Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Georgian Bay Symphony Rocks Meaford Hall

Submitted By Jen Burak

On Saturday, April 1, the Georgian Bay Symphony came to town, playing to a sold out house at Meaford Hall. The show was a celebration of the GBS, an important cultural gem in the region. The orchestra has been bringing live classical music to Grey Bruce for 51 years! The audience was treated to a matinee designed to introduce the GBS to Meaford with a fun production that included a variety of musical styles, solo performers, local ballet dancers, poetry, and comedic scenes.

The show, developed by new Meaford resident and orchestra member Jen Burak was structured as a concert within a play. The opening scene was a ‘lecture’ by Professor Stravinsky Legato. Played by Owen Sound’s poet laureate, Richard-Yves Sitoski, this rather pompous character, hailing from ‘Harvard University’, finds himself in the town of ‘Moford’ to give a lecture on the roots of symphonic music. His exceptionally dry talk is swiftly interrupted by Susie Sunshine (played by Meaford visual artist Suzette Terry) who drags him away from his lectern to give him a little bit of education! She drags the protesting prof off stage after disclosing that she has an extra ticket to a concert being given that very day by the Georgian Bay Symphony.

Throughout most of the show, these two characters are on the stage, making comments on the various musical numbers and eliciting lots of laughs from the audience in the process. In the end, snobbish Professor Legato is won over and admits to having been very impressed by the GBS. He and Susie Sunshine become friends and decide to head over to the Dam Pub for a post concert scotch!

The orchestra was in top form for the occasion. A Sound of Music medley, some Beatles tunes, along with the first movement of Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony, were some of the selections offered up under the baton of interim conductor Richard Mascall.

Mascall contributed greatly to the development of the musical program, inviting regional soloists to join the GBS in order to provide an eclectic range of offerings. There is certainly a plethora of talent in Grey Bruce!

The cello section stepped out into the limelight with a unique arrangement of a Metallica tune, developed by local cellist Nia Dickson.

Singers Paul Conway and Leslie Robbins-Conway treated the audience to a hilarious bit of opera from Mozart with a twist. They created a new libretto; the lyrics on offer was their take on the story Three Little Pigs.

Coco Love Alcorn, Owen Sound resident and winner of the Contemporary Singer of the Year 2021, at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, graced the stage to sing two Beatles classics, backed by the wonderful orchestra. The combination was truly magical.

Also contributing to the show were some wonderful ballerinas! Georgie Donais from Mutable Arts in Meaford choreographed a charming dance to Tchaikovsky’s March from the Nutcracker Suite. The dancers were elegant and looked stunning in costumes handmade by Georgie and her daughter.

Another energetic element in the show was the inclusion of Name That Instrument; an interactive game show that asked three audience volunteers to come on stage to guess the identity of five musical instruments demonstrated by orchestra members. The volunteers, three young people, were randomly selected by Kim Neuendorff, a local Meaford resident and first time actor, who carried the day as the host Melody Tempo! The scene was helped along by her local comedic sidekicks Bruce Eaton and Peter Hamill as the ‘stage crew’. Each contestant won a prize provided by the Georgian Bay Symphony and hopefully learned the difference between an oboe and a clarinet!

Cassie Carroll, who won first prize in the Name That Instrument game show, plays viola at GBCS. Her grandfather, Ray Wilson, treated her friends and family to the show and was actually the first person to purchase tickets back in December. Cassie brought two friends for their first ever orchestra concert. “We didn’t know what to expect,” said Cassie. “We loved the twist on Mozart with the Three Little Pigs. Also, the piece with the cellos was cool and surprising. It was really neat how one instrument was able to play a range of parts without the full orchestra and to present a heavy metal tune from Metallica in a classical manner.”

The show was a community event in every possible way. Mayor Ross Kentner brought greetings, Grace Morin from Little Wren donated her time to do hair, several businesses donated funds or products, including Godard’s Independent, Chantico Fireplace Gallery, Hills, Macdonald’s Home Furnishings, Kate Vanderweilen-Broker, Royal Lepage, Simply Unique Flowers, The Dam Pub, Robert’s Farm Equipment, Lee and Terry Watt and The Landmark Group.

Co-producer Alicia Hutchings pointed out that the event was designed as an outreach initiative. Ticket prices were kept low at $17 due to support received from the Community Foundation Grey Bruce and the Meaford Culture Foundation. Grants from these two bodies along with sponsorship from ten local businesses and individuals made it possible to have a totally accessible show. This allowed entire families like Ray Wilson’s to have an affordable outing to Meaford Hall to meet and experience the GBS.”

According to Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney, “the sold out crowd was treated to an amazing performance that was appreciated and enjoyed by all. The energy in the hall was infectious. Thank you to Director Jennifer Burak and Producer Alicia Hutchings for organizing this show; Meaford is grateful!”

New Councillor Brandon Fordor also weighed in with the following:

What an inspiring show. I loved every minute and can’t wait to see GBS again in the future.”

It seems that the symphony created a buzz. There are lots of folks hoping that the Georgian Bay Symphony will take the show on the road and come back to Meaford Hall sooner rather than later. Clearly, the GBS left everyone wanting more!

For information on concerts visit: georgianbaysymphony.ca

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