Taking pause

September 2020

We are certainly living in strange days. While the social restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have quieted the comforting rhythm of most our daily lives, parts of society are rising up in deafening protest. It’s overwhelming on both ends of the spectrum. The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra has felt this profoundly, both as artists and as members of the community. Over the past several months, while we considered our options for the season, two choices became clear: sit in silence or share our voices. For us, the path was obvious.

Regardless of race, gender, orientation, religion, or political persuasion, the power of music to bring people together is undeniable. That is something that feels absolutely necessary at this moment. We simply could not ignore that need.

2020/21 was meant to be the TBSO’s 60 th concert season. It was to be a joyful, jubilant, celebratory year of performances. These times, however, call for something different. These times call for reflection, contemplation, connection, and pause. That is why, this year, we will present season 59.5.

We will take a step back from our regular programming to give time to reflect on our place and our legacy, before beginning our newest chapter. While the current global climate presents a fair number of complexities, we have opted to embrace the challenge and offer our audiences a unique opportunity to experience the talents of the TBSO musicians in a new way. We hope to engage our concertgoers more personally by offering a thoughtfully designed and understated series of performances.

Restricted capacity precluding a full orchestra gathering led to a re-conceptualization of repertoire, and limitations on audience size gave way to a creative look at the relationship between audience and performer. To that end, Music Director, Paul Haas, has programmed the first quarter of the season with an exciting selection of must-see chamber music arrangements — each piece chosen with an eye toward drawing the audience into the experience alongside the musicians.

As the season progresses, both the ensembles and the music will expand in size and scope (as guidelines allow) providing many opportunities for both avid subscribers and fresh faces to attend. Watching orchestral musicians perform outside of an orchestra setting affords a more profound connection between player and audience we are confident will appeal to everyone.

Resident conductor, Maria Fuller, has this to say: “It is an honor to be here as the RBC Resident Conductor for the TBSO; this season will forever be in the books as the year that we survived COVID-19, together as a family.”

The TBSO has been a visionary organization in Northwestern Ontario’s cultural landscape from its inception in 1960. With season 59.5 we strive to embody the legacy of former Port Arthur Mayor, Saul Laskin’s foresight, and the talent and imagination of Renee Charrier and Doug Dahlgren. These visionaries elevated the possibilities for not only music, but all arts in Thunder Bay. With this season we want to invoke that intrepid spirit and create new opportunities for experiencing music in the region. The very fact that Thunder Bay is home to such a treasure speaks volumes about our community.

Stepping into the role of Executive Director / General Manager is an incredible honor. I am personally delighted to come on board in a time when we are discovering new ways to connect with audiences. I grew up in Thunder Bay and am excited to return to the city as part of this intrepid group of creatives moving forward into uncharted territory. Despite feeling that so many things are out of our control, it’s comforting to be able to do the things we can control: make music and sustain community.

The only fully professional orchestra between Toronto and Winnipeg, the TBSO has historically been in a unique position to reach a wide and diverse community. As we navigate this new environment we look forward to maintaining that trajectory, while exploring new directions.

Make no mistake, we are under no illusions about what we are undertaking. We understand the need for caution. The weight of responsibility to provide a safe environment in which we can come together is heavy. We are grateful for the huge amount of support from donors and funders that enables us to practice our craft.

It is truly a joy to be able to share the music in whatever way we can. And while our concerts will no doubt look and feel different this season, our orchestra remains the same. The quality of performance remains second-to-none. The enthusiasm of our musicians remains unaffected. It is palpable, it is contagious. Our desire to play the music we love knows no restrictions and our board, our musicians, and our volunteers are eager to share it with our audiences.

Even though we will be socially distanced, by filling the space between us with beautiful music, we can remain connected. The music will bring us together.

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