A grand return

After three long years, the Kingston Symphony Orchestra comes home to the Grand Theatre.

Roslyn Green and Emma Ferner play as part of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra who triumphantly returned to the Grand Theatre on Saturday night.
Roslyn Green and Emma Ferner play as part of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra who triumphantly returned to the Grand Theatre on Saturday night.
“A Grand Opera Gala!” featured world famous tenor Richard Margison, Joni Henson, Julie Nesrallah and Bruce Kelly.
“A Grand Opera Gala!” featured world famous tenor Richard Margison, Joni Henson, Julie Nesrallah and Bruce Kelly.

When Richard Margison, Joni Henson, Julie Nesrallah and Bruce Kelly joined together for a final encore in the Grand Theatre’s Regina Rosen Auditorium, no one in the audience—including Dr. Malcolm Williams—could stop themselves from joining in.

As the performers sang through the final moments of the Brindisi Drinking Song from La Traviata, the crowd cheerfully clapped to the rhythm of the orchestra while Dr. Williams, seeing the Kingston Symphony perform in their traditional venue for the first time in three years, felt the immense energy echoing throughout the audience and onto the stage.

“I thought, ‘I wish I was up on stage with those guys playing,’ because I detected a level of enthusiasm which was very high,” Williams said.

“It’s a two-way street. And the vibes coming up and the vibes going down all add up together and give you the experience we had on Saturday night.”

Conducted by Glen Fast, the gala featured Canadian tenor Margison—an old friend of Fast’s, a member of the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame and a 2008 Grammy nominee.

“He just brings something special to it,” Fast told the Journal. “He’s absolutely first rate. It had been many years since I’d been able to work with him. And having a tenor who, on one hand, sings on the stage of the [Metropolitan Opera] and then sings on the stage of The Grand Theatre is—well, it’s pretty cool.”

Fast, like Williams, couldn’t help but notice the enthusiasm with which the audience welcomed Richard Margison and the Kingston Symphony’s gala performance.

“I know the audience had a special reaction to what happened on stage. Talking to the many people I know in the audience, they were particularly more forward with their compliments on the concert,” he said.

For Fast, this excitement was, in part, due to the Symphony’s long-awaited return to the Grand.

“In the big picture, being in the Grand Theatre is a wonderful thing for us. It has very clear acoustics and it will help us very much improve in the long run. And it’s a beautiful place to play.” Now equipped with a full-sized orchestra pit, Fast is optimistic about the Symphony’s future, hoping that there will be similar concerts with a similarly unique appeal.

But Fast said opera galas are only the beginning for the revamped symphony.

“We have plans to produce a [full-length] opera next year. That is certainly our wish.”

Although she feels lucky to have played in the Gospel Temple—the venue which has housed the symphony since 2005—Roslyn Green, ArtSci ’09 and three-year violinist with the Kingston Symphony, shares Fast’s enthusiasm for the possibilities of the new Grand.

“It’s something new, so everyone is kind of adjusting to it,” she said. “I think people are really positive about it. The concert was a great way to get back into the space, something the audience could really love. “

For Green, who has never performed inside the new theatre, this new location represents new opportunities and a different kind of exposure for the Symphony Association.

“In some ways, it’s back to where it used to be,” Green said. “What I hope is that it will help us feel more connected with the community.”

In many ways, this increased connection with the community also means an increased connection with Kingston’s student population at large, Williams said.

As vice-president of the Kingston Symphony Association, author of The Kingston Symphony: 1954-2004 and Queen’s professor emeritus of ear, nose and throat surgery, jointly appointed with the faculty of music, Williams has years of experience with both the symphony and the Queen’s community.

“We’ve always had a good relationship between the Symphony and the Queen’s students,” he said. “We’ve always nearly had some students from Queen’s playing in the orchestra. And a lot of Queen’s faculty members have been players and fervent supports.”

But marketing to, and generating interest from, the student body has always been something that has been difficult for Symphonies, from the most metropolitan to community-oriented.

In this regard, Williams recalled an encounter he had with a University of Toronto student during the intermission at the Saturday night performance.

“He said to me, ‘How would you sell this stuff to people my age?’ So I asked him,” Williams said with a laugh, “‘Why don’t you tell me?’

“Being downtown is one of those things I suppose. The bottom line is, try it; you might like it.”

Please see kingstonsymphony.on.ca for more information.

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