Month: March 2014

Six Candidates, One Baton

The HPO is thrilled to reveal the top six candidates in line to lead Hamilton’s orchestra. One of these faces is destined to be your next HPO Music Director, so we think you ought to get know them a bit better!

Gemma New conducting publicity photoGemma New, Conducting April 26, 2014

Praised for her “absorbing and well-honed performance” by the Baltimore Sun, Gemma New is Associate Conductor for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Lunar Ensemble. Originally from New Zealand, New has conducted orchestras on multiple continents, including the BBC Scottish, Danish National, Baltimore and Christchurch Symphony Orchestras as well as the Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières (Canada). Recently hailed by WQXR as one of the “Top Five Women Conductors on the Rise,” her 2013-14 season highlights include guest engagements with the Hamilton Philharmonic (Canada), and Miami and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestras, as well as serving as guest cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 2013, New made her Carnegie Hall conducting debut, leading works by Adams, Norman and Ives on Carnegie’s American Soundscapes series, and was also the David A. Karetsky conducting fellow in the American Academy of Conducting at the 2013 Aspen Music Festival. In 2012, New received a first-place American Prize for orchestral conducting and was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to reside at the Salzburg Music Festival as an Ansbacher conducting fellow. New has studied with Kurt Masur at his seminars in Germany and New York, performing in the final concerts at both events.

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, New studied violin performance at the University of Canterbury and New Zealand School of Music; she began conducting at age 15. A graduate of the Peabody Institute, New studied conducting with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar.

Alastair Willis, Conducting September 20, 2014Alastair Willis

Grammy-nominated conductor Alastair Willis is currently the Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Previous positions include Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, and Music Director to the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

In the past few seasons, Willis has guest conducted orchestras around the world including the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, China National Orchestra (Beijing) and Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma) among others.

His recording of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges with Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos was Grammy nominated for Best Classical Album in 2009. This season he returns to the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Qatar Philharmonic, Pacific Northwest Ballet, California Symphony, Elgin Symphony and debuts with the Las Vegas Symphony and Billings Symphony.

Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University, an Education degree from Kingston University, and a Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Willis currently resides in Seattle.

Gregory VajdaGregory Vajda, Conducting November 8, 2014

Hailed as a “young titan” by the Montreal Gazette, Gregory Vajda has fast become one of the most sought-after conductors on the international scene. Reflecting his growing presence and demand in North America, in 2011 he was appointed the sixth music director of the Huntsville Symphony. He was also named Principal Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Symphony (MR Symphony) after concluding his seventh and last year as resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony in 2012. In addition to his duties with these organizations, guest conducting engagements during 2013-14 include Phoenix Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Louisville Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic and the Columbus Symphony.

In 2012-13, Vajda was engaged by the Edmonton Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony and Santa Barbara Symphony. In Hungary he conducted the Pannon Philharmonic in a semi-staged version of Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre, and lead two performances of Lohengrin as part of the Budapest Wagner Days with the Hungarian National Opera Orchestra. In July he concluded his Artistic Director and Conductor position with Music in the Mountains, CA – a position held since 2009. In addition to conducting, Vajda is also a gifted clarinetist and composer.

Stilian Kirov, Conducting November 29, 2014 Stilian Kirov

Stilian Kirov is currently the Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony and has also served as Associate Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. In 2013, he was invited to be a cover conductor for the Boston Symphony as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Kirov has conducted orchestras around the world, including the Orchestre Colonne (France), Zagreb Philharmonic (Croatia), State Hermitage Orchestra (Russia), New World Symphony, Thüringen Philharmonic Orchestra (Germany), Sofia Festival Orchestra, Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra “Leopolis” (Ukraine), Amarillo Symphony and the Juilliard Orchestra, among others.

Kirov was invited to be a 2013 Conducting Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, he was a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, and in 2010 was awarded the David Effron Conducting Fellowship at the Chautauqua Music Festival, where he also returned in 2012 as a guest conductor. Among Stilian Kirov’s numerous awards and prizes are an Emmy Award for the Soundtrack Project with the Memphis Symphony, the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and Charles Schiff Conducting Award for outstanding achievement at The Juilliard School.

