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Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra unveils 2020-21 schedule

By Troy Hasselman, May 13 2020 —

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) has announced their 2020-21 season with performances ranging from tributes to pop legends such as Queen and Whitney Houston, classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven and unique performances such as the circus-inspired Holiday Cirque.

The announcement comes after the CPO was forced to cancel the remainder of its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the cancellations have been difficult in terms of lost work and revenue for the organization, CPO members have been just as impacted by losing the chance to perform to audiences.

“I think what’s been the hardest, especially after this much time has elapsed since our last concert, has been the lack of playing live and people coming to see us,” Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Associate Conductor Karl Hirzer says. “It has been, in a way, a reminder of how important that is to us. This is our job and this is how we earn our living, but we are so lucky to be able to play incredible music for the people in this city and I think to not be able to do that now when people would appreciate it and be impacted by it even more, that’s the hardest thing.”

A tool that’s come in handy for the orchestra through the pandemic has been its large library of live streamed performances available on their YouTube channel, including a concert with country music star Paul Brandt and performances of classical works as well from composers such as Igor Stravinsky or John Corigliano.

“We have had an incredible live streaming initiative and there’s an extensive-yet-selective library of great concerts that have happened over the last couple of seasons,” Hirzer says. “There are really some great performances up there of Beethoven or our recent concert with Paul Brandt. It’s been a great project and we hope people can tap into that as a resource to stay entertained through this time.”

The 2020-21 season is set to open on Sept. 11, 2020 with a performance of the music of British rock band Queen, the season will also include orchestral tributes to other popular artists, including Whitney Houston, Paul Simon and Chicago. 

“We do for sure offer a wide variety of concerts and there’s some great pop programmes that are sprinkled throughout the year,” Hirzer says. “Those shows are great because they’re usually pretty easy to put together and we have one rehearsal the day of the  performance. The guest artists will come in and they’re really top-of-the-line artists who really give a great impression of what these icons were all about. Whether it’s Queen or Whitney Houston. It’s a great way to connect with an audience that may not want to come and see us perform Tchaikovsky or Mozart symphonies. It’s fun for us too.”

In March of next year, Hirzer will serve as conductor for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem, one of his favourite pieces of music. There will be two performances of the piece, including a late night performance on Mar. 6, 2021. 

“When any of my friends who aren’t engulfed in the world ask for recommendations of what music they should listen to I often recommend Mozart’s Requiem because it’s a really, really powerful work,” Hirzer says. “It’s hard to listen to it and not feel moved and I get to conduct it next season for the first time. There will be two performances of that programme, the first is that piece and then there will be a late night concert which you’re referring to is the second performance. We’re offering two late night performances next year and those are a chance to experience what it’s like to go to a symphony concert of a bit of a different flavour. It’s a short programme, it’s only an hour long and it’s later in the evening, it’s at 9:00 p.m. which I’m hoping will provide a bit of an eerie gothic flavour to the music itself.”

A particularly interesting performance that will happen as part of the upcoming season will be the Holiday Cirque shows on Dec. 4 and 5, which will include acrobatics from alumni of Cirque du Soleil and members of Troupe Vertigo in a show that brings a circus atmosphere to the orchestra.

“It’s definitely a very interesting format for us and the music is exciting enough already and it’s a little more exhilarating with people flying all over the stage around you,” Hirzer says. “You really never know what could happen at any moment so definitely one that keeps us on our toes and definitely really popular with the audience. We did a similar show our first season with the orchestra which was three years ago now. All of the shows were sold out and really well received and were great shows to come and see with your friends or for lovers of theatrical stage entertainment with great music.”

The season will also include two relaxed performances which are designed for people who may have issues dealing with the quiet needed for a typical orchestral performance. The two relaxed performances will be on Oct. 3 and Feb. 13, 2021.

“They are offerings for individuals, families or groups who may feel uncomfortable going to see a symphonic performance whether it be for individuals who may have issues being silenced or quiet for the duration of a performance or families with really young kids who may not feel comfortable bringing a kid to a live symphonic performance,” Hirzer says. “These are performances with no stringent etiquette whatsoever. You can come, you can feel relaxed, you don’t have to worry about, do we clap now? Do I have to worry about if my cell phone is off? Some of these things that are occasionally associated with what we do. It’s a great opportunity for literally anyone to come see the orchestra play.”

For information about shows, a full schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, visit the CPO’s website.


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