Orchestrating the Toronto Symphony Orchestra CANADA MOSAIC

Canada 150

Interview with Peter Oundjian

Peter Oundjian, the TSO’s Music Director.

Reaching back through the history of Canadian music all the way to the present day, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is taking note of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation and creating music for your ears. Want to hear more? Then listen up!

The TSO CANADA MOSAIC, a pan-Canadian Signature Initiative of Canada 150, includes the creation of new works by Canadian composers, a celebration of Canadian legacy works and artists, digital resources for all ages, and orchestral collaborations across the country. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian tells us how the TSO CANADA MOSAIC will be hitting all the right notes in 2017.

What can Canadians expect to experience with the TSO CANADA MOSAIC in 2017?

We’re creating access to some of the great musical riches of the past, present and future for people across the country. There’s a really wide spectrum of programs involving both heritage composers, as well as c ontemporary composers. Dozens of new works are being commissioned and thematic programs are being created to be performed by orchestras all across Canada. In addition, many of these programs will be recorded and broadcast so they’re available to all Canadians. We’re looking at our past, our present, and our future—nobody will be left out of this celebration.

What kinds of new musical works can Canadians expect to discover in 2017?

Commissions will include works by composers from French and English Canada, as well as Indigenous and pop traditions. Vincent Ho, Erica Procunier, Tanya Tagaq, Owen Pallett, Nicole Lizée, Cassandra Miller, and Sandra Laronde are just a few of the artists working with us.

How is the TSO involving orchestras from the rest of Canada?

Orchestras from across Canada have been invited to choose a composer to write an orchestral fanfare (or "sesquie"), for their own orchestra. Currently there are 38 "sesquies" commissioned from the Vancouver Island Symphony to the Memorial University Chamber Orchestra in Newfoundland, and from all provinces in between. In addition, orchestras have been invited to perform over a dozen lengthier new Canadian commissions and themed Legacy Concerts and Tribute Concerts in 2017.

TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Photo Credit: Sian Richards
How will composers from Canadian history be featured in the TSO CANADA MOSAIC?

We’re planning themed concerts honouring important composers from Canada’s past. The Legacy Concerts will feature a host telling a narrative of Canada’s classical music tradition and will highlight composers such as Godfrey Ridout, Pierre Mercure, John Weinzweig and Jean Coulthard. There are also Tribute Concerts celebrating some of our greatest cultural ambassadors from the past, such as pianist Glenn Gould and mezzo-soprano Maureen Forrester.

Is there a part of the program you’re most excited about?

It’s extremely difficult to pick just one favourite! If I really had to, and as a former violinist, I’d have to say that I’m really looking forward to the Triple Concerto being written by Alexina Louie for the concertmasters of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the TSO. I have coached all three violinists at one time or another, so I’m very excited to see them all together on one stage. But I’m also looking forward to some of the other genres of orchestral music, including great film scores. For instance, composer Mychael Danna, who wrote the score for Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi [based on the novel by Yann Martel], is writing a new orchestral suite based on the same movie.

Is any part of the TSO CANADA MOSAIC project designed for young audiences and young musicians?

We’re collaborating with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on a short film called DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver, which will be performed for young audiences. For young performers, there’s a special commission from Edward Top. The TSO and the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO) will perform this work together, onstage side-by-side, and we’re hoping this will be done by youth orchestras in other cities, along with their "parent" orchestras.

Have any outside events inspired works featured in the TSO CANADA MOSAIC?

Actually, there’s a piece about the first responders in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The Timmins Symphony Orchestra invited composer Luc Martin to write a "sesquie" for them, and he chose to write a tribute to the courage and dedication of those men and women.

What are you hoping people take away from the TSO CANADA MOSAIC experience?

This is the first time that Canadian orchestras have collaborated on this vast scale. It offers an unprecedented opportunity for people to see how many world-class orchestras we have in Canada. When I was in Atlanta not long ago, I met someone who had recently been to Edmonton and was blown away by the quality of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. As a young violinist, I was fortunate enough to play with the Calgary, Winnipeg, and Edmonton Symphony Orchestras. People often don’t realize how fine our musical ensembles are. I think Canadians across the country will hear that artistic excellence throughout 2017 and beyond.

Date modified: