Victoria Symphony earns Toronto ovation

The Victoria Symphony left on Monday on its first national tour, part of the celebrations for its 75th-anniversary season. This week, music director Tania Miller is writing about her impressions of the orchestra’s experience as it travels and performs.


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When you are a musician, you are always fighting an inner battle. You need to have courage to put yourself out in front of the world, you need to believe in yourself to focus and have confidence, you need to worry and practise all of the time to have this confidence and, after all of that is done, you need to let go and trust yourself.

All these emotions, and more, were felt by the musicians of the Victoria Symphony as they woke up in Toronto with the task of entering Roy Thomson Hall. A musician told me as she went by: “I’m nervous. I’m not usually, but today is different.” The stakes were high.

Of all of the stops on our tour, Toronto felt the most daunting. As I write this, I know how we played the concert, but I do not yet know how we will be judged. I don’t know what the critics in Toronto will say about our Victoria Symphony.

Let me go back a few steps. After the Quebec City concert, we were all riding high. I left you, in my last write-up, with the impression that the musicians were likely celebrating the night away. From the sight of them the next day at the airport, my suspicions were correct.

After a relaxing short flight to Toronto, we checked into our hotel, a short walking distance from Roy Thomson Hall, by dinnertime. Everyone was excited to catch a piece of Toronto and not to let the night go by without doing or seeing something special, while, at the same time, I knew that everyone was already getting mentally focused on the concert the next day. Musicians scattered in all directions — to the Raptors basketball game, to the Art Gallery of Ontario, to dinners with family and old school friends, but also home to an early night.

In the morning, we had an acoustic rehearsal, our last rehearsal of the trip. Roy Thomson Hall is a large, modern hall that seats 2,600, and I worried it would swallow up our sound. However, it didn’t. It was resonant and, if anything, it seemed to build us up.

Toronto players had warned us that it is sometimes difficult to hear each other on stage, but this didn’t seem to be a problem most of the time. The hall seemed to fit our orchestra perfectly.

Roy Thomson Hall was nicely full at 2 p.m. when the concert began. We were so excited to see a large audience! I think Toronto must have been suffering from a spring-cold epidemic from the sounds of coughing during the concert. But not to worry, there was no coughing in the loud parts of the music, just the quietest moments.

The orchestra performed Michael Oesterle’s opening piece Entr’actes calmly and cleanly, which seemed to bode well for the rest of the program. In fact, this is a perfect opener, as it’s full of surprises, variety and fun. Stewart Goodyear knocked everyone out with his powerful performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto. The audience jumped to its feet in admiration.

After an intermission, the orchestra performed the most beautiful Copland Appalachian Spring I’ve heard them play, and crowned it all with a truly triumphant Stravinsky Firebird Suite. The audience roared and screamed (well, some of them were from Victoria, it is true) and rose to their feet for our Victoria Symphony.

It was an experience that we will always remember and be proud of.

After the show, many of the players went out to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of their beloved colleagues: our bass-trombonist Bob Fraser. Following a night’s rest, we travelled to Ottawa for the next concert in the nation’s capital.

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