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Sawa back for SSO season opener

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Victor Sawa retired from the SSO last season to pursue other career opportunities but he promised to visit. Sawa will conduct Uptown Goes Downtown featuring blues guitarist and vocalist Rita Chiarelli.

The 2015/16 Sudbury Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is set to start its 40th season Oct. 24. There has never been a season like this and there may never be again. The symphony will be conducted by not one, not two, but half a dozen different conductors. Three of the conductors are auditioning for the job of maestro and music director.

The first concert, however, will be conducted by someone who already had the job: Victor Sawa.

 She has been called  “the goddess of Canadian blues” by CBC Radio One’s Shelagh Rogers. The program was originally created by Chiarelli in co-operation with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

The Nov. 28. holiday program will be conducted by Kevin Zaresky, who is from the West Coast, and will feature tenor Owen McClousland and Sudbury’s Bel Canto Chorus. The audience will be treated to  holiday music as well as selections from Handel’s Messiah. In addition to the regular evening performance, there is a family matinee.

A special SSO presentation is planned for Dec. 19 at Christ the King Church. The symphony, conducted by Jordan De Souza, with a cast of talented singers will present Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. The opera will be sung in English.

In February, Melanie Leonard will conduct Variations on Symphonic Energy,

a  program she created for her SSO audition (Feb. 6). The Montreal native was the music director for the Calgary New Music Festival in May and has guest conducted orchestras from coast to coast.

On March 5, Gordon Gerrard will conduct Memorable Masterworks featuring  Jeanette Jonquil on clarinet.

Martin MacDonald will conduct Folk and Fire April 16. This concert will feature a new Canadian work based on the Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage.

The final concert of the season will be held May 7 and conducted by Dina Gilbert. She is the assistant conductor with the Montreal Symphony.

Both MacDonald and Gilbert have also vying for the job of conductor of the SSO, says Jennifer MGillivray, the symphony’s executive director.

Symphonic music unfortunately, and incorrectly, is seen as many as high brow and elitist.

 McGillivray says she wants Sudbury to expose themselves to classical music. Free lunchtime concerts are planned at downtown locations during the season so people can get acquainted with classical music.

She says she is excited about changes at the SSO which include a new logo.

“I want everybody in the community to feel like this is their symphony, that we’re here for them,” McGillivray said.

The SSO is continuing to offer discount tickets to people under the age of 35 and its program for school children.

McGillivray, originally from Elliot Lake, has worked with the Canadian Opera Company and was the executive director of the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound for two seasons.

Founded by Emil First, the original symphony held its first public performance in Jan.13, 1954. In 1957, and for the next 18 years, Eric Woodward served as conductor. During his tenure the orchestra evolved into the Sudbury Philharmonic Society as it combined orchestra and choir.

Following Woodward’s departure in 1974, the orchestra and the choir became separate entities. The choir became The Bel Canto Chorus.

The Sudbury Symphony Orchestra was incorporated as a not-for-profit orchestra. Metro Kozak conducted the SSO from 1975 to 1997 when Sawa  took over the podium.

A six-concert SSO subscription is $203 for adults, $178 for seniors, and $65 for people 35 years of age or younger. Tickets for single concerts are also available.

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