Mr. Kirov is a graduate in orchestral conducting of The Juilliard School, where he was a student of James DePreist. He also holds a master’s degree from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where he studied with Dominique Rouits. He also worked with such distinguished conductors as Kurt Masur, Robert Spano, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gianluigi Gelmetti, George Manahan and Asher Fisch.

Theodore KucharTheodore Kuchar, Conducting January 17, 2015

Theodore Kuchar, one of the most prolifically recorded conductors of the past decade, has recorded over 90 compact discs for the Naxos, Brilliant Classics, Ondine and Marco Polo labels. For the past years, he has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of two of Europe’s premiere orchestras, the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the Czech Radio Orchestra) and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. He presently also serves as Music Director and Conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Reno Chamber Orchestra in the United States.

With the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra, he has conducted tours of Australia, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland during the 2006–07 season. In January 2009, they undertook a four-week tour of the USA. With the NSO of Ukraine, 11 international tours included Asia, Australia, Central Europe and the United Kingdom. During the 2003–04 season he conducted the opening subscription weeks and a three-week European Tour with the Berliner Symphoniker (Berlin Symphony); during the past two seasons, he will have conducted nearly 40 concerts with this distinguished orchestra.

Under Mr. Kuchar’s direction, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine has today become the most frequently recorded orchestra of the former Soviet Union. During the period of 1994 to 2004, the orchestra recorded over 70 compact discs for the Naxos and Marco Polo labels. Their recording of the complete works for violin and orchestra by Walter Piston for the Naxos label was hailed by Gramophone (January 2000) as a “Record of the Year” for 1999. The complete symphonies of Prokofiev are regarded by many critics as the most accomplished cycle available on record. As a violist, his recording of works by Walter Piston was awarded the Chamber Music America/WQXR “Record of the Year” for 2001.

Alain Trudel, Conducting February 21, 2015 Alain Trudel

Music Director of l’Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Alain Trudel is one of the most sought after conductors on the Canadian scene. From 2006 to 2008 Trudel was the conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra, bringing the orchestra to new heights of artistic quality as well as public critical acclaim.

A frequent guest of the major orchestras in Canada, Trudel also appeared at the helm of orchestras in the UK, the USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and in Latin America. Highly appreciated for his collaborative spirit, he has worked with many world-famous artists including Ben Heppner, Anton Kuerti, Measha Brueggergosman, Herbie Hancock, Alain Lefèvre and Pinchas Zukerman.

Recently appointed as Principal Youth and Family Conductor at the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, Trudel has always been highly committed to the new generation of musicians. He was for eight seasons (2004-2012) Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and has been regularly invited to conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Canada since 2006. Their recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and Le sacre du prinptemps was nominated as “Best Orchestral Album of the Year” at the 2010 Juno Awards.

Since September 2012, he has been appointed conductor of the orchestra and opera at the Western University. Alain Trudel was the first Canadian to be a Yamaha international artist and is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Virginia Parker, Le grand prix du disque Président de la République de l’Académie Charles Cros (France), the Heinz Unger Prize for conducting. He has also been named an Ambassador of Canadian Music by the Canadian Music Center.


In her own words: A Canadian in Paris

Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte

Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte

On Saturday, April 26, we’re pleased to present the world premiere of A Canadian in Paris by our very own composer-in-residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte.  You might recall Abigail’s works like Downstream, inspired by Cootes Paradise and performed at the 2013 What Next Festival of New Music, as well as City Synesthesia, which premiered last spring and was based on Hamilton as depicted by four local visual artists. 

A Canadian in Paris is particularly special because it is inspired by the work of visual artist William Blair Bruce and dedicated to the Art Gallery of Hamilton as it celebrates its Centennial this year.  Here’s what Abigail had to say about her piece…

About the commission…

Anonymous donors to the HPO have generously commissioned me to write a piece celebrating the AGH’s 100th anniversary. I decided to look at the founding work of the gallery: the artworks of Hamilton painter William Blair Bruce. I have chosen to set three subjects in his output, each to a movement of music: variations on the Baltic Seascape paintings, The Phantom Hunter (with narrator), and several Six Nations portraits.

