Classical Music

HPO and Thought Beneath Film: The Collaboration Process

In a unique collaborative performance, this Supercrawl the HPO works with local rock band Thought Beneath Film to create a concert experience that spans the classical and rock genres.

“I speak on behalf of my entire band, Thought Beneath Film, when I say that we’re incredibly excited about our collaboration with the HPO at the James Street Supercrawl this year. While Hamilton has long been one Canada’s ‘music capitals’ given its wealth and variety of musical talent, it’s unfortunate that the various musical movements have remained so segregated from each other,” says Brent Wirth, lead singer of Thought Beneath Film.


Thought Beneath Film

“The city has so many amazing and diverse musical traditions happening simultaneously from classical to jazz to hip-hop to indie rock, and I think it’s about time that audiences start seeing some cross-pollination and collaboration between all of these genres. It’s so vital in keeping the ball moving forward creatively and to ensure the constant generation of new ideas and styles. For this reason, we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to collaborate with musicians that are coming from a completely different tradition and set of experiences than us.”


Principal Bassist Rob Wolanski

Working with the HPO’s principal Double Bass Player, Rob Wolanski, Wirth and the HPO have curated an inventive performance that features reinterpretations of orchestral classics and will explore Though Beneath Film’s own original material through the orchestral lens.

“As someone who has always been involved in many very different genres of music, I’ve come to realize that great music and fantastic players are everywhere regardless of genre,” says Rob. “I’m hoping our audiences will find something unexpected and exciting about the genre they don’t normally listen to and will want to hear more. This project will feature some very unique arrangements, many of which have been written specifically for this show.”

Be sure to get a good spot in front of the stage to have a good view of the HPO Strings and Thought Beneath Film as they perform unique cross-genre works from traditional orchestral repertoire to original works by Though Beneath Film.

The HPO and Thought Beneath Film appear at Supercrawl on Saturday, September 13 at 6:15pm at the TD/Arkells Stage (Wilson and James Street North).


Two things you need to know about “Genre Hopping”

music-genres2Rock. Country. Blues. Classical. We tend to feel like we need to fit musical creations into one specific genre in order for us to understand where it belongs in the music world. But what if we took these barriers down? Does a musical work need to be composed to “fit” one of these genres? Is there a genre that includes two genres of music? How about three…four…fivesixseven – our heads are going to explode!

The cross-pollination of different musical categories is still a relatively new concept for music listeners, until you realize it’s been going on for quite some time. Classical music has a habit of getting slotted into an elitist and untouchable corner where only musical academics are allowed to “adequately” enjoy it. Perhaps this is because classical music is the oldest musical genre and thought to be a treasure trove of masterpieces that has been 500 years in the making. But when you listen to musicians like 2Cellos, Frank Zappa, The Piano Guys, Yo-Yo Ma and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (and loads more you can find here), you realize this concept isn’t so scary and can be downright enjoyable. We just see the same piece of music re-imagined in a new light.

So here are two things you need to know about cross-genre music.

1. Rock did it first, but Classical is doing it too.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer

There’s been an urge from musicians across all genres to break down these barriers for quite some time. Classical music has only recently expanded its reach from its own sub-types to other contemporary styles, unlike popular progressive rock bands in the 70s who made the leap quite a bit earlier.

Originally a blues band, British rock group Jethro Tull didn’t reach their pinnacle of fame until they began to create more ambitious sound by incorporating elements of jazz, folk and classical music, making the band’s genre uncategorizeable at the time. Emerson, Lake and Palmer covered Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Hoedown by using instrumentation to re-contextualize these classical pieces for rock fans. The 90s Icelandic band Sigor Ros goes beyond incorporating stylistic nuances of classical music by having Jón Þór Birgisson play bowed guitar.

Classical musicians are conversely bridging the gap too. Yo-Yo Ma released “Appalachian Journey,” an album that throws the cello into music devoted to old misty mountain songs. 2Cellos and The Piano Guys have gone viral with their popular covers of Disney and Mumford & Sons songs. And Punch Brothers have taken the mandolin and given it a good old southern twang.

The bottom line is we like to hear things we know presented in a new way. BUT we’re not always open to hearing something outside our comfort zones.

The next point should address this issue.

2. Audiences need to open up a little. 

Punch Brothers

Punch Brothers

On the flip side, audiences also need to be more open to these experiences. “I don’t think classical musicians are any more reserved on average than non-classical musicians, but it’s actually the audiences that are far more reserved” says Chris Thile from classical/bluegrass band Punch Brothers. “I do think it’s important that people who profess to really be interested in music to expose themselves to the width and breadth of the great music that’s available to them – and that’s everything.”

