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Photo of Rune Bergmann courtesy Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra brings live music back to the Jack Singer

By Ava Zardynezhad, September 24 2021—

After a year of pre-recorded, online performances, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is back at the Jack Singer Concert Hall with live music for their 2021–2022 season. The organization announced their live season last month and have already held their first live concert. 

The Gauntlet sat down with the orchestra’s Music Director, Rune Bergmann to discuss the new season and the CPO’s return to live performance. 

“The most important thing is that we’re back. What we play is secondary. I think what’s important for everyone is that we’re actually back on the stage. It has been a horrible time for musicians and for everyone. I think that the toughest part for me has been not being able to enter Canada,” says the Norwegian conductor. 

Bergmann commented how this past year has been tough for everyone, but specifically for musicians. Despite the financial impacts of the pandemic, he explains how the psychological hit of this experience has also been very significant. 

“The psychological effect of not being able to do their profession, not being able to meet their colleagues and not being able to meet the audience, I think, has been tough for everybody,” he says.  

The musicians spent the last year mostly in isolation, unable to play as an ensemble. However, that didn’t stop them from putting on solo performances around the city. Most notably, the CPO presented the City Spaces series during this period, which featured music in many of Calgary’s most iconic buildings and spaces. 

“I think that during the circumstances, we did as good as we could both in terms of quality and also the fact that we were able to produce some content and also to meet our audience online. But of course, it’s not where and how we want it to be,” Bergman explains. “The city spaces was a cool project because it shows parts of the city that maybe people know, but in a different way. I think it was a good project, both for the audience and also the musicians.”

Of course, as with any ensemble, a question that exists is how well the orchestra can come together after spending so much time apart. 

“I’ve been thinking about this every day for the last 18 months,” Bergmann says. “I think it will be a little bit strange and it’s going to take a little bit of time [to readjust]. But, on the other hand, I think that we are coming back to the stage more humble and more eager,” he explains. 

“My goal for the season, and especially for the future, is for this to make us stronger and make us better — because you lose something in technique, but you gain something in experience.” 

However, despite the return of live performances, it is important to note some significant changes in how music will be returning to our city. 

“Unfortunately, [live music] isn’t coming back for all of us, as we cannot fill the house,” Bergmann says. The audience for each concert will be reduced to accommodate social distancing. Similarly, the number of musicians on stage will also be reduced. 

The season opened on Sept. 10 with a tribute concert to frontline and essential-service workers. For the rest of the season, Bergmann promises to pick up where he left off before the pandemic — celebrating Beethoven. So far, only the fall concert schedule has been released, but be sure to keep an eye out for the announcement of the CPO’s winter concerts in October, as well as their Spring concerts in January 2022. 

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