THIS JUST IN: Put these two not-to-miss events on your calendar.  

March 28: Mary Lou Fallis, Canada's "reigning diva," will headline a wildly entertaining concert (with pianist Peter Tiefenbach).  

May 2: Broadway star Louise Pitre will present an evening to remember with other music luminaries.  More information on both concerts to follow.  


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Con spirito: Inside the SSO
THIS MONTH: Flight to Italy
February  2011
In This Issue
"Air SSO" offers a Flight to Italy
About Karen Elaine
About the composers
Emeerging Artists Concerto Competition
Getting to know the SSO

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Warm greetings from the Stratford Symphony Orchestra. Con Spirito enables us to carry on a conversation with music lovers in the Stratford community and beyond. Please feel free to send us an


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Flight to Italy  


Free appetizer or dessert with meal prior to concert


Call for reservation (519) 271-3333

Show your symphony ticket when you arrive.





Emerging Artists Concerto Competition    

Are you a talented young artist (age 15-24) or do you know one? February 25 is the deadline to apply to compete in this year's competition. Send us an email or phone David Spence at (519) 271-0446. (see next column for more information)



Volunteer opportunities abound in the SSO 

All sorts of talents are needed in support roles for the SSO. Interested? Send us an  email today.











February concert

"Air SSO" offers a Flight to Italy

Always wanted to meander through Italy? Let the Stratford Symphony Orchestra transport you there. Flight to Italy, the orchestra's fifth concert of the season, takes off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 18, from Central United Church, Stratford. Don't miss it.


Guest soloist is Karen Elaine, viola, who will play Harold in Italy by Berlioz. (More on Karen below.)The orchestra will also perform Symphony No. 4 The Italian by Mendelssohn and The Thieving Magpie Overture by Rossini. (More about the composers and compositions below as well.)  


Advance tickets are $30. If you don't have yours, you can order them online or pick them up from Fanfare Books or Anything Grows. See you there!


DOOR PRIZE: $50 Dinner for Two gift certificate from Fellini's   

Also, see Fellini's special free appetizer/dessert offer (below) connected with attendance at Flight to Italy concert. 


About Karen Elaine . . .

 SSO music director Jerome Summers describes Karen Elaine as "a brilliant artist, one of the leading violists performing in the United States today." The Los Angeles Times has called Elaine "the soloist to bring the viola out of obscurity."


A well-traveled soloist and teacher, she can also be heard on CDs and sound tracks for Space Jam, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Speed Racer, Up, Star Trek, Desperate Housewives, Avril Lavigne, Dave Matthews Band and many more. She has recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Orquesta Sinfonia da Paraiba, Moraska Philharmonie and the Hollywood All-Stars.


The viola Ms. Elaine will play in her Stratford appearance is made by Nicholas Frirsz and emulates the dimensions (17 1/8 inches long) of the Antonio Stradivarius "Grand Viola" acquired by Nicolo Paganini in 1833.


Beyond her music pursuits, Elaine is also an active photographer and teacher of scuba diving in Southern California.


About the composers, their compositions - and a magpie . . .

Berlioz wrote Harold in Italy at the request of Nicolo Paganini, celebrated Italian violinist, violist, guitarist and composer. To enrich his own background, Berlioz spent 15 months wandering through Italy. His composition is the story of what "Harold" witnesses in his wanderings: the majesty of nature, a pilgrimage to a shrine, a love scene. In the end, all his nobler feelings dissipate into a "foul and frenzied orgy," according to one music commentator.


Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 The Italian was written during a long journey through Italy. It was completed in 1833, the year before Berlioz wrote and produced Harold in Italy. The finale, in a departure from the melodic previous movements, is a Saltarello (a favourite dance rhythm in Italy) presto, evidently inspired by the Roman carnival, of which Mendelssohn was a delighted spectator.


It is reported that Rossini, known for his writing speed, was, a day before the first performance (1817) of The Thieving Magpie, locked in a room by his producer in order to complete the overture for the two-act opera. As the story goes, he threw each sheet of music out a window to his copyists, who then wrote the full orchestral parts. In the opera,  a magpie is discovered to have made off with items that a servant girl had been accused of stealing.


The overture, notable for its use of snare drums, has provided the background score for many radio and television commercials. It also appeared in A Clockwork Orange and Once Upon a Time in America.

Emerging Artists Concerto Competition

The Stratford Symphony Orchestra is now inviting applications for its sixth annual Emerging Artists Concerto Competition to be held March 5.


The competition is open to Ontario musicians - orchestral instruments and voice - who are 15 to 24 years of age as of January 1, 2011. Contestants perform a concerto of their choice, with piano accompaniment. The winner will perform with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra next season.


Last year's winner was Thomas Beard, 19, a cellist from Wingham, Ontario. Thomas, who competed against 25 other musicians, will perform with the Stratford Symphony in April.


Entry forms and additional information are available from David Spence (; 519-271-0446). Application deadline is February 25. The competition will take place at St. John's United Church, Stratford, and is open to the public. Judges will be Symphony music director Jerome David Summers and other professional musicians.


Getting to know the SSO

Deborah Mawdsley: Principal second violin and "the hat lady" in the garden


[Getting to know the SSO introduces some of the many accomplished musicians in the orchestra.]


Her neighbours in St. Marys know her as "the hat lady."  When that very large hat, with Deborah Mawdsley under it, makes its first appearance of the season, spring has arrived. And when school is out (she teaches Grade Three in the Cambridge school system) she'll be engrossed in her "huge" perennial gardens for the entire summer. She loves gardening, she says, and plans to pursue landscape design when she retires from teaching. She has taught for 37 years.


She also loves playing the violin, especially with the SSO, where she is principal second violin. "It's fun," she says, "and the programming is wonderful. All the players are so enthusiastic about being there." She has played in some symphonies "that weren't very happy places," she says. "It's so nice to play in a symphony where everyone gets along ... and we're all working toward the same thing ... it's infectious, that sort of enthusiasm."


Deborah grew up in Kitchener and as a student learned on a violin once used by violin master Fritz Kreisler as a young player. When she was 14 she played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Kitchener Symphony. She studied at the University of Toronto and, in addition to the Kitchener Symphony, has also performed with the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Edmonton Symphony and Orchestra London. She still plays regiularly with Orchestra London and occasionally with the Kitchener Symphony.


What's ahead . . .


Saturday, April 16

Featuring 2010 Concerto Competition talent: Rachel Weisdorf, soprano,; Emily Beard, harp; Thomas Beard, cello. Also guest soloists Sandra Tucker, soprano; Emilio Fina, tenor; Andrew Tees, baritone; and the Stratford Concert Choir


Order your tickets now. 

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George Pearson / Editor, Con Spirito