Home Music Allen ends the SSO season with a bang… literally

Allen ends the SSO season with a bang… literally

Allen ends the SSO season with a bang… literally
Bryan AllenColour / Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
Bryan Allen’s set to wow the crowd at the SSO’s season finale O, Canada! (Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra)

A year’s worth of rehearsal time is about to payoff for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s principal percussionist. Bryan Allen has been spending months driving between rehearsal spaces preparing for the concert of a lifetime playing Vincent Ho’s Shaman with the SSO as part of its season finale O, Canada!.

“I haven’t been able to put all the movements together yet, it’s just the reality of being a percussionist.”  Allen explains, “I don’t own all the instruments I have to play. Percussionists have to mooch rehearsal space. I go the University of Saskatchewan where I practise the marimba, I use the drum station at TCU Place or the SSO office and I have to practise the vibraphone and the other small instruments at home.”

Shaman is a piece that Allen has always wanted to play. “It’s only been performed by one other person, Dame Evelyn Glennie. She is like the Yo-Yo Ma of the percussion world and the piece was written for her,” he exclaims. “It’s an honour to follow in her footsteps. I’ve been using her recording to learn the piece.”

Shaman is a contemporary work that Allen describes as primal, tribal and ritualistic. “There are very peaceful moments but a lot of this piece will make your blood boil.” He explains, “The decibel level will reach higher levels than most people are used to. I feel like I should be topless and not wearing my dress shirt.”

There’s plenty of buzz within the orchestra about this show. O, Canada! was programmed to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday. In honour of the occasion, 20 people will be sworn in as new Canadians on stage before the show. This performance features two premieres of new music; John Burge’s Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag and Derek Charke’s Élan: Sesquie for Canada’s 150th which was commissioned for the SSO by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The performance will also include a performance of John Oliver’s Raven Steals the Light narrated by Carol Greyeyes. Several of the Canadian composers will also be in attendance. “We’re excited to play this beautiful music for the people who created it,” says Allen. “You want to represent your country well and show respect to them.”

Allen hopes his performance of Shaman showcase to people what percussionists, usually hidden behind the rest of the orchestra, can do. “I love the chance to be in the spotlight,” he says. “Diva reasons aside, it’s nice to familiarize the audience with the instruments we play. Percussion instruments are often seen as toys but we can be really expressive and I’m excited to show the audience what I’ve dedicated my life to.”

Show Details:

O, Canada!

Saturday May 13, 2017


TCU Place, Sid Buckwold Theatre

Tickets $17 – $66

Élan: Sesquie for Canada’s 150th – Derek Charke

O, Canada – C Lavallée arr. Joel Jacklich

The Shaman – Vincent Ho

Raven Steals the Light- John Oliver

Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag – John Burge





Britainy Zapshalla With more than 15 years as an arts reporter at CBC Radio-Canada under her belt, Britainy Zapshalla considers herself not only an expert but also a die hard fan of Saskatchewan’s entertainment scene. She’s a regular contributor to CTV Morning Live in Saskatoon and loves to help people plan their weekends with Brit’s Picks.


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