What have Canadian Orchestras been up to this Fall?

The fall usually marks the beginning of the season in the world of performing arts, orchestras included. As we approach the end of the 9th month of the pandemic, most Canadian orchestras have pivoted into some form of online offering by now, powered by their courage, resilience, and deep longing to connecting with their beloved audiences.  


The Show Must Go On!

For the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, it is clear that “The show must go on”. In fact, this was the opening statement to their new season announcement, which will feature 5 virtual concerts to take place from October through April 2021. In addition to up-close coverage of the musical performances, the ‘NBYO LIVE’ concerts will go behind-the-scenes for interviews and will offer a real-time Q&A session with the audience. “Music has the power to uplift. It’s something that is very important during these challenging times, so we are excited to, once again, bring live orchestral music to the community,” says Ken McLeod, CEO of the NBYO. 


Quebec Orchestras Went Fully Digital

In Montreal, QC which has been a red zone for nearly two months now, the OSM (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) went fully digital with their “The OSM like you’ve never seen it before” series of 6 concerts, which opened with a special Halloween performance for the whole family that was offered free of charge. The series will run through January. Also in Montreal, I Musici Chamber Orchestra announced a fully virtual season of 6 concerts, which will bring local talent to the forefront, and feature varied works from Baroque Masterpieces to 21st century works. The season will run through April.  

In Trois-Rivières in Quebec, the OSTR (Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières) started the fall season with performances in a reduced capacity venue as they were still in the orange zone. With the recent passage of the city to the red zone, the orchestra quickly adapted and announced a virtual concert that is available on demand to their audiences.  


An Inspiring Initiative in Ottawa

The Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy spent their fall working to build a national coalition of professional and youth orchestras to create a series of virtual workshops and masterclasses available to youth orchestra students across Canada, under the banner of the Canadian National Masterclass Series. 14 workshops and masterclasses are set to take place between November 23 and January 30, free to OYOA students and to partner youth orchestras, led by some of Canada’s top orchestral musicians. The first workshop is an intro to reed-making with Gabriel Azzie, Principal Bassoon for Symphony Nova Scotia. 


Recordings and On-Demand Videos in MB and BC

The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra took advantage of the fact that limited gatherings were permitted in the province (up until November 20, when MB entered the red zone), and offered hybrid programming in which 30-40 audience members were permitted. “We got good audio and video recordings [of our fall performances] and will be releasing these online.”, said Vicki Young, the Managing Director of the MCO. “We are researching options for holding a virtual fundraising dinner. We have continued to update and improve our MCO at Home online digital content hub and are creating new content and examining the idea of offering podcasts.”.  

On the other side of the country, the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia decided to publish a pre-recorded concert every 2 weeks for the remainder of their traditional season. “The orchestra is socially distanced for these performances and we’ve been able to showcase various sections of our orchestra – strings, brass – as well as smaller ensembles.”, said Jill Smith, Director of Marketing at VS.  


Connecting In-Person when Possible

In some parts of the country, in-person concerts are still possible with reduced venue capacity. The Fredericton Symphony Orchestra in New Brunswick still hope to host their annual Christmas concert in person. Fredericton is a yellow zone at the moment, which means that indoor events with up to 50 people are still possible.  

If there is anything we learned from the pandemic, it is that Canadian orchestras are resilient, and will continue to be creative and serve their mandate of making the world a more beautiful place by connecting people together and sharing music, no matter what.