Month: July 2014

Behind the Scenes: What does it take to plan a season?

IMG_1811What does it take to put together an orchestra’s season? Lots of time, knowledge, forethought and planning—two years worth of planning, to be exact.

Sometimes it might seem that planning a season of orchestral music would be easy—you just put together some of the greatest music in history into a year of performances and there you have it! …but there’s a bit more to it.

Our Artistic Advisory Committee, composed of musicians and administrators, meets regularly throughout the year to talk about programming the best works for our audience in future years. To arrive at the best program, the committee first puts together a skeleton framework that consists of repertoire we feel the audience will most enjoy or a specific soloist or conductor we would like to highlight. From there the jigsaw puzzle begins as the HPO works with artist managers and musicians to ensure factors like schedule availability, repertoire demands, finances and concert programming fit into a coherent vision of a season for our audience.

This long view planning cycle allows us to program exciting and dynamic concerts that feature the best of our HPO musicians and guest artists that we can offer our patrons. This summer, we’re firming up the 2015-16 season. While we might have the 2016-17 Season almost complete, we’re choosing to leave it a bit looser in anticipation of our Music Director!


35 pictures that sum up a pretty fantastic 2013-14 Season!

The 2013-14 season was a special year for the HPO. We hosted the circus, mixed beatboxing with classical music and said farewell to Maestro James Sommerville to name a few memorable moments…but before we launch into a thrilling new concert season, take a look back at some of these amazing memories from last year.


Owen Pallett: Reinterpreting the Orchestral Genre

OWEN PALLETTCongratulations to Owen Pallett for making the shortlist for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize! Pallett seems to be all over the headlines these days. Who knew a young University of Toronto graduate from Mississauga could experience such heights of international orchestral fame?

With one Polaris Prize under his belt from the 2006 album He Poos Clouds, Pallett has chosen an unconventional career for a modern classical composer and dived head first into vast regions unknown to the pop and video game music worlds. In turn, he’s brought new waves of modern orchestration to the centre of the public stage.

Pallett devoted a large portion of his career to writing music inspired by video games. Under the pseudonym “Final Fantasy,” Pallett wrote the song “An Arrow in the Side of Final Fantasy” which integrates the familiar tune from “Super Mario 2: 6 Golden Coins.” He also composed a tribute album entitled Heartland to the famous video game series Final Fantasy. You can hear HPO’s trumpet lead Mike Fedyshyn and David Pell principal trombone this album.

Pallett rehearsing his "Violin Concerto" for the TSO's New Creation Festival

Pallett rehearsing his “Violin Concerto” for the TSO’s New Creations Festival

Pallett’s chamber/pop album He Poos Clouds won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize and references the eight schools of magic in the fantasy and role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. He kindly donated winnings to bands he deemed deserving of a monetary leg up in the music business. HPO principal second violinist Bethany Bergman was also in the orchestra ensemble for Pallett’s album.

Indie/rock band Arcade Fire have also turned their eyes toward Pallett’s talent as he provides the band’s string arrangements. He’s even played violin with the Grammy winning group. In addition, his work with Arcade Fire on “The Moon Song” for the film Her garnered an Oscar nomination at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Arctic Monkeys’ front-man Alex Turner and The Rascals’ Miles Kane had Pallett create the orchestration and conduct the London Metropolitan Orchestra for their supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets. He also contributed remixes for bands Stars, Grizzly Bears and Death from Above 1979.

Pallett still composes for large orchestras, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra and London Barbican commissioned his Violin Concerto as part of TSO’s week long 2013 New Creations Festival. He also provided a dynamic arrangement of Basia Bulat’s music that that highlighted the best of our very own orchestra. Bulat was also shortlisted for the Polaris Prize this year.

Side-note: check out Owen Pallett’s arrangement of Basia Bulat’s music here:

Pallett isn’t the only one doing exciting duos with indie groups! We’ve had unique collaborations with C.R. Avery and Hachey the MouthPEACE over the years and are thrilled to continue to perform with independent local artists like Thought Beneath Film at Supercrawl in September.

Take a look back at our performance with C.R. Avery at Supercrawl in 2012:

Here’s a look at Owen Pallett’s performance of “He Poos Clouds” with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra:

owen pallett video

Found Sound at the Cottage

Way up north, the cell phone service is come and go (if at all) and your iPod’s maximum volume is no match for the dense northern woods. How can we enjoy music in the great outdoors without draining our car batteries to charge laptops and phones? Or take away from the peaceful atmosphere nature provides? Easy…make the music yourself!

Making music as a group makes us feel good. It brings family and friends closer together and it’s a way to “get attuned” to the people around you without using words.

Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte, who runs the “Found Sound Workshop” with school groups throughout the year mentions that, “the key to creation like this, is to layer sounds.  Give one person a repetitive sound or continuous sound to start, then choose a couple of people to layer on sound, gradually switching up these extras.  Don’t forget about all of the wonderful sounds we can make with our own voice.  Choose a rhythm and layer.” Here are a few crafts, ideas and sound makers you can use to make your own symphony at the cottage.

There are countless ways to make shakers as a craft, but here are two methods you can use to make a musical instrument that doubles up as a craft.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREMethod 1 – Plate Maracas
Materials: 2 plastic/paper plates, dried rice, staples and tape.

