Community orchestra brings music to Saskatoon

By in Culture

With so many musical groups and venues in Saskatoon, it is obvious that we have a strong musical culture. As a way to promote this musical culture, the local philharmonic orchestra plays everything from the classics to popular music.

The Saskatoon Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in January 1997, and in March of that year, George Charpentier became the conductor of the orchestra and has been so since. On top of being a full orchestra — which means that it has string, wind and percussion instruments — the orchestra is a community-based non-profit organization, a distinction that Charpentier is proud of.

“The main thing is that it’s a community orchestra, so it’s not a professional orchestra,” Charpentier said. “It’s an opportunity for people in the community who are interested in a quality orchestral experience, [as they] can come out and be a part of that.”

Charpentier believes that playing music as part of a community is far more enjoyable than playing alone.

“It’s one of those things where — if you’ve been a string player, and you like playing in a group, and you like playing in a situation that has a social aspect as well as a musical aspect to it — it’s a lot more fun than just playing by yourself,” Charpentier said.

The orchestra is open to those with all levels of musical experience, and the music they play is chosen so that everyone can participate. They also make it a priority to play various different styles of music, including orchestral standards and contemporary compositions.

The Saskatoon Philharmonic Orchestra is made up of amateur and professional players alike.

“We choose literature that appeals to everyone in the group. It’s one of those things, where we need to find music to play that, ultimately, everyone will enjoy and is not too easy and not too hard, but still is a good representation of the best that orchestral literature has to offer,” Charpentier said.

If you play a string, wind or percussion instrument and you are interested in participating in the orchestra, you can get in touch with them by email or phone, both of which are on their website. Charpentier explains that they are currently looking for some bassoon and trombone players as well as first and second violins.

“We want to encourage people to give us a try. We want people to know that we are open and we welcome new members all the time,” Charpentier said. “There are limits to the number of players we can have in the winds, but as far as the string sections go, those parts of the orchestra can be many sizes.”

If you are interested in getting involved in the orchestra, don’t be scared if you don’t think you are ready. Charpentier emphasizes that playing in a group is a great way to sharpen your skills, and you will have a good time doing it.

“I notice that people say to me, ‘I’d like to come, but I need to get back in shape.’ I always recommend that instead of practicing by themselves, they come to the orchestra, and at the end of the year, you’ll have pretty close to 100 hours on your instrument, and you don’t have to do it by yourself, so it’s a very good way of staying in shape,” Charpentier said.

The next Saskatoon Philharmonic Orchestra performance is on Jan. 27 at the Robert Hinitt Castle Theatre in Aden Bowman Collegiate. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and are available from an orchestra member, at McNally Robinson or at the door.

Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer

Photo:  Saskatoon Philharmonic Orchestra / Supplied