HAPPY NEW YEAR! I know – it’s already the end of January, but I think if you haven’t seen your friends right up to February 1, it’s OK to greet them with an appropriately joyful outburst! So… how many times have you had to change the 2 at the end of writing the date on a cheque or some official form into a 3??? I hope 2013 is good to all of you, and on behalf all of us in the Lions Gate Sinfonia family, I wish you the best of health and happiness.

We have a special post-holiday “Welcome Back to Sinfonia” party for all of us tonight: the music of Mozart – PLUS his father and son and two other composers who were greatly influenced by him. It’s also a birthday celebration in a way – Wolfgang can’t be here in person tonight, but if he were, he would be celebrating his 257th birthday!

We have some very special guests making music with us tonight: our Lions Gate Youth Orchestra is joining Sinfonia on the Centennial Theatre stage in our annual “Side-by-Side” educational initiative. These outstanding and enthusiastic young musicians will be playing alongside their professional senior colleagues for the first half, and will be especially happy to get to perform their first-ever Mozart Symphony and Chopin Piano Concerto! Speaking of which, our guest soloist on the first half is the amazing young pianist Carol Zhang, who has been mentored by our guest soloist on the 2nd half, Sasha Starcevich, as well as by Sasha’s mentor, Donna Fishwick! A real youth movement is happening here, my friends, and you are all a big part of it. Thank you for sharing and supporting this venture. Our youth orchestra, LGYO, deserves your support and attention and attendance. This is a natural expansion of our typical “Side-by-Side” events of years past, with the added value of regular weekly rehearsals as well as extra coaching sessions with the pros from Lions Gate Sinfonia, the parent organization. It is a joy to watch the students blossom under the guidance of Concertmaster Carolyn Cole, Principal Cellist Sue Round, Principal Bass Anne Durnaceau, and violinist Edgar Bridwell. Thank you, coaches and the entire LGS players and mentors– we have ALL learned so much from you!!! The hard work pays off tonight!

Wolfgang’s training and career started under the guidance of his father, Leopold Mozart (1719-1787.) Leopold, born in Augsburg in Bavaria, moved to Salzburg to study theology, philosophy, and law. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree at age 19, he was kicked out of school for lack of attendance, and became a full-time musician! He became an esteemed musician and teacher. Leopold Mozart is remembered today as the father and teacher of his daughter Nannerl and son Wolfgang, and for his violin textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, the greatly respected text “The Art of the Violin.” He also compiled little notebooks of minuets, divertimenti, and educational pieces to teach his children, and I selected one of these to open tonight’s concert.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) had already composed 13 Symphonies by his 14th year, and after a study period in Rome and travels around Europe, he returned home to begin writing a set of 8 symphonies in the year he turned 15. Symphony #14 in A Major is a joyful condensation of all the young composer had absorbed up this point. A surprisingly mature work in four movements, it is the natural next step from the traditional classical format as developed by the father of the Classical Period, Franz Joseph Haydn. It was Haydn, a contemporary of Leopold, and mentor, dear friend and colleague to Wolfgang, who wrote about him:

"I swear to you before God, and in all honesty, that your son is the greatest composer I know, whether by name or reputation. He has taste, and moreover, most profound understanding of composition." No greater letter of recommendation could exist!

Haydn offered to teach Wolfgang’s youngest son, Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844,) upon his father’s early death. Like his father, Franz Xaver studied violin and piano, and began to compose at an early age. He became a professional musician and enjoyed moderate success both as a teacher and a performer. Unlike his father, he was introverted and self-deprecating; he constantly underrated his talent and feared that whatever he produced would be compared with what his father had done. Intimidated by his surname, FX left his native Vienna to further his career in smaller towns, but ended up dividing most of his mature years between Lemburg (Lviv in the eastern Ukraine) and Vienna. His final 6 years were spent in his ancestral home of Salzburg. Most of the compositions of “Mozart Figlio” were for piano, voice, and chamber music, with 2 Piano Concertos as his largest works. I have chosen one of his best-known songs to represent him in tonight’s concert: In Questa Tomba Oