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Q & A with Don Amero

Don Amero is a three-time JUNO Award-nominated singer-songwriter who is also recognized for his work as an amplifier of Indigenous thought and ideas through his Cree and Métis heritage. An engaging storyteller, singer-songwriter and performer, Don is celebrating a new album and a #1 single on Indigenous Music Countdown and we asked him a few questions prior to his appearance at our Made in Manitoba concerts on October 16 & 17.

What has the past seven months been like for you and your family? We know you were supposed to be on a Canada wide tour promoting your new album “The Next Chapter”.

Despite the reason behind it, it’s actually been quite nice to have so much quality and quantity time together as a family. We spent a good amount of time at the beginning and end of summer at the cabin. I’m so thankful for the beautiful summer we had to enjoy the great outdoors. My mom was actually diagnosed with COVID-19. For her, it manifested itself with no more than a cold. She stayed home and locked in. That prompted us to lock ourselves in our home, get our groceries delivered, and just do our part to make sure that we kept everybody in our world safe. We took our tests and thankfully they came back negative.

How has your song writing been impacted?
That has surely taken a hit. Once the kids were home from school in mid/ late march both my wife and I went into full on parent mode and it didn’t really slow down from sun up to sun down, March to September. I have been able to get back to “normal” since they went back to school a few weeks ago, but still trying to figure out this “new normal”.

Has this pandemic changed how you’re looking at the Made in Manitoba concert?
I have been lucky enough to have been called upon for quite a few online events, so that’s kept me busy as a performer, but it’s definitely not the same as being in front of a crowd.

For this upcoming show I am quite excited to see and perform alongside the symphony. It’s like the ultimate band from heaven! I have been lucky enough to perform with the WSO at least half a dozen times now and once with the Thunder Bay Orchestra.

What have you chosen for your set list?
I will be performing ‘Wash Away’, ‘Going Home’, and ‘Twilight Hour’. I will also do a solo version of my song ‘Church’.

The video for your song ‘Morning Coffee’ features Lockport’s Half Moon Drive In, a very well-known Manitoba landmark that’s been around since 1938. What thing or place means “Manitoba’ to you?
I mentioned the cabin early on and no spot is quite as serene and peaceful as that place. It’s right on Lake Winnipeg and offers some of the most spectacular sunsets around. You actually get a glimpse of the beach there in my music video for Church.

Is there a particular song in your set list for the concert that you’re especially looking forward to hearing and performing with the orchestra?
‘Going Home’ is one that holds a very special place in my heart. I wrote that one year ago after my Grandfather in-law passed away quite suddenly and left behind my Grandmother. They were married for 62 years! She lost her other half that day and I felt this call to write a song that was almost a sort of last love letter from him to her.

A limited number of tickets for Made in Manitoba are still available. For information on subscriptions or Flex Packs, contact the Box Office at 204- 949-3999 or boxoffice@wso.mb.ca.

Two to Tango

Saturday, September 12, 3:00 pm
St. Boniface Cathedral

A WSO fundraiser featuring the WSO’s Élise Lavallée & Jeremy Buzash
with special guest Julian Pellicano (accordion)

Join WSO assistant principal violist Élise Lavallée and principal second violinist Jeremy Buzash at the picturesque St. Boniface Cathedral for an outdoor concert of Argentinian tangos by composers like Carlos GardelAstor Piazzolla and more! Joining them on the accordion will be special guest WSO Associate Conductor Julian Pellicano.

This is a ‘pay-what-you-can’ performance with all donations going to support the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Donations will be accepted onsite (debit or credit card preferred) or donate in advance here.

Concertgoers are asked to bring their own chair and sit on the socially distanced marked spaces by themselves or with their group.

Space is limited to a maximum capacity of 100 people.

Hot and cold refreshments from Never Better Coffee will be available for purchase at the concert (debit or credit card payments only).

One Voice

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra was set to perform as part of the Manitoba 150 festivities before the pandemic forced their cancellation.

Instead, the symphony invited Manitoba artists to join them in song to celebrate Manitoba, recognize our diverse cultures and unite as “One Voice.”

“Great musical performances serve to enrich all of us,” said Steven Dyer, principal trombonist.

“We were determined to create a lasting and uplifting presentation in which to celebrate Manitoba and its peoples through music and song. The musicians of the WSO are delighted to be joined by so many friends from across our great province as we share with you, in the spirit of harmony, this special offering.”

The special video features members of the orchestra in different landmark Manitoba locations along with the voices of Manitoba artists in a virtual recording of the song ‘One Voice’, written by Manitoba singer/songwriter Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys and performed around the world as an anthem of unity and harmony. The WSO featured this song in 2015 in a show centred around the theme of human rights.

“One Voice” written by Ruth Moody

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Raiskin, Music Director & viola

With special guests:
Don Amero
Andrew Balfour
Steve Bell
Tracy Dahl
Rick Hall (chainsaw carver, Hillside Beach, MB)
Raine Hamilton
Beth Lamont, RWB soloist
The Bros. Landreth
Strong Waterfall Woman Nakeisha McDonald
Fred Penner
Dancing Bear Gayle Pruden
Sistema Winnipeg Choir
Walking Wolf Ray Co-Co Stevenson
Winnipeg Singers (Yuri Klaz, Artistic Director)
World Village Gospel Choir (Rachel Landrecht & Neil Weisensel, co-directors)
and introducing: Amalia Hickerson

Special thanks:
Ruth Moody, songwriter
Julian Pellicano, WSO Associate Conductor & project manager
Sean Philips, producer
Isaac Pulford, WSO musician & project coordinator
Jane Radomski, WSO musician & initial concept
Neil Weisensel, arranger

Remembering Conductor, Violinist and Champion of Canadian Music Victor Feldbrill

Thank You, Maestro!

I was not fortunate enough to have met Maestro Victor Feldbrill in person or to have heard him perform live, but the news of his passing filled my heart with a sense of profound sadness. At the same time, I feel enormous gratitude towards this extraordinary musician who was an incredible source of inspiration, a visionary and community leader who built such a remarkably solid foundation for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra!

As current Music Director of the WSO, I am enjoying an inspiring musical and human relationship with this world-class orchestra, knowing that all my predecessors have, in their own way, continued building upon a unique legacy left by Maestro Feldbrill. His contribution to what the WSO stands for today cannot be overstated: a vision of a fully professional nucleus symphony orchestra with an extended season, strong educational and outreach programs, broad representation of Canadian composers, soloists, conductors and a really strong overall relationship with the Winnipeg community.

I am truly inspired to continue the great tradition Victor Feldbrill was so instrumental in creating and I feel privileged to be among his younger colleagues. Thank you, Maestro!

Daniel Raiskin,
Music Director


Photo by Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press


Remembering Conductor, Violinist and Champion of Canadian Music Victor Feldbrill

by James Manishen, WSO Artistic Operations Associate

The WSO mourns the death of its second Conductor and Music Director Victor Feldbrill, OC OOnt, who passed away at age 96 on June 17, 2020. One of Canada’s leading conductors, Mr. Feldbrill was born in Toronto and had a long and eminent career on the podium. At age 93, his last conducting appearance with the WSO took place in October 2017 at the opening concert of the orchestra’s 70th season, leading a performance of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.

Mr. Feldbrill led the WSO from 1958 through 1968, succeeding its first Music Director Walter Kaufman. At the start of his tenure at age 34, Mr. Feldbrill was the youngest Canadian-born conductor to lead a major Canadian orchestra.

Mr. Feldbrill came to the WSO with conditions he felt essential in order to grow an orchestra which would have artistic continuity and build audiences. The musicians were to be employed as a “nucleus orchestra” with a season contract, rather than on a per-service arrangement where each musician had been hired for individual concerts. He insisted the orchestra undertake an educational commitment to introduce orchestral music to young people. The Pops realm also had to be recognized through a series of free matinee programs. Most notably, music by Canadian composers figured prominently in his programs – composers he knew personally such as John Weinzweig, Harry Somers and others now in the Canadian orchestral mainstream.

Mr. Feldbrill spent his teen years playing the violin, joining the Navy in the Second World War to play the violin in the Navy Show. After earning his Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory in 1949, he enjoyed a highly successful performing career as first violinist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1949-1956). As a conductor, he appeared as a guest leader with virtually every major symphony orchestra in Canada. Following his tenure with the WSO, he became Resident Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1973-1978) and was the first Conductor-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (1968-1982).

A champion of music for youth, Mr. Feldbrill founded the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 1974 and was its Conductor until 1978 and was a faculty member of Tokyo National University of Art and Music. Even in his 90s, Victor Feldbrill’s dedication to music was unbridled. He was named an Honorary Fellow by The Royal Conservatory in 2014. His biography Victor Feldbrill: Canadian Conductor Extraordinaire by Walter Pitman (Dundurn Press) was published in 2010. Among his many recordings is a live 1959 WSO performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Glenn Gould as soloist (available from the WSO).

What really set Mr. Feldbrill apart was his limitless enthusiasm and support of Canadian music and young musicians, as well as his insistence on playing the music of Canadian composers. His contribution to music in Canada and the development of essential organizations and individuals stands as a testament to the power of determination and core belief in the value of music and the arts.

The WSO sends its deepest condolences to his immediate family.


James Manishen and Victor Feldbrill, 2017.
Black Composers and Artists who Left Their Mark on Classical Music

This week has been one of anger, heartbreak and reflection as African-Americans have once again found themselves fighting for their rights and their lives.

The world stood in solidarity on Tuesday with an initiative put forth by the music industry and wider communities – Blackout Tuesday, a day-long pause to silence an industry propped up by black history.

The arts has always been seen as the mirror by which we see ourselves – the good and the bad. Classical music – born of the European tradition, has long had a battle with equality and racism. We recognize that there is an immense amount of work to be done as an industry and in our own backyard.

Today we celebrate some of the brilliant composers that have been neglected too long in the Western tradition.


Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799)

Dubbed ‘le Mozart noir’ (‘Black Mozart’), the Chevalier de Saint-Georges is remembered as the first classical composer of African origins. Saint-Georges was born to a wealthy plantation owner and his African slave. He was a champion fencer, classical composer and virtuoso violinist who also led one of the best orchestras in Europe – Le Concert des Amateurs. US president John Adams called him “the most accomplished man in Europe.”

It’s been said that Mozart, who at the time of Saint-Georges’ success was struggling greatly with his career, was so envious of the man, that he stole one of Saint-Georges’ ideas in his Sinfonia Concertante.


George Bridgetower (1780–1860)

Eighteenth- and 19th-century classical violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower is perhaps now best remembered for his association with Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed his Kreutzer Sonata for the young Afro-European musician, and personally performed the sonata for violin and piano with Bridgetower. A copy of the sonata autographed by Beethoven is inscribed: “Sonata mulattica composta per il mullato.”

Bridegetower was born to a Polish mother in Poland. His father was from the West Indies and worked for Prince Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł. A child prodigy on the violin, Bridgetower lived in England most of his life. The Prince of Wales placed Bridgetower under his protection when he was just 11, and appointed tutors for him. He went on to become first violinist in the prince’s private orchestra for 14 years. Bridgetower also performed numerous concerts and became a famous and celebrated musician in his time. It was during an 1802 concert tour of Europe that he made friends with Beethoven, who described Bridgetower as “an absolute master of his instrument.”

Unfortunately the two had a falling out after Bridgetower spoke badly about a female friend of Beethoven’s. Beethoven scratched out Bridgetower’s name from the manuscript and instead dedicated the work to a violinist name Kreutzer – who never played the work. He said it was far too difficult.


Scott Joplin (1868–1917)

A pianist and ragtime master, Joplin wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet and two operas. He was one of the most important and influential composers at the turn of the 20th century. One of his first and most popular pieces, the Maple Leaf Rag, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

One of six children, Joplin’s mother Florence cleaned houses for a living. She would sometimes make a deal with the owners of the houses to work for free certain days if Scott could practice on their piano or other instruments.

In 1911, Joplin wrote a groundbreaking opera titled Treemonisha. The opera encompassed a wide range of musical styles but was largely unknown before its first complete performance in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music.


Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912)

Dubbed by white New York musicians as the ‘African Mahler’ and the ‘Black Dvorak’, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor fought against racial prejudice all his short life. Born in Holborn and raised in Croydon, Coleridge-Taylor’s father was a black Sierra Leonean doctor. His mother was English and white. The composer travelled a great deal – especially to the US, where he was incredibly successful and honoured by people like President Theodore Roosevelt and black educationalist Booker T. Washington.