Inspiration for the piece…

W.B. Bruce moved from Hamilton to Paris, France, in the 1880s. He is considered to be the first Canadian to live in a French artist colony. This was a rich cultural time in history, especially for the cross-pollination between music and art. Debussy was, by his own account, more influenced through the painters of his day than the composers. Creators and enthusiasts across the arts influenced each other in the cafés of Paris. Such moments in history always excited my imagination. In tribute to Bruce, my piece will be titled A Canadian in Paris. Even though W.B. Bruce lived in France, and later Sweden, the artworks I chose are connected to Canada. He wrote that his most painted subject, the view of the Baltic Sea from his home in Brucebo, Sweden, always brought to mind for him, the shores of Lake Ontario. His best known work, the chilling Phantom Hunter, is based on a poem by Canadian poet Charles Shanly. Of course Bruce did his Six Nations portraits upon meetings during a trip home. I feel like he took pieces of Canada to Europe and, over a century later, I am reintroducing them to Hamilton.

On introducing interpreting William Blair Bruce through contemporary music…

I want the audience to have an opportunity to get inside a piece of artwork through a different medium and, most of all, I want them to feel an emotional connection. Too often people think they cannot connect with contemporary music but that just isn’t true. Contemporary music isn’t what it was some years ago. Composers now look to have more of a direct and visceral connection with the listener. I intend to take the listener on a journey, led by the musicians of the orchestra. I want the listener to get inside these paintings just as I had done when letting them inspire this music.

On living and working in Hamilton…

I feel very lucky to live in beautiful Dundas and to be Composer-in-Residence with the HPO. Aside from writing music, I am able to introduce many people to contemporary music through my education programs and the HPO’s What Next Festival. I feel like an ambassador of new music in my own community. It’s fun to be recognized as the HPO composer in places like the Farmer’s Market. It’s good to hear people say, “I didn’t think I liked new music but I loved your piece about Hamilton!” or, “I heard those amazing student compositions!”, or often, “What are you writing this year?” That for me, is the ultimate reward.

On the relevance for our community…

The works of W.B. Bruce are the reason the Art Gallery of Hamilton even came into existence, and they are being brought back to the forefront in the upcoming Bruce exhibition with the AGH Centennial Celebration in 2014. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the cultural cross-pollination and spirit of late 19th century Paris in modern day Hamilton, a city with its own artistic spirit.

A Canadian in Paris, by Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte and conducted by Gemma New, will make its world premiere on April 26 at Hamilton Place.



How to get more out of your orchestral experience

Symphonies are for big ideas. Big. Long. Mind-blowing ideas. And sometimes composers can be, uhmmmm…”protracted.” Which means that some symphonies can clock up to 1.5 hrs in length (hello Mahler).  So what’s an audience member supposed to do in all that time?

The smart people at NPR’s Deceptive Cadence have given us a little primer on how to get more out of one’s music listening experience.  It’s not always about the melody.  Sometimes it’s about what’s happening “inside” the music or what’s going on with they rhythm or the different sounds that sections of the orchestra can make.

Check out their very informative 4 Ways to Hear More in Music, including “Rhythm”:


Reliving the Rhythm: Beatboxer Shodekeh and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

We’re in a beatbox/orchestra kind of mood after last night’s funky collaboration between HPO Brass musicians and Hachey the MouthPEACE.

In 2010, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra explored the same sound combination with their musicians and Baltimore based beatboxer Shodekeh. This unique union of sounds was brought together as the BSO and Shodekeh performed Steve Reich’s Clapping Music and Fujiko’s Fairy Tale.

Check out some of these cool rhythms from Shodekeh and the BSO:

Brass & Beatboxing: Happy Hour w/ the HPO

Beatbox.  Orchestra.  Hip-hop artist.  Symphony musician.  It’s not everyday that these things are talked about in the same sentence.  And it’s certainly not everyday these two types of artists perform together.

HACHEY photo 2

Jason Hachey aka Hachey the MouthPEACE

On Thursday, March 13, the HPO Brass are teaming up with Hachey the MouthPEACE for an innovative and unique concert experience at the Baltimore House, one of Hamilton’s best local music clubs.

This isn’t the first time your HPO musicians have worked with the local beatboxer.  Their performance on the Dr. Disc stage at Supercrawl 2013 attracted hundreds of viewers and was called “curiously sublime” by The Spec’s Graham Rockingham.

Hachey the MouthPEACE, aka Jason Hachey, is no stranger to collaborating with other artists, and has worked with various hip-hop, folk and alternative artists over his 13-year beatboxing career.  But last year’s Supercrawl performance was his first time performing with a classical brass quintet. “For me, [Supercrawl] was exactly how I wanted it to be.  It was mission complete…people are still talking about it,” says Hachey.

