The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s much-anticipated Symphony Under the Sky is an annual outdoor extravaganza that compares to a set of fireworks.
The four-day event slated from Sept. 2 to 5 at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park is promising to be explosive, illuminating and mesmerizing.
For his sixth consecutive year, guest conductor Bob Berhnardt leads the orchestra in concerts ranging from Canadian classics and Hollywood film scores to Broadway favourites and timeless masterpieces.
Bernhardt, now celebrating his 19th season as music director and conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, is a favourite among Edmonton audiences for his easy-going style and impeccable musical knowledge.
“This concert is right up my alley. There’s little music that I’ve met that I don’t love. And here I have the opportunity to conduct a range from a Brahms symphony to Ian Tyson’s music. This is going to be a very fitting and wonderful Labour Day event,” Bernhardt said.
In partnership with Winspear Centre artistic administrator Rob McAlear, Bernhardt has programmed about 60 different works to be played over the four-day period.
Friday evening is the ESO Masters Series, traditionally a classical night. This year the featured composers and their featured repertoire are a suite from Handel’s Water Music, Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp and Brahms’s Second Symphony.
“Usually we highlight a major artist in the classical realm. This year, we’re showcasing the ESO, especially Elizabeth Faulke on flute and Nora Baumanis on harp.”
Also performing with the ESO are St. Albert residents John Taylor (assistant principal double bass player), Neda Yamich (violin) and Ronda Metszies (cello).
The Saturday afternoon matinee is a sweep of some of musical theatre’s best loved scores. A Breezy Broadway Afternoon spotlights tunes everyone recognizes: Send in the Clowns, 76 Trombones, Summertime and West Side Story.
Making her debut with ESO, Broadway star Susan Gilmour sings the heart-wrenching Memory from Cats and a showcase number from Les MisÄ‚Â©rables.
Saturday evening is a return to Hollywood’s Favourites, a selection of major film scores. The focus this year is on Danny Elfman’s Batman, Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Alan Mencken’s Beauty and the Beast. “It’s a full rich symphonic score. It’s very complete and has a beautiful rendering.”
For Bernhardt, the Sunday evening partnership with Ian Tyson will be an eye-opening experience. “When I started six years ago, I didn’t realize what an iconic figure and composer he is. What’s amazing is he’s become part of the culture. He’s as much a cultural icon as he is a musical icon.”
The festival concludes Monday afternoon with Edmonton’s Sarah Ho presenting Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue followed by the orchestra premiering this season’s ESO Young Composer Andrew Reid’s new work Echoes of Time.
Bernhardt also injects a Latin flavour into the concert with a Brazilian fanfare and finishes off with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a big bang with the guns from the Royal Canadian Artillery.
“This is a chance to hear a wonderful orchestra play music from the classics to modern film and Broadway in a relaxed, comfortable setting.”
Matinees are at 2 p.m. and evening performances start at 7 p.m.
Symphony Under the Sky
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Sept. 2 to 5
Heritage Amphitheatre, Hawrelak Park
Tickets: Single reserved seats $13 to $39, weekend seat pass $54 to $125, grass seating free