Coleridge-Taylor burst onto the British music scene with the premiere of his cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast at the Royal College of Music. According to the composer Hubert Parry, word had gotten around London’s music scene that an extraordinary event was about to take place. Expectations were easily met. London papers hailed the work as a masterpiece, but Coleridge-Taylor relinquished copyright for the piece for only 15 guineas, even though thousands of copies of the score were later sold. This was one of the reasons Coleridge-Taylor died so young. On August 28, 1912, the 37-year-old composer collapsed at West Croydon station while waiting for a train. He died later from pneumonia brought on by overwork.


Florence Price (1887–1953)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Price was one of the first African-American classical composers to win national attention, and, unquestionably, the first black woman to be recognized. Unfortunately, she is mentioned more often than she is heard.

In 1933, she became the first African-American woman to have her music performed by a major symphony orchestra. A music critic from the Chicago Daily News, who heard the work performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, declared it “a faultless work, a work that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion … worthy of a place in the regular symphonic repertoire.”

In 2009, Vicki and Darrell Gatwood, of St. Anne, Illinois, were preparing to renovate an abandoned house on the outskirts of town. They made a curious discovery – piles of musical manuscripts, books, personal papers and other documents all bearing the name Florence Price. The house had once been the composer’s summer house. Among the manuscripts were dozens of Price scores that had been thought lost.


William Grant Still (1895–1978)

Born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, Still’s legacy is remarkable both for the barriers he broke and the inventive works he wrote that blended European art music with African-rooted popular and folk music. Dubbed ‘The Dean’ of African-American composers, he was a gifted musician who studied the violin but was self taught on the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, viola, cello and double bass.

Still was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have an opera produced by a major opera company (the New York City Opera), the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra (Afro-American Symphony No. 1), and the first to have an opera performed on national TV.


Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943)

A Canadian-American Black composer, organist, pianist, choral director and music professor, Dett was born and raised in Canada until the age of 11. He and his family moved to the United States with his family and had most of his professional education and career there. During his lifetime he was a leading Black composer, known for his use of African-American folk songs and spirituals as the basis for choral and piano compositions in the 19th century Romantic style of Classical music.

He was among the first Black composers during the early years after the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was organized. Dett performed at Carnegie Hall and at the Boston Symphony Hall as a pianist and choir director.


George Walker (1922–2018)

The grandson of a slave, George Walker died in 2018 at age 96. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996, he was one of America’s most distinguished composers. Firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition, Walker also drew from African-American spirituals and jazz. His nearly 100 compositions range broadly, from intricately orchestrated symphonic works and concertos to intimate songs and solo piano pieces.

Walker was a trailblazing man of “firsts,” and not just because of the Pulitzer. In the year 1945 alone, he was the first African-American pianist to play a recital at New York’s Town Hall, the first black instrumentalist to play solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.


These are just a handful of the brilliant Black composers and artists who despite all barriers, made a lasting mark on classical music. There are so many more. We haven’t even touched on the artists. Legends like Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman just to name a few.

As people all over the world rally together we pause to think about all the creative geniuses whose talent we’ll never enjoy because of the colour of their skin, their sex or their economic background.

As Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Commemorating the Netherlands Tour and Liberation Day in a Different Way

Amsterdam thanks Canadians!

I was just a young man of 20 when I came to the Netherlands 30 years ago. I knew very little about the role Canadians played in liberating this tiny country during the Second World War, but it became overwhelmingly obvious during the May 1990 freedom celebrations in Amsterdam that there was a unique bond tying these two very different countries.

A bond between people is defined as a strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences that unites them. Canada shares a very special bond with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was forged when, in May 1945, Canadian troops freed the Dutch from Nazi occupation. That bond was made even stronger when Canada, along with its Allies, saved the Dutch population from starvation.

Today is May 5th 2020 and we are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Liberation of the Netherlands here in Amsterdam. In these sobering times of worldwide pandemic our celebrations are nothing like the ones that had been so carefully and lovingly planned. But, cancelled or not, when I look at my 21-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, both born here in Amsterdam, I can’t help but think about the thousands of Canadian soldiers that gave their lives for freedom in Holland — many of them as old as my son today, or even younger.

Life can often take turns that are impossible to predict. How could I have ever imagined that I would become so connected to both the Netherlands and Canada? As a proud Dutch citizen for a quarter of a century now, I am so grateful to this small country that I used to associate with tulips and cheese, for giving me a new home and hope. It offered me a chance at a future and freedom that feels particularly precious today.

As Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra I am blessed to make music with a group of talented, highly motivated and passionate musicians in front of dedicated and caring audiences. I have forged many wonderful friendships in Winnipeg and have developed the deepest respect for the spirit of Canadian people.

I can’t tell you how saddened I am that our beautifully planned WSO tour of the Netherlands and Belgium had to be postponed and that we are not able to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Liberation all together.

Here in Amsterdam I live just a few blocks away from an eloquent and touching monument called “Amsterdam thanks its Canadians”. It was created by the Dutch artist Jan de Baat and was publicly unveiled May 5th, 1980. Today I would like to pay tribute to all Canadians who gave their lives in acts of selfless heroism fighting for the future that I am a part of today. These beautiful tulips are for them!

Moreover, on behalf of the entire Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra – its musicians, administration, staff and all the board members – I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all our supporters, donors and sponsors for helping us envision and plan our first European tour on such a special occasion.

While we cannot commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Liberation today in person as we had planned, we will do so in 2022! Its profound importance remains the same. We will always remember on both sides of the Atlantic. We will always be grateful and free!

Daniel Raiskin, Music Director

Thank You From the Musicians of the WSO

May 5th marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands, when General Charles Foulkes, commander of the 1st Canadian Corps, accepted the surrender of German forces. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Tour to the Netherlands and Belgium was planned to commemorate this significant event and celebrate the bond that was forged between Canada and the Netherlands. It is with deep gratitude that the Musicians of the WSO dedicate this video to the many people, both here and abroad, who adopted a musician or contributed in any way toward this tour. Although our tour has been postponed, we look forward to honouring this historic moment in the future.

The Musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra would like to thank Sean Philips from  clicksplashwow for producing and editing our project.

The Stones of Amsterdam Remember, We Remember

A poem by Di Brandt
Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the Netherlands Tour

The Stones of Amsterdam Remember, We Remember (PDF)

Di Brandt is a renowned and best-selling poet who served as Winnipeg’s inaugural Poet Laureate in 2018 and 2019. She teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg. Di Brandt grew up in a Plautdietsch-speaking traditionalist Mennonite colony in southern Manitoba, and left it at age 17. She has travelled widely and held numerous fellowships, writer residencies and teaching appointments across Canada and internationally. She considers Winnipeg her home.

“Thank you to Maestro Daniel Raiskin and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the invitation to contribute poetically to the 75th Anniversary Celebrations of the Liberation of Holland by the Canadian Army near the end of the Second World War. Thank you to Canadian composer Matthew Whittall, in Finland, for lively productive conversations about this anniversary commemoration, and Canadians’ role in it; and thanks to Arnold Schalks of Rotterdam for help with the Dutch phrases in the piece. I’m honoured by this opportunity, and moved by the stories of courage and suffering of the people involved in these grave events, carefully passed down to us across the better part of a century. The Netherlands were the homeland of my people several centuries back, and this project also gave me a chance to reconnect with my ancestral heritage in a restorative way.”  -Di Brandt

A Message from Canadian-Finnish Composer Matthew Whittall

A Message from Canadian Tenor Adam Luther

A Message from Yuri Klaz, Winnipeg Singers


Musical Pairings

A Recipe for Great Music Making

For me, a symphony orchestra’s repertoire is like the menu of a great restaurant: full of tasty dishes, often from different parts of the world, prepared from exquisite ingredients. The process of creating a concert program is actually very similar to preparing a wonderful meal.

It all starts with deciding what style should dominate the musical menu. Will it be international “cuisine” or will it be concentrated on the flavours of just one country?  Italian, Spanish, Russian, German or maybe French? With the WSO’s repertoire, we try not to limit ourselves to one kind of style – after all, everyone has different tastes. Often, however, the ‘menu’ for an evening of music is dominated by the music of the selected country so we can maintain a certain mood. Perhaps it’s the fiery atmosphere of Spanish music or the colors of French Impressionism. This makes it easier for the listener.

Some of my colleagues plan the repertoire in such way that the large chunks of the concert season are dedicated to the music of only one country, region or certain style. Then, for two or three months they only perform the music of handful of composers. At the WSO I prefer to offer a wider range of musical emotions. I would not like to eat, for example, only Italian dishes for several months, even though I really love them. And although I love fine cuisine, once in a while, I want a big sausage or a good juicy hamburger!

When it comes time to choose our specific dishes, an overture usually plays the role of a starter—longer or shorter, depending on the appetite.

The first course is usually a work that features a specific instrument. This creates an exciting flavor profile, thanks to the three interacting parties on stage: soloist, orchestra and conductor. Choosing that solo instrument, whether it’s violin, piano, cello or maybe clarinet  – is like choosing the featured ingredient. Do I fancy meat, fish, game or maybe a vegetarian dish this time?

After a short break, we’re ready for the main course—a symphony, symphonic suite or a large-scale symphonic poem perhaps.

And finally, at the end of the “feast”, it’s time for dessert, which in a concert could be the encore.  Sometimes though, you’re so wonderfully full from the main course that a dessert might spoil the overall impression.  In this case we leave the listener with the excitement and emotions of what they’ve just heard and let them savor the moment.

In music, as in good cuisine, the smallest details and subtlest ingredients matter.

Symphonies, concertos, symphonic poems—they all consist of multiple parts, flavours and emotions. The conductor, like a chef, has the task of combining all these “ingredients” into one wonderful “dish”.  There must be a great deal of balance here. For example, when violins play a lyrical and gentle melody, the French horns or trombones cannot play too loud at the same time. They’ll overwhelm them.  After all, we don’t combine the subtle tastes of seafood with spicy cheeses or raw garlic and onions. It would destroy its delicacy.  A variety of herbs and spices in music translates to an array of dynamic shades and the right amount of accents and articulation. Without this, music would be colourless and boring.

Now, the finished dish must be plated in a way that entices the perspective diner. In music it’s all about the atmosphere. The concert hall, the acoustics, and even the lighting play an important roll. Most audience members ‘listen’ with their eyes. The level of the orchestra’s involvement and interaction with the conductor and each other goes hand in hand with the overall appearance of the dish.

Then there’s the ratio of audience members to performers to think about. The atmosphere in a concert when there is one musician on stage and a thousand audience members is very different from a concert with two hundred musicians on stage and two thousand listeners. It’s like having a meal in solitude compared to enjoying dinner in a busy café.

When we have a well-prepared concert program performed in appealing surroundings and an audience full of passionate music lovers, something truly magical happens—something that involves the presence of two sides: performers and listeners.

The importance of concert program fine-tuned to the tastes of the listeners is important, but it should not be overestimated. Since I’ve started working with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, I’ve put a lot of effort into cooking something that nourishes the body and the soul. When visiting a really good restaurant, you don’t have to check what’s on the menu beforehand – you know you will eat something really wonderful. I want concertgoers to feel the same way about the WSO! Great food and great music create wonderful emotions!

I invite you to join us in the kitchen and watch our modest cooking videos on the WSO Youtube channel and try the recipes below yourself as we explore the culinary world together!

Daniel Raiskin
Music Director, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Lamb rack and Fennel salad

Musical Pairing: Since especially the first dish is combining the flavors of both Mediterranean and Asian cuisine I thought that the story of Marco Polo in music would be a most fitting accompaniment. And the salad comes from the Venice region  – Marco Polo was born here and died in Venice after completing his many fascinating journeys to the Middle East, Mongolia and China.

Here is some music from the Netflix show’s original music composed by Peter Nashel, Eric V. Hachikian as well as the main titles theme by Daniele Luppi:

For those of you who are more adventurous – I suggest a fascinating take on Marco Polo’s journey by Tan Dun in his Concerto for Orchestra after his opera “Marco Polo”:

Notes from the Kitchen – Fried Polenta and Roasted Eggplant

Chicken ‘baton’ skewers, dried fruit & nut couscous with yogurt sauce


Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Like many arts organizations, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming concerts and events have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19. Currently the province of Manitoba is encouraging the cancellation of all events with more than 50 people.

The WSO is committed to the health and safety of everyone attending, performing in, or working at our concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall. We will continue to closely monitor the global response to the COVID-19 situation and are continuing to rely on evidence-based information published by the Government of Manitoba and the Government of Canada. For information on the Centennial Concert Hall COVID-19 updates and policies, click here.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the WSO has made the difficult decision to cancel concerts scheduled until May 31, 2020.

The Netherlands Tour is also been tentatively rescheduled to May 2022.

WSO Concerts and events currently impacted:

The WSO Box Office will contact current ticket holders regarding the rescheduled dates.

Box Office update:

The WSO Box Office (555 Main Street) is currently closed for in-person orders and exchanges for the immediate future. Please email boxoffice@wso.mb.ca or leave a message at 204-949-3999 and one of our staff will contact you directly as we are working remotely to address your ticket and donation requests. 

Due to the high volume of requests, please be patient for a response as staff deal with this unprecedented situation.

There is no need to contact the Box Office immediately to exchange your tickets for cancelled performances immediately, as we will be honouring all exchanges and donations in the coming weeks.

Once dates for postponed concerts and events have been confirmed, Box Office staff will contact you by phone or email regarding your tickets.

The following options are available to ticket holders:

Ticket return options

If you have tickets for a WSO performance that has been cancelled due to COVID-19, please use this form to choose your ticket options. A WSO Box Office person will contact you to confirm your request (please note this may take 3 - 5 business days due to the current volume of requests).

Help the WSO stay strong

The health and economic impact of COVID-19 to the WSO is significant and your support today is more important than ever. As a non-profit arts organization, the WSO relies on the people we serve in our community. Each week your Symphony is closed has a profound impact on our ability to share symphonic music with you and our community.
Please consider the role music plays in your life and support the WSO with a donation of any amount today or return your tickets to cancelled concerts for a charitable tax receipt.


Netherlands Tour:

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the orchestra’s health and safety first and foremost in mind, the tour has been tentatively rescheduled to May 2022.

The WSO’s travel partner, Great Canadian Travel Co., will be in contact with individuals who planned on attending the tour with additional details shortly.

The Netherlands government recently banned any public gatherings of more than 100 people until June 1, 2020. The WSO is in communication with concert presenters and the halls in the Netherlands and Belgium regarding the rescheduled dates. As new information becomes available, we will communicate updates or changes.

Meet the Musician: Yuri Hooker

Ministry, shredded wheats, and Stan Rogers: this week we get to know the WSO’s principal cellist, Yuri Hooker!

WSO: Where are you from?
Yuri Hooker: I grew up in Calgary.

How long have you played in the WSO?
I started playing with the WSO in the fall of 1999. I served as Assistant Principal Cello. After our former principal (Arek Tesarczyk) left, I took the audition and moved over to the principal chair in 2004.

What’s your favourite thing about Winnipeg?
The down-to-Earth people.

What kind of music do you listen to when you aren’t at work?
Mostly Bach. But my kids and I also like singing Stan Rogers tunes while we’re driving around town. Sometimes I’ll listen to Renaissance choral music and, not surprisingly, orchestral and chamber music. I almost never listen to solo cello music, though!

What do you do in your free time?
What’s… “free time”? But seriously, I do have other interests. Most notably, Christian ministry. In fact, I was recently appointed Interim Associate Pastor at our church here in Winnipeg (Bethesda Church–on the corner of Grant and Cambridge). That position, which I’m super excited about, starts in February! But in case anyone is worried, I don’t have plans to abandon my post at the WSO!

Also, my son is a serious soccer player, and Michelle and I enjoy going to his games as well as keeping up with our newfound passion: watching the English Premier League! I also love vicariously exercising a long abandoned interest in visual art through my daughter, watching her work up storyboards and characters in her sketchbook (she is far more artistically talented than I ever was!).

Why do you think symphonic music is still relevant today?
So many reasons! Symphonic music is one of the truly great collective expressions of what it means to be human. It has evolved over hundreds of years to have the capacity to evoke the infinite shades of our experience.

On the practical level, as a local institution it elevates our individual and shared artistic horizons by providing us with a pool of top-flight musicians who enrich and inspire the rest of the musical community: from parents who take their kids to their weekly music lessons to adult amateur musicians who get together to play chamber music (perhaps being coached by someone from the orchestra!) for the pure joy of it, and everything in-between. Without a local professional orchestra, some of that activity would happen of course, but it would happen a lot less often, and at a much lower level of accomplishment.

What are you most excited about for the upcoming season?
The tour to the Netherlands (of course!).

What’s your go-to snack?
Hmmm… hard to pick just one… lately we’ve been eating a lot of Shredded Wheat with a generous dollop of jam on top! We even have a little song about it.

Meet the Musician – Jan Kocman

Golden flutes, gin and tonics, and orchestral experience abound! Get to know WSO principal flutist Jan Kocman in the latest edition of Meet the Musician.

WSO: How long have you been with the WSO?
Jan Kocman: I am celebrating my 46th year as Principal Flutist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I started in September of 1974; Piero Gamba was the Music Director. Two other present members of the WSO also started that year – Karen and Dick Bauch. I am now the longest serving Principal musician in the history of the orchestra.


Who or what inspired you to become a musician?
My father was a wonderful influence in my early years as he performed in an excellent community orchestra, taught flute and oboe privately, and in general simply loved music. Later, my university teacher James Pellerite brought a level of art and discipline to music performance that was very inspiring. Early in my life, I first attended Chicago Symphony concerts with Fritz Reiner conducting in the late 1950’s. Going to the Chicago Orchestra Hall was a thrilling experience. We would sit high up in the ‘nose bleed area’ and look down at that exceptional stage with all those great musicians and hear the most fantastic concerts. This was inspiring. Also, during my graduate studies at Indiana University I completed course work in musicology with Walter Kaufmann, the first Music Director of the WSO. I thought he was a wonderful musician and extremely knowledgeable about so many facets of music history and style. It was a sincere pleasure to know him.


What’s your go-to-snack?
Gin and tonic (Tanqueray Rangpur or Ungava.) Then again, there is always a good bourbon on ice!

For food snacks, ever since I was six years old, I have always loved crunchy peanut butter. Lately I have been enjoying Adams Dark Roast Crunchy.


Tell us about your flute.

My flute was commissioned by Detroit industrialist and amateur flutist Adolf Lichter. He was an interesting individual who wanted the ‘finest instrument on the market’. He ordered a 14kt all gold flute, which was created by the Boston flute maker Verne Q. Powell. Lichter received the instrument in 1950. I purchased this wonderful instrument in 1989 from my former teacher, James Pellerite, who had been a personal friend of Mr. Lichter. I believe this flute allows me to produce my concepts for purity and stability of sound. It also allows me a beautiful legato and general warmth of tone that I appreciate.


Why do you feel symphony concerts are relevant today?
We have for all time tried to find meaningful ways for our expression. Whether it is a handprint in a cave or a Mahler symphony on the concert hall stage we will continue to search for that artful expression of who we are and what we experience. The great symphonic literature is a part of that expression and you need a symphony orchestra to perform it.


What kind of music do you listen to outside of work?
When I am not listening to classical music I usually focus on jazz and/or Eastern European ethnic styled recordings. Some of my favorite from both types would be: Art Tatum, Marian McPartland, Chick Corea, Bela Fleck, Pat Metheny, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Afro-Cuban All Stars, Gipsy Kings, Romanian Pan Pipes, and Klezmer.


What are some of your most memorable moments performing with the WSO?
For me, this depends on the Music Directorship era.

Piero Gamba: Our performance in Carnegie Hall, 1979.

Kazuhiro Koizumi: His first performance of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’.

Bramwell Tovey: Our weekend of performing all the Beethoven symphonies in three days. Also the duo recital he and I performed for the WSO ‘On Stage Recital’ series.

Andrey Boreyko: Gustav Mahler’s ‘Symphony #9’

Alexander Mickelthwate: Gustav Mahler’s ‘Symphony #7’

Daniel Raiskin: Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Messa da Requiem’


Why is orchestral performance important to you?
Symphonic music is one of our great art forms. It allows for creativity, interpretation, expression, performance, and communication. For seventy plus years now, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has been an advocate for outstanding symphonic performance in an effort to enrich the cultural vitality and quality of life for all of our community. Whether we perform Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary, or today’s Pops music the musicians of the WSO bring a commitment to great performance for all to experience.


After 45 plus years of orchestral experience what advice might you have for a young musician?

Be flexible so you might do what ever is needed for a great musical performance.

Know what you want to say musically and play with enough expression so that even the listeners at the back of the hall will feel the emotional impact of your performance.

As in any profession, there will always be frustrations. Never lose sight of the fact you are here to make music. Focus on the artistic aspects and make an effort to perform beautifully in spite of what else might be happening.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the musical performance – try to play fearlessly no matter how difficult your individual effort might have to be.