Once you listen to cross genre collaborations, it becomes clear there is JUST a stylistic and ascetic approach to playing a piece of music. So continue to enjoy the genre you have an affinity with, but also get ready to be wowed by an artist out of your musical genre purview who might just blow you away.

That being said, get ready for Supercrawl next week when HPO Strings take the stage with Thought Beneath Film for an unforgettable collaboration of rock music re-imagined through the orchestral lens.

Musicians perform on Saturday, September 13 at 6:15 on the TD-Arkells Stage (James Street North at Wilson).

Watch Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile talk about “genre hopping” while he serenades you with his mandolin.

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!

Young Patrons Circle Highlights

Young Patrons Circle members get their photos taken backstage with Cirque artists during intermission, March 2014.

Young Patrons Circle members get their photos taken backstage with Cirque artists during intermission, March 2014.

The month of June is a time of transition for a lot of people – we graduate, travel the world and experience new things. As we prepare to kick off our Young Patrons Circle program for the 2014-15 season, starting with our Patio Party this Thursday, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from last year.

The 2013-14 season began with Great Romantics which featured  romantic genre gurus Brahms and Rachmaninoff. YPC members had the opportunity to meet guest musician and pianist Jon Kimura Parker at the Tapas Lounge after party.

Following The Four Seasons in November, members got a backstage tour and meet and greet with musicians.

Happy Hour with the HPO featured the HPO Brass and Hachey the MouthPEACE at the Baltimore House, March 2014.

Happy Hour with the HPO featured the HPO Brass and Hachey the MouthPEACE at the Baltimore House, March 2014.

The HPO  certainly became a circus at Cirque de la Symphonie where Young Patrsons Circle members had the chance to have their photos taken with our acrobats. They even stopped by the after party to chat with some of our young patrons!

There was Happy Hour with the HPO featuring Hachey the MouthPEACE at the Baltimore House where young professionals swung by after work for libations beat-boxing and brass duo.

Our first Music Director Candidate Gemma New introduced herself to the YPC crowd at the after party on her night as guest conductor at Pastorale.

Our composer in residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte and two Young Patrons Circle members at our Gala, May 2014.

Our composer in residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte and two Young Patrons Circle members at our Gala, May 2014.

The HPO’s first annual gala, An Evening with James Sommerville, was held in honour of departing Music Director Jamie. Guests enjoyed performances by the Darcy Hepner Jazz Orchestra, soloist Paula Arciniega, and the HPO Wind Trio.

We look forward to beginning the highlight reel for the our 2014-15 Young Patrons Circle program and meeting new friends along the way.  The summer kicks off with the hpoGO Summer Patio Party happening this Thursday, June 26 at Radius. Be sure to catch a live performance of HPO violinist and violist duet and an up close and personal look at their string instruments.



Father’s Day Classics for Dad

Is your Dad a classical music buff? Father’s Day is here and we’ve listed our top picks for the most robust, strong and powerful classical favourites that would make the perfect Father’s Day gift your Dad’s collection.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

In addition to its stormy introduction and heavy notation, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of the most important pieces in music history. The popular “dit, dit, dit, dah” is translated in Morse Code as the letter “V” and was referred to as “The Victory Symphony” during World War II. Beethoven composed his fifth symphony during a period where his hearing was growing worse, which can be discerned in the anger and fury found in the opening lines. It’s perhaps no surprise that Austria was at war with Napoleon by the time the piece was finished, making this work a symphony for European wars throughout history.

Hailed by The New York Times as a perfect recording, Carlos Kleiber’s conducting definitely delivers:

Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and The Flying Dutchman

Another piece absorbed by popular culture in war themed renditions, Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is a popular work your dad would have come across in episodes of Superman or while watching the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now during the tragic helicopter assault.

Wagner’s initial impetus for his famous opera The Flying Dutchman was derived from Heinrich Heine’s retelling of the legend as well as the stormy sea voyage Wagner endured with his wife from Riga to London. Wagner breathes life into this tale of The Flying Dutchman, an eerie story about a cursed ghost ship which roams the seas unable to make land.

NPR recommends lending an ear to Georg Solti’s “Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen” and James Levine’s “Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer” for the best performances of Ride of the Valkyries and The Flying Dutchman:

Brahms’ Symphony No. 1

Echoing the same heavy notes and marching rhythm as Beethoven’s fifth symphony, Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 is often referred to as “Beethoven’s Tenth” given the similarities in musical style between both composers. Brahms devoted at least 14 years to writing his first symphony, which may have been because he destroyed much of his earlier work as he was excessively critical of himself. He was also expected by critics and colleagues to continue Beethoven’s music legacy – a very tall order, indeed.

Ranked as the number one conductor for Brahms’ symphony recordings, Wilhelm Furtwängler’s “live performances and could hardly be described as perfect” according to The New York Times: