Bringing in The HaggisHaggis    

Like no other concert, All Things Celtic wraps up with a celebration of The Haggis. True to ritual, The Haggis will be piped into the gathering, where the Stratford Festival's David Prosser will read Robbie Burns's Ode to a Haggis:

         Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,

                        Great Chieftain o' the Puddin-race . . .


The Haggis will then be ceremoniously transported downstairs, where a celebration will commence, to include whiskey tasting (blind, mind you!) that will test the palates of the most astute devotees of distillery.


If you miss this, you will rue this day. 

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Con spirito: Inside the SSO
THIS MONTH: All Things Celtic
January  2012
In This Issue
All Thing Celtic
Concert program
Rant Maggie Rant
Chris Meyer's compositions
Keltic Suite and Danny Boy
Guest conductor: Nigel Evans
Getting to know the SSO: Randi Patterson
2012 SSO Board

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Laurel Swinden
All Things Celtic features Rant Maggie Rant, composer Chris Meyer,
flute soloist Laurel Swinden

The Stratford Symphony Orchestra will celebrate All Things Celtic this Saturday (Jan. 21) with a lively concert featuring the popular band Rant Maggie Rant, original works by composer-in-residence Chris Meyer - including solos by principal flutist Laurel Swinden, symphonic reflections of Celtic culture, and haggis! What could be more Celtic? The concert, led by guest conductor Nigel Evans, will be held at Knox Presbyterian Church, at Ontario and Waterloo streets in Stratford, beginning at 7:30 p.m.


Tickets are available online and at Fanfare Books and Anything Grows (Stratford), Music (Sebringville) and Stewart Books (St. Marys).


Keltic Suite                              John Foulds                                           Orchestra     

Farewell to Ireland                  Chris Meyer*                                          Orchestra     

The Lea Rig                            Folk song           Orchestra and Rant Maggie Rant

Solo set                                                                                     Rant Maggie Rant      A Winter's Flower                   Kevin Lau           Orchestra and Rant Maggie Rant         



Braveheart End Credits         James Horner (arr. Chris Meyer)            Orchestra     

Uncle's Jig                              Chris Meyer*                                          Orchestra    

The Water Is Wide                  Folk song           Orchestra and Rant Maggie Rant    

Solo set                                                                                     Rant Maggie Rant     

Danny Boy                              Frederic Weatherly                                 Orchestra     


*SSO composer-in-residence

Rant Maggie Rant
Rant Maggie Rant: Colouring outside
the lines                       

Mark Fletcher, who plays a variety of instruments, formed Rant Maggie Rant in 2008, determined not only to give traditional Celtic music its due but also to enrich it by adding contemporary elements, along with the band's own compositions. The band's promotion material says that RMR "moves effortlessly from Irish jigs to Galician munieras, from Scottish marches to Breton an dros, driving them with a lush array of blues/rock guitar backdrops, revved up tempos, surprising time changes, and unique rhythmic attacks."


The Stratford-based band includes Fletcher; Lindsay Schindler, fiddle; Rob Larose, percussion; Glen Dias, lead vocal; and Barry James Payne, guitar and vocal. Together, they represent deep and wide musical backgrounds, including Celtic, rock, folk, Latin, blues and opera, among others. The band recently released an album, Frost and Fire: A Celtic Christmas Celebration, and is working on another. They played to a sold-out crowd at Hugh's Room, a live-music hotspot in Toronto, last St. Patrick's Day, and are scheduled again this year.

Chris Meyer
Chris Meyer's compositions

Two of the orchestra's selections for this concert are original compositions by Chris Meyer, the SSO composer-in-residence. In Uncle's Jig, a fiddler strikes up a waltz and is then joined by other players. The tempo picks up and the waltz transforms into a jig which gathers momentum right to the end as the musicians dare each other to play faster and faster.


