Ottawa Symphony Orchestra unveils ambitious 2018-19 season

This is the first prototype of a violin-like instrument made with the aid of a 3D printer for the Ottawa Symphony. A version will be used in a unique concert on Nov. 4 at Ottawa City Hall which will open the OSO season.

If your a fan of Star Trek, you might say that the 2018-19 season of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra will explore new musical worlds, going where not too many orchestras have gone before, at least in this town. 

The season, assembled by music director Alain Trudel, opens in November with a concert celebrating the OSO’s project to create and develop new musical instruments through the magic of 3D printing technology. The show is also in an interesting new location for a concert at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

The program will feature some more familiar works such as J.S. Bach’s The Art of the Fugue but there will be a surprise in the form of Frank Zappa’s Naval Aviation in Art. But it will be a unique experience, he says.

“I want to take the orchestra out somewhere whenever I can. This project was well supported. I wanted to do this concert in a place where you wouldn’t imagine it would happen.”

They will essentially use the whole museum for the show, Trudel says. The first half of the evening will feature groups of musicians in quintets and quartets which will play excerpts from The Art of the Fugue. This will include the 3D instruments playing the piece.

OSO music director Alain Trudel. Photo: Maude Chauvin

And, as already reported by ARTSFILE, the centrepiece of the evening, in many ways, will be a new commission by Montreal-based composer Harry Stafylakis. This piece is being written to feature the 3D printed instruments mentioned above. This concert will take place in another part of the museum that is an open space. They will also play Zappa’s piece. The evening will conclude with the Stafylakis which will feature an octet made up of the new instruments. There will be two that are comparable to a violin, two similar to a viola, two more that will sit in between a cello and a viola and a fourth duo that featuring an instrument that will be like a viola da gamba.  

The idea is to produce a range of stringed instruments that will be part of this performance.

The push is on to produce these instruments. Trudel said they will be available sometime in the summer. That is the principal reason this season is opening in November; normally it begins in October.

The rest of the season will take place in the venerable Dominion-Chalmers United Church. The building was just purchased by Carleton University and is to be upgraded for use by the university’s school of music and community organizations such as the OSO. The orchestra will establish itself in the building.

“It’s a natural fit for an orchestra that has decades in the community. It’s in a neighbourhood. That’s why I am so happy it is working out.”

The performance space in the church will be retrofitted over the next six months and will only be ready to be used by the orchestra in January.

Their first show in Dom-Chalm, called From Austria with Love, takes place in January and will begin with a classic OSO bang, Trudel says, featuring Anton Bruckner’s Symphony no. 7, along with Mozart’s Exultate, jubilate. Also on the bill is more Canadiana with a piece by Ottawa composer Kelly-Marie Murphy called A Thousand Natural Shocks. The evening will also see the awarding of the second Mozart-Senecal Prize, which will be a competition for sopranos.

Guest conductor Nicolas Ellis, who will be working with l’Orchestre Metropolitain with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will be at the podium for a Proms concert in February. The centrepiece of the evening will feature Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 performed by soloist Maxim Bernard, who is establishing a growing international career, especially in Europe. 

Ottawa native Kerson Leong will be on hand in April for a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G-minor. The OSO will also unveil a full complement of sound when it performs Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. 

“It’s time now for (Kerson) to come and play big concertos,” Trudel said. “It’s important to have a plan for players.” In other words start with a less demanding piece and then move on to the classical standards such as the Prokofiev.

“Absolutely it’s time for him to come and play this work. It’s part of our mission.”

There will be some more Canadiana with Songs of Paradise by the Toronto composer Alexina Louie. In many ways this is a classic OSO concert with the Mahler, a demanding performance from a talented young soloist. Trudel’s personal programming touch is to add in Canadian works in each show. 

“Very often Canadian pieces get played twice on the same night, the first and last time. I hate that because there is some great repertoire” not being played.

The season ends next May with a mix of opera arias and choruses by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Georges Bizet and a selection from the well-known Edmonton composer John Estacio’s opera Frobisher. 

Trudel had initially demurred when he was asked a few years ago to be the music director of the OSO, but now that there is a set home base in Dominion-Chalmers he signed on.

“Being at (Dom-Chalm) it really represents us, rooted down in the community. I feel very comfortable here. I hope people will just show up come as you are and have fun.”

There is already a strong connection with the uOttawa music school and Trudel anticipates a strong relationship growing with Carleton University when its music program moves into the historic building on O’Connor Street.

For more information on the upcoming OSO season please see

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.