1. Pour approximately 3 Tbsp of dried rice, lentils or beans in the bottom of one paper/plastic plate.
2. Place the second plate on top and staple the plate together.
3. Add a layer of tape around the edges.
4. Decorate with paint, glitter or any craft supplies and you’ll have yourself a beautiful plate shaker.

paper shakerMethod 2 – Toilet Paper Roll Shakers
Materials: 1 empty toilet paper roll, dried rice, construction paper, and 2 elastic.

1. Cut two circles out of cardboard or regular paper which are slightly bigger than the ends of your toilet paper roll.
2. Take the empty toilet paper roll and one paper circle. Wrap the paper around the end and secure it with an elastic.
3. Place 1 Tbsp of dried rice, lentils or beans into the hollow roll.
4. Place the second circle on the uncovered end of the toilet paper roll and wrap it with an elastic.
5. Decorate your shaker with paint, markers, crayons and/or glitter.

resonate drumsResonate Drum

You can play this homemade instrument around the campfire or keep the beat for someone singing.

1. Find a yogurt container or empty metal can and clean it out.
2. Cut the top off a balloon, stretch it across the top of the container and secure it with an elastic band.
3. Pull up the balloon top and you’ve got a resonate drum.

Metal and Water

1. Tie a piece of string to a metal object (something that will resonate like a spoon or fork).
2. Fill a bowl with water and dip the metal into the bowl.
3. Hit the metal object again while it’s in water…you’ll notice it has a different sound!

Garbage Can
So many objects can make interesting sounds beyond its intended purpose. A garbage can or barrel can have a bunch of hidden sounds depending on where you bang it. Make some music with your garbage can with a couple of these objects and see which sounds you like the most:

  • Rubber mallet/hammer
  • Metal hammer can make it sound like a gong
  • Rub steel wool or wire brushes (like ones to clean the BBQ). This can make a swishing sound.


How do you enjoy music when you’re camping or staying at the cottage? Feel free to share or add ideas to list in the comments!

Canadian Folk Favourites: Top Seven Picks


Map of Canada from 1898

Much of Canada’s history can be found outside the history books. In fact, you could probably learn most of our nation’s past from Stan Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot and Tragically Hip songs. Traditional Canadian folk music tells the stories, trials, tribulations and pleasures settlers experienced while traveling across the country hundreds of years ago. There are dozens of songs devoted to each province, but here’s a modest list of a few beloved Canadian folk tunes that continue to resonate among families and friends.

The Log Driver’s Waltz
Wade Hemsworth’s The Log Driver’s Waltz has been a long time Canadian favourite throughout generations. The song illustrates the practice of log driving where men on logs ran and “birled” from one log to another in an effort to guide their timber to a saw mill downstream. Hemsworth’s inspiration for the song was drawn from the similar movements he observed between log driving and dancing. In 1979, the National Film Board of Canada produced Canadian Vignettes: a series of five minute videos to be included between children’s programs. The Log Driver’s Waltz still remains the most popular vignette where it’s sometimes played on CBC and other Canadian networks between shows.

Barrett’s Privateers
We celebrate Stan Rogers’ sea shanty Barrett’s Privateers which is often sung in East Cost university pubs and around campfires. An unofficial anthem of the Royal Canadian Navy, this song covers a somewhat accurate history of privateering in Canada (although privateering wasn’t nearly as violent as depicted) with the mention of Halifax, Nova Scotia as a popular destination for privateers. Rogers’ sets his song in the height of the American Revolution in 1778. He tells the tale of a 23-year old privateer who boards Encid Barrett’s vessel called the Antelope destined for Jamaica. Rogers often references Sherbrooke, Quebec as the young man’s far away home. The tale ends tragically as the sailor loses both his legs when his ship is attacked, leaving him “a broken man on a Halifax peer.”

V’la L’bon Vent
V’la L’bon Vent, which translates as “Go Good Wind” is a 300-year old French-Canadian song with one hundred verses. It was sung by French voyageurs and woodsmen who traveled by canoe across the provinces. This folk song helped travelers to both maintain a consistent paddling rhythm and keep their spirits up since they would spend up to 18 hours journeying over water.

Farewell to Nova Scotia
Another song which celebrates the East Coast is the traditional tune Farewell to Nova Scotia. This song has been sung by Nova Scotia natives since the beginning of the First World War. Although the author remains unknown, it is suspected that the British war poem “The Soldier’s Adieu”, which first appeared in a Glasgow newspaper in 1808, was the inspiration behind the song as many lines from the poem are used in the lyrics.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald 
In more recent history, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was a number one hit back in 1975 that commemorated the sinking of the bulk carrier on Lake Superior during a fierce gale in the same year. Lightfoot struggled to put together words for the song as he wanted to be sure the lyrics accurately depicted the wreckage, but a friend told him to just tell a story. As mentioned in the song, the Mariners’ Church of Detroit rings their bells 29 times every year to honor each life that was lost in the wreck.

Escarpment Blues
Celebrating our own Hamilton treasures, Burlington’s Sarah Harmer sung of her worries in her song Escarpment Blues. In fact, this work sparked a concert tour called “I Love the Escarpment” in promotion of P.E.R.L. (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land) and was title of the Juno winning documentary in 2007. The song speaks of quarry development along the Niagara Escarpment and our vital connect to its animals and ecosystems.