Mike Fedyshyn

Michael Fedyshyn, HPO Principal Trumpet

The experience was also a first for HPO musicians Michael Fedyshyn (trumpet), Mary Jay (trumpet), Neil Spaulding (horn), David Pell (trombone) and Mark Bonang (tuba), who were impressed with the skill and musicality Hachey possessed on his instrument.

So what can guests expect from Thursday nights Happy Hour with the HPO?  “Expect something new you probably haven’t heard before and are definitely going to enjoy,” says Hachey.  Even though the two genres are on seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum, “in the end it’s all music, and it’s all emotion,” he says.  “Prepare to be blown away.”

Hachey the MouthPEACE is keeping a busy schedule over the next few months including representing the beatboxing community at Harbourfront’s Body Percussion Festival on March 30 and has a recording and tour to Japan in the works.  So what are his thoughts on future collaborations with symphony orchestras?  “I’d love to play with the whole orchestra,” he says.

Admission is $15 in advance so save some money and get tickets online here

So join the HPO Brass and Hachey the MouthPEACE us this Thursday.  The bar opens at 5:30 and music starts at 6pm, with multiple sets throughout the night.  Great drinks and atmosphere are courtesy of Baltimore House, and a one-of-a-kind music experience by the HPO and special guest Hachey the MouthPEACE.

Can’t make it?  Share the event on Facebook!

Here’s a preview on what Hachey the MouthPEACE is capable of…

Raising the Baton for Women

Karina Canellakis

Karina Canellakis

Standing on the illuminated podium at Hamilton Place, with eager eyes watching in anticipation for the evening’s concert, the conductor has complete control over the orchestra. The HPO has brought many amazing guest conductors this season and two of our upcoming concerts feature something more unique in orchestral music. Two brilliant female conductors will hold the baton this season to conduct our talented HPO musicians. Gemma New conducts HPO’s April 26 Pastorale, and Karina Canellakis conducts HPO’s March 1 Cirque de la Symphonie.

Traditionally speaking, orchestral conductors are predominately male. However, women like Gemma New and Karina Cannellakis are breaking through historic barriers with their fine musical skills and impressive performances. Karina holds a Bachelors degree in violin from the Curtis Institute of Music and a Masters degree in orchestral conducting from the esteemed Juilliard School. She won the 2013 Charles Schiff Conducting Award for outstanding achievement in orchestral conducting, as well as the American Conductors Award, Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and Isidore Komanoff Award.

Gemma New was named by WQXR, New York’s classic music radio station, as “one of the top five women conductors on the rise.” Gemma was raised to believe that women can do whatever they want as long as they have the drive, talent and determination. Gemma started playing the violin when she was five years old. She studied conducting throughout her violin degree and got jobs with youth orchestras and operas as assistant conductor.

Gemma New conducting publicity photo

Gemma New

Gemma loved conducting right away and knew it was her passion. It has always been her number one focus and she completed her Masters in Conducting at Baltimore University. Gemma admits that when she goes to a festival or masterclass it is very noticeable that she is the only female in the studio, but no one singles her out. There is a social issue that is still apparent, but focussing on music and working hard has led others to respect her work. Controversy over women not having the same opportunity as men still exists, but it has been continuously dissolving over the years. “By now people are very accepting,” Gemma says. Gemma enjoys meeting other female conductors and says, “Meeting Karina was great. We understand that there aren’t many of us and that helps us to be supportive to each other.”

Gemma’s advice for aspiring female conductors is to “work hard and study as much as you can. There are great conducting graduate programs and going to rehearsals to learn as much as you can from professional orchestra’s by asking questions is important.” Studying music is Gemma’s motivation and she says, “Going through why these pieces are played so often and why they touch people from all different generations throughout many years of history inspires me.”

Being a conductor involves continuously learning “ways to understanding music to communicate styles and ideas with the audience and musicians on a deeper level.” Gemma loves the program on April 26 stating, “I’m really excited to work with Martin Beaver on the Violin Concerto because I played it when I was in university on the violin. It’s a beautiful piece about the countryside and a staple of history.”

Watch Karina and Gemma in action here: