March 2020 was a tumultuous time for KW Symphony music director Andrei Feher, as it marked the arrival of his first child … and a little thing called the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdowns that followed the novel coronavirus allowed the conductor to spend much more time with his family, but kept him away from a live audience for almost two years. It wasn’t until February that the symphony added an in-person option to a protracted period of online performances.
Now, with last week’s announcement of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s 2022-23 season, Feher is looking forward to something like a return to normalcy, or as close to normal as ongoing precautions will allow.
“It’s just good to share all this with someone. for sure,” said Feher of the return to in-person performances, noting there’s nothing like the magic of being in the moment of a live concert.
Feher will open the 2022-23 season in October with the Signature Series, the first performance of which features Brahms’ final symphony and the KWS commission of Upwell in collaboration with Toronto-based composer Jordan Pal and KWS Artist-in-residence Gurpreet Chana.
The following month, the series will pack “1001 Nights” all into one evening with Rimsky-Korsakov’s imaginative orchestral showpiece Scheherazade. Joining the KWS will be German pianist Joseph Moog for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a work showcasing brilliant virtuosity.
With La Traviata In Concert, the symphony will revisit one of Feher’s favourites.
“One of the highlights of mine three years ago was La Traviata in a concert version. We’re doing this again next year in February,” he said, noting the translation of an opera into an orchestral concert involves a great deal of work, as he discovered during the previous performance.
“ There was a lot of details, and I worked so hard. I realized that you have to be working ahead when studying an opera normally, because there’s so much work,” Feher explained. “It was just an amazing experience because the hall was full and everybody appreciated it very, very much.”
Preparing for such performances takes months of preparation. The key, he noted, is to let all of the details become so ingrained well ahead of time, then take a break before bringing a fresh perspective to the work when getting ready to bring it to the audience.
“I’m experiencing this with any piece – the more you know something and you don’t think too much about it, you’ve digested it, it’s part of yourself. It becomes just a natural expression of what you want to do with it.”
For the Signature Series finale, the KWS launch into a fast and furious showcase of epic proportions! Ukrainian-Canadian pianist Serhiy Salov bursts with passion in Prokofiev’s ultra-virtuoso Piano Concerto No.2. Shostakovich’s colossal Symphony No.10, widely viewed as a portrayal of the composer’s life in Stalinist Russia, has moments teeming with despair that ultimately ends in musical triumph.
The Pops Series opens with the reigning Queen of Classic Music, Thorgy Thor, who rose to fame on RuPauls’ Drag Race. Teaming up with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and other special guests, she wields her outrageous classical chops to create a theatrical show. Shortly thereafter Canada’s top drama comes to musical life: see Murdoch, Dr. Julia Ogden, Inspector Brackenreid, Constable George Crabtree, and the entire cast on the big screen accompanied by music from Kitchener’s own Robert Carli performed live by the KWS in sync to one of the most beloved and musically rich episodes. Hosted by a member of the Murdoch Mysteries cast, you’ll also get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look! For the first time, Feher will lead the popular Yuletide Spectacular featuring the Waterloo Region Mass Choir, the Grand Philharmonic Choir and the Carousel Dance Company.
The new year will feature witches and wizards with The Magical World of Harry Potter and the legendary music of John Williams from across all the Harry Potter films.
Spring welcomes a first as Juno nominated Canadian singer-songwriter Tim Baker performs a collection of new releases and past hits in a brand new production with the KWS.
The Baroque & Beyond Series will have you tour the world in four intimate concerts: Visit Buenos Aires with Bénédicte Lauzière, travel back in time for the ever-popular Christmastide performances, experience central Europe with Feher and join Bruce McGillivray in Franz Joseph Haydn’s musical workshop as he invents the symphony and string quartet.
The full Family Series of concert experience is back for the new season: A range of entertaining musical journeys, preceded by lots of activities for youngsters in Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and spread round the lobby at Centre In The Square.
Reaching young people, particularly through the schools, was one of the upsides of the pandemic-led shift to streaming performances, notes Feher. Going online allowed for a wider audience than the in-person visits to schools, for example.
“ We had a lot of feedback from schools because they enjoyed it so much, and the reach with the streaming was way bigger than our normal in-school concerts – you record something and you can send it everywhere. We had a lot of interesting feedback about that,” he explained.
“We could reach a lot more students and young people with those courses, so probably in the future we’ll try to have a hybrid or have some different projects, as we did in the last year.”
More information about the next season can be found on the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s website.