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Annual General Meeting 2022

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WSO Emerges from COVID with a "Cautious Optimism"

Winnipeg, MB [Oct 6, 2022] –  Earlier this week at its annual general meeting, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s (WSO) Board of Directors’ treasurer, Jon Kliewer, announced that thanks to public and private donors, as well as an extension of supplemental government support to May 2022, the organization can report its 2021/22 financial results which include total revenues of $8.9 million and an excess of revenues over expenditures of $444,000. The board indicated these financial results would continue to enable the WSO to weather this pandemic recovery period.

“The WSO saw a gradual return to audiences in 2021/22, but still at a fraction of what we would see in a typical pre-COVID year,” says board chair Curt Vossen who marked his third season serving in this capacity. “So the support of donors, sponsors and supplemental government support was critically important this past year, given the uncertain recovery period emerging from the performing arts.”

Maples Collegiate Choir performing with the WSO at Manitoba Remembers: A COVID Elegy.

The 2021/22 season marked the third year of the pandemic and a true hybrid of live performances with limited, masked and vaccinated audiences. The orchestra offered livestreams of most of the concerts presented, for those who did not feel comfortable returning in person to the Centennial Concert Hall.

The MY WSO TV ( streaming platform had more than 55,000 views in and outside Winnipeg and the province. Thanks to support from Manitoba Hydro, the WSO’s Holiday Pops concert in December was enjoyed in more than 400 “watch parties” in 75 communities across Manitoba.

As the community came to terms with the impact of the pandemic, the WSO responded with Manitoba Remembers: A COVID Elegy. This multi-media event of music, stories and images recognized the contributions of those who served the community. In particular, it featured first-hand accounts of educators, healthcare and front-line workers. It also commemorated the loss of so many loved ones, demonstrating the important role performing arts can have in bringing people together.

“This season we’ve just launched our 75th anniversary, and we are actively planning a number of areas of development,” says Vossen. “While there is much work ahead, the WSO is charting a pathway to a dynamic and vibrant future that will engage the support of the entire WSO community.”

WSO executive director Angela Birdsell says the organization is not out of the woods by any means, but she does feel a sense of relief and gratitude.

“While we budgeted for 50% of pre-COVID era ticket sales, like so many of our performing arts colleagues across the country, our results were closer to 37%,” says Birdsell. “I am incredibly relieved that extended government wage and rent subsidies, and other supplemental support enabled us to serve the community for another year amidst these challenges. Those subsidies have ended, yet we know audiences are not yet ready to return to full capacity. So I remain relieved that the WSO has been granted more breathing space to tackle 2022-23 with sleeves rolled up and ready to take on new challenges.”

For music director Daniel Raiskin, who is in his fifth year with the WSO, the 2021/22 season marked incredible highs and tragic lows.

“With the greatest of joy, we welcomed live audiences to our concerts: socially distanced musicians on stage and patrons in the audience, masked, following the strict protocols. For me personally, our season motto ‘Hear. Live. Together’ manifested itself in the togetherness we were able to enjoy,” says Raiskin. “There were again some setbacks: changed repertoire, cancelled and rescheduled concerts and soloists, but, with what we learned the previous season, we were able to adjust quickly and always offer our audiences an exciting alternative.”

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 shook the maestro to the core, impacting his family deeply and irreversibly. Raiskin had to miss a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with close friend, internationally renowned Ukrainian violinist Vadim Gluzman. Raiskin was at the Slovakia/Ukrainian border helping family escape Ukraine, with ultimately a tragic result.

“My deepest thanks to Julian Pellicano, the WSO’s associate conductor, for stepping in for me on very short notice and delivering a stunning performance!” says Raiskin. “Last but not least, I cannot thank our supporters enough – audiences, government agencies, foundations, businesses, and individual donors – for everything they have done to support the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra during these hugely challenging times. Your support has been constant, and the commitment you make is never taken for granted!

Following the AGM, a short board meeting was held to re-elect Curt Vossen, Chair, Daniel Friedman, Vice-Chair, Jon Kliewer, Treasurer and Julia Ryckman, Corporate Secretary.  Four directors retired from the Board: Lucienne Blouw, Dr. Selena Friesen, Margaret Harvie and Uri Kraut.

WSO board member Marten Duhoux passed away in June 2022.

“Along with his family, friends and the architectural community, the WSO is deeply saddened by the loss of Marten Duhoux,” says Vossen. “His vision, wisdom and contributions to our organization and to the community are a tremendous loss.”

Two new directors were welcomed: Matthew Narvey and Thor Richardson.

The full executive committee can be found HERE.

Click HERE to download the 2021/22 annual report.