Listen... the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is playing

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Columnist

Drew McManus at Adaptistration invited me to be one of the TAFTO (Take A Friend to Orchestra) writers this year, and today's my day! My contribution talks about the importance of social media in sharing the concert-going experience, something I've been writing about on this blog already. Read my article here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Treble on Wheels

This year the ESO and Winspear lost our dear friend Elizabeth McIlroy. Elizabeth was a member of the Box Office Administration team for over ten years, and died on March 11, 2009 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Elizabeth's son Lucas and a number of ESO musicians and staff have formed a cycling team to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer on June 27 & 28 to honour her memory.

It would mean a great deal to us and Elizabeth's family if we could have your support. Click here to visit our team page to find out more about the event and to lend your support.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Behind the Music

When it comes to music, I am too easily inspired. When it comes to a movie that shares a story about the powerful role music can play in an individual’s life… well… please pass the tissues.

Last night I was able to take in the advance screening of The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Though I was successful in leaving the theatre with minimal signs of my mascara running, it was difficult for me not to feel a renewed sense of inspiration that Mr. Foxx so easily sparked in his role as a schizophrenic homeless cellist, but once a dynamic prodigy at Juilliard. The last time I felt this musically inspired I rented a violin, began lessons at the music school I was interning at in NYC, and in no time was playing ‘Mississippi hot dog’ rhythm patterns on the open A-string.

Unfortunately when the internship ended, so did the violin lessons. Now almost a year later, the desire to create rich sounds through the connection of a bow on strings is back in full force (give or take a few screechy notes as I’m still quite the beginner). Listening to the incredible music produced by your Edmonton Symphony, and being surrounded by talented musicians of the orchestra week after week can’t go unmentioned either in playing a part in my ensued willingness to practice an instrument.

I highly recommend both music lovers and even non-music lovers to experience the moving story of The Soloist when it opens in theatres tomorrow, April 24. Or if movies aren’t really your thing, you can always join us here at the Winspear for some real enlivening ESO performances! Maybe then you’ll feel the same kind of inspiration that I do today… and if not… care to sell me your violin?

Check out the trailer for the film, which is based on the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Jr.


Social Media and the ESO

Here's what our bloggers/tweeters from last week had to say about the role of social media in the arts:


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

bloggers and e-swat

A few blog reviews of the April 16th performance have been posted by participants. So far we've got:

Sharing the Symphony by River City Writer
Symphony Rhizome by Stable or TARDIS?
Blogging at the ESO by Her View Photography

And something unrelated but equally cool - the ESO's E-SWAT team is infiltrating the city with music.  Here's what they had to say to the Sun (flash required, and after a short commercial message...):

They'll be in various locations over the next couple of days, so if you see a harp going by, you might want to take notice.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

all a twitter

It seems that the idea of live-tweeting an orchestral concert is somewhat controversial. MasterMaq spoke on CBC's Wild Rose Country yesterday about twitter and received an, er, interesting comment about its appropriateness. Read his blog post about it here. My response is in the post's comments, which I'm going to repost in part here, as it kind of sums up why we're doing this: 

As for the appropriateness and value of live-tweeting an orchestral performance, and the broader issues and implications of twitter’s place in society, yes, it’s an experiment, and I’m open to the discussion. It’s a discussion that I have both at work and with my friends. Twitter is, in the grand scheme, such a new form of communication that there are bound to be controversies over its use - and I’m ok with wading into that controversy. Some of the music we perform is controversial and provokes strong responses from patrons, both positive and negative, and it seems this is no different. It’s interesting to me that at Symphony Under the Sky there is a completely different tolerance and expectation within the audience than a concert at the Winspear, and yet, is what the orchestra doing fundamentally different at Hawrelak Park than at the Winspear? Is tweeting at Hawrelak less disrespectful to the musicians? Perhaps it is - but it’s an interesting thought, and it’s just one example of the many grey areas in which we find ourselves in regards to technology and its relation to the arts.
The weekend that Mack tweeted, we had two full houses for our performances of Carmina Burana. We heard from many patrons who felt that the performance was the best of the year, and we heard from many more who felt it was the best concert they’d been to, period. I can’t remember the last time a Sunday afternoon ESO performance was full - and what kind of traditional media coverage did we get about all that? None… so the only post-performance coverage we can access are Mack’s tweets and blog, and the other two participant’s blog posts. So to me, they’re incredibly valuable resources that are reaching to entirely new audiences that the Edmonton Journal or CBC may not be reaching. And the best part - it’s patron-generated, not some marketing dreck that you’re probably going to ignore.
In the end, twitter is a communication tool that we’re not going to ignore. It remains to be seen how it evolves and finds its place within cultural events, and we’re trying to discover that. I wasn’t sitting beside Mack during the concert, but he was in a location that should not have been disruptive to others (and we did not receive complaints about it from other patrons), and I would guess that he was discreet and respectful as well. Concert etiquette is certainly on our minds, but even that is an ever-changing beast, and has been for hundreds of years. I believe there’s a balance to be found - we may just not hit it right away.
We have some live-tweeters for tonight's performance as well, if they dare:

Jim Tustian is returning to review the show on his blog, and a couple of other bloggers will be joining him as well - I'll post the links when their reviews are up.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Youtube Symphony Orchestra

Maybe I've just been busy, but seemingly out of nowhere, the youtube symphony orchestra makes its Carnegie Hall debut today. Below are a couple of videos of Tan Dun's piece. I'm assuming the Carnegie Hall performance will be on youtube tomorrow?

The internet mashup of audition submissions:

And the pros (London Symphony Orchestra) perform it, all in the same room, even:


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

D minor is really the saddest of all keys

People often refer to music as a "universal language" that transcends culture, and here's a study that seeks to explore the concept:

Cognitive Daily: Even isolated cultures understand emotions conveyed by Western music

The debate over how and why different modes of music convey different emotions still exists - in its most basic form coming down to, why people identify (most) music in a major key as being 'happy' and (most) music in a minor key as being sad.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

the other two

Jim Tustian and The Choir Girl have both now posted their reviews of Carmina Burana - both well worth reading!

If you'd like to participate along the same lines for our April 16th performance, send us an email:


Monday, April 6, 2009

the reviews are coming in

Mastermaq has already posted a review of yesterday's performance on his blog, and I'm guessing that Jim Tustian and The Choir Girl will have theirs up shortly (but they've got pre-concert postings to read until then).

And in case you missed it, mastermaq's live tweet of the concert is here.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


mastermaq is tweeting an ESO concert right now...


Friday, April 3, 2009

Carmina Burana

We have a couple of bloggers writing reviews of this Sunday's performance of Carmina Burana, and one has already posted a bit of a behind-the-scenes preview from a chorister's perspective. Read The Choir Girl here.