When Michael Abbott and Kaitlin Moore met in the middle of the Baltic Sea, the Burlington-based Symphony on the Bay orchestra was short a trumpeter.
Abbott was working as a photographer aboard the Holland America line cruise ship Ms. Eurodam and Moore, who’s from Waterdown, was the vessel’s youth program co-ordinator.
Now they’re married and the music grad of the University of Hull in England is a member of the orchestra, which makes its home at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.
Abbott had played with the Royal British Legion and Harwich Brass Bands before crossing the Atlantic, but lately he’s tooting his own horn just as much about the pending arrival of the couple’s first child next May.
“It’s a great orchestra to be part of and it has a great repertoire,” said Abbott, one of about 65 musicians who actually pay to belong to the orchestra.
Principal players in various sections are the only paid artists in the orchestra, which opened its 2014-15 season recently with a presentation called ‘Enigma’.
Godfrey Ridout’s ‘Fall Fair’, a piece commissioned by the CBC for performance by the national broadcaster’s symphony orchestra, with Sir Ernest MacMillan conducting, kicked off the afternoon program. With snatches of country fiddle tunes, a noisy gaiety and activity and a pastoral nostalgia, it was performed at the United Nations in New York on United Nations Day in 1961.
Symphony on the Bay is the same group which has been wowing holidayers at Spencer Smith Park with its rendition of the ‘1812 Overture’ while Canada Day fireworks explode over Lake Ontario on July 1, and will do so again next year.
Andrea Battista, a piano and violin teacher, moved to Burlington from Winnipeg when her husband got a job transfer. Now she’s singing the praises of the BPAC, which opened in 2011
“The acoustics are so good,” she said. “People in the audience can hear equally well, no matter they are sitting. And we can hear each other.”
Battista, who previously was a member of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra and Oshawa Symphony Orchestra, has been a member of the second violin section of Symphony on the Bay since moving to Burlington in 2002.
Over the past two years Andrea chaired the successful Keys to the Future campaign, which raised money for the purchase of a nine-foot Shigeru Kawai Ex grand piano for the new performing arts centre.
Another Burlington resident, violinist Stephanie Numan Scholman, studied music at the University of Toronto and now plays in orchestras in Milton and Oakville, along with Symphony on the Bay.
“This is a nice challenging community orchestra,” said the mother of three children. “They asked me to play for a July 1 concert and I was hooked.”
Symphony on the Bay evolved from the McMaster University Symphony Orchestra, which started in 1973. In 1988, it left the university to become Symphony Hamilton and rebranded as Symphony on the Bay in 2011 to reflect its role in the wider Hamilton-Burlington community.
Musicians in the orchestra come from all walks of life.
Second violinist Andrea Armstrong, who also serves as the orchestra’s personnel manager, is a nuclear physicist at McMaster, where her research focuses on the production of radioisotopes.
James R. McKay, Professor Emeritus of Music at The University of Western Ontario, is now entering his 20th season as Conductor and Music Director of Symphony on the Bay. However Gemini Award-winning composer Claudio Vena of Toronto pinch-hit for him at the season-opening performance.
Symphony on the Bay is dedicated to nurturing young musical talents through a number of venues and opportunities. One of these is the Young Artists Competition.
The 2014 competition will be unique, with up to six outstanding competitors being selected to perform as soloists with the orchestra in a special concert presentation on Saturday, March 7, 2015.
The Burlington Civic Chorale, under the direction of Gary Fisher, will join the orchestra for its ‘Christmas Treats’ concert at the BPAC on Sunday, Dec. 7. Russian Christmas music by Alfred Reed will be featured.