Faragher and the Mount Baker Senior Concert Band.