The Classical Beat: Sounds of the Season

Written by Nicole Laidler



The musicians of #WePlayOn are in the process of naming, branding and launching a new musical ensemble for London, thanks to funding received from the London Arts Council. A $20,000 grant, made available through this year’s Community Arts Investment Program, has allowed the organization to hire Toronto strategist and arts administrator Patricia McKinna to develop a five-year business plan. Once approved by LAC, the plan will unlock a further $100,000 in funding for concerts and community development.

In the meantime, #WePlayOn recently announced a modest three-concert season leading up to the New Year.

Sonja Gustafson

Sonja Gustafson

Conductor Scott Good and guests Ian Raeburn, Hillary Watson and Chelsea Van Pelt join the musicians for ‘London Remembers’, November 11 at Metropolitan United Church. Featuring Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, McKinna says the program “will be meaningful for generations who remember the war experience, as well as young people.”

London’s Sonja Gustafson joins #WePlayOn and conductor Brian Jackson December 2 at Metropolitan United Church for ‘Comfort and Joy’, an evening of seasonal favourites. The same program will be performed in Chatham the following day.

On December 7, #WePlayOn’s artistic advisor Kevin Mallon leads the ensemble in the ‘Dublin’ Messiah, a re-creation of the very first performance of this perennial holiday favourite, this time at First St Andrews United Church.

“We want to do a few things really well and build on that,” says McKinna. “And we hope to start 2017 with a new name and a new identity.”

Opera lovers are in for a treat when Western University Opera Workshop presents Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, both by Puccini, November 18 to 20 at the Paul Davenport Theatre. The two one-act operas will move audience members from sorrow to laughter, promises stage manager and Western DMA student Adam Iannetta. “These shows are complete opposites,” he says.

Western University Opera

Western University Opera

Suor Angelica is a sentimental tragedy. “Unless you have a heart made of stone you will be reduced to tears. But the second opera is just a riot. It’s a non-stop comedy from start to finish.”

Working with conductor Simone Luti and director Tom Diamond gives the student performers a real taste of what it’s like to take part in a professional production, says Iannetta. “It’s a thrill, and an extremely humbling process, to have the opportunity to work with people who have such a deep understanding of the business as well as the craft of opera.”

The Karen Schuessler Singers launch their 24th season on November 19 at Wesley-Knox United Church. The ‘Sublime Genius’ concert features a performance of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, featuring soprano Katy Clark and bass-baritone Chad Louwerse, as well as a full orchestra.

“It’s been years since we’ve performed the Lord Nelson, and we just love it,” comments KSS director, Karen Schuessler. “Many people consider it the finest choral-orchestral work of the entire classical period.”


Messiah, The Dublin Premiere

The masterpiece will be paired with Mozart’s Regina Coeli, K. 276, which Schuessler describes as “a seven-minute sunny sparkler.” Contemporary works by Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, Arvo Pärt and Eric Whitacre round out the program.

Chorus London kicks off its 48th season on November 26, with the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah at Dundas Street Centre United Church. “This will be my third Messiah with Chorus London,” says conductor and artistic director David Holler. “The challenge is to make it new every year.” This will be a traditional performance, he notes, with the 50-voice choir joined by four soloists and a 20-piece orchestra.

The concert also marks the debut of Joseph Lanza as concert master of the Concert Players Orchestra. “We are delighted to have him joining us,” says Holler.

Those looking for a light-hearted evening of seasonal music are in for a treat when Ensemble Vivant’s holiday tour makes a stop in London, December 18 at Dundas Centre United Church.

The December tour takes the acclaimed chamber group to ten communities right across the province, including Orillia, Guelph, Brantford, Kingston, Mississauga, and Ottawa. A local youth choir from each community will join the program for each performance. In London, that honour goes to the Junior Amabile Singers.

Ensemble Vivant (photo credit Denise Grant Photography)

Ensemble Vivant (photo credit Denise Grant Photography)

The program includes original renditions of traditional Christmas carols and selections from Ensemble Vivant’s popular recording, Christmas Tidings.

London Community Orchestra welcomes December with their own annual tradition, the ‘Young Soloists Concert’. Held December 11 at Dundas Street Centre United Church, the showcase of local young talent is always a highly-anticipated event, says LCO manager, Kristin Hoffmann.

This year’s concert features three soloists: Joshua Lee performing Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto no. 3, Matthew Zhou performing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C-sharp, and Patrick Smithers performing Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra.

Performing with a full orchestra, rather than just piano accompaniment, allows the young musicians to become more intimately acquainted with the music, explains Hoffmann. “They can experience how the soloist’s part fits with all the other parts of the orchestra,” she says. “It allows them to fine-tune their performance skills, and, for students considering careers as musicians, it can give them a sense of what that could involve, and some helpful experience.”

Nicole Laidler is a former classical musician who has been writing about London’s cultural scene for more than a decade. To see what else she’s been up to visit

About the author

Nicole Laidler

Nicole Laidler is a former classical musician who has been writing about London's cultural scene for more than a decade. To see what else she's been up to, visit