Farewell to Ireland features principal flutist Laurel Swinden. The work begins with a haunting tune, "General Monroe's Lament," played by Laurel, with strings and drum in the background. Other instruments join and the music becomes more intense. As the lament fades, the sound of a marching band emerges and a jolly tune, the "Fyket," emerges. To "fyke" means to fidget or fuss. The soloist plays a rhythmically quirky melody and the accompaniment becomes more and more lively as it transports the listener from a marching band to a ceilidh band in a dance hall. A lively reel. "Farewell to Ireland," revs up, with the soloist playing at warp speed, and leads to a raucous and crashing ending.

Keltic Suite and Danny Boy

The music of Manchester-born John Foulds has had a steady revival. His three-movement Keltic Suite begins with The Clans, which is brash and bombastic, with flute skirls that suggest bagpipes. A Lament is an adeptly shaped piece of misty-eyed Celticism. The Call is reminiscent of Dvorák in his Slavonic Dances.


The tune for Danny Boy is Londonderry Air (one music history buff admitted that for years he thought it was London Derriere), which may have had its origins as early as 1855. The words for Danny Boy were written by Frederic Edward Weatherly, a lawyer in Somerset, England. Weatherly, also a radio entertainer, writer of verses and children's books and prolific writer of songs, was introduced to Londonderry Air by his sister-in-law. He immediately saw it as a perfect tune for the Danny Boy lyrics he had written several years earlier and put to melody but failed to catch on. He wrote a new version which was published by Boosey in 1913. The rest, of course, is history.

Evans, Nigel
Nigel Evans
Guest conductor: Nigel Evans

Nigel Evans has appeared as guest conductor with the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, Clarion Orchestra, Brassroots brass ensemble, Wilfred Laurier University Wind Ensemble, the Wellington Winds and as a faculty member of the Kincardine Summer Music Festival. He also served as conductor of the Stratford Concert Band. He lives in London (Ont.) and is head of music at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School.


He began his musical career with nine years service in the British Army, finishing as co-principal horn of the Royal Artillery Band and Orchestra. He performed at many state and ceremonial occasions, including for Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. As a French horn player he has worked professionally with many ensembles including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra London, Concert Players Orchestra and Brassroots brass ensemble.

Patterson, Randi
Randi Patterson: Horn player, board member, volunteer, teacher, B&B operator

Those who fancy themselves multi-taskers could take a page or three from Randi Patterson's book. On the SSO side of things, she plays horn, serves on the board of directors as well as on its artistic committee, and has been active in a variety of volunteer projects that help support the orchestra. She also teaches public speaking and academic writing at Six Nations Polytechnic, a community-based native university program that prepares students to enter an undergraduate program at one of the six universities in the sponsoring consortium. It's located in Ohsweken, southeast of Brantford. She is active in the Stratford Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), which supports retired members of the arts community. And - wait a minute - she operates a bed and breakfast with her husband, David Spence, also a musician and a retired secondary school teacher and administrator.


She played in the Toronto Youth Orchestra in the early '70s and met David when they were music students at the University of Toronto. They moved to the Stratford area when David was hired at the Festival. Soon Randi was a fulltime musician, playing in the Festival orchestra ("I was their first pregnant fanfare player," she recalls), as well as in the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. They built a passive and active solar home in Nithburg, where they lived for 26 years and raised three children. In 2004 they bought Woodmont, their B&B. "There was no orchestra out there (Nithburg), and I wanted to have a job," Randi explains. She has played in the SSO since its first concert. As both a board member and musician, Randi has been working "to get the community involved, as well as keep the musicians happy."

SSO Board of Directors -- 2012


President:                  Nigel Howard

Vice-president:          Jean Hewittt

Secretary:                  Judy Tye

Treasurer:                  Ed Lee



Denis Beatty

Andrew MacDonald

David Murray

Randi Patterson


Committees (chaired by Board members) 

Artistic Advisory: Andrew MacDonald, chair; David Murray, vice-chair

Concerts: Randi Patterson, chair; Bonnie Richardson, vice-chair

Finance: Ed Lee, chair; Nigel Howard, vice-chair

Fundraising: Jean Hewitt, chair; Denis Beatty, vice-chair

Marketing, promotion and planning: Judy Tye, chair; George Pearson, vice-chair

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George Pearson / Editor, Con Spirito