Concerts, school pageants, food and parties; it’s the normal hustle and bustle of the holiday season. But, as our world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, you could be forgiven if you’re having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. Luckily, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is here to help with a double bill of performances that will bring people together virtually to share in the joy of the season.
“There’s a pent up feeling this year, there’s not a lot of those traditional holiday experiences available right now,” says executive director Mark Turner. “Patrons are phoning us after they’ve purchased tickets to the Christmas shows saying they are going to enjoy the show and decorate their tree or do baking. We’re just grateful we can provide a feel-good experience.”
The Christmas countdown begins with A Night at the North Pole (Dec. 5) being live streamed right into your home. Guest conductor William Rowson will lead the orchestra through a Pops show that’s meant for a party. Hits from TV and movies like Sleigh Ride and You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch will feature guest artist Dean McNeill and the SSO Brass. Rowson says this music is so beloved in his house, it comes with its own set of rules.
“It (Christmas music) brings so much joy and gives us something to look forward to and we want to do that for the SSO audience.”
Maestro William Rowson is coming home to Saskatoon to guest conduct both Christmas performances. (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra)
“We actually set a date on the calendar for when we CAN start playing Christmas music,” says Rowson. “My daughters, if we let them, would listen to these pieces all year round. It brings so much joy and gives us something to look forward to and we want to do that for the SSO audience.”
The second show A Candlelight Christmas (Dec. 12) is a more intimate affair. You’ll want to curl up by the fire and take in the more reflective songs of the season like Greensleeves and Silent Night. Like many traditions, the orchestra’s presentation of Handel’s Messiah with a full chorus isn’t possible this year. The music will live on however as a trio of guest vocalists bring a touch of this great work to the evening.
“It’s going to be a pretty emotional experience,” says Turner. “We know this year is going it be very different but, we’re so grateful we get to share this mix of serious and fun music with our community.” Rowson agrees.
“What these performances can offer is connection,” he says. “Even though it’s a live stream experience, it’s still a communal one. I take comfort in knowing that we are going to get through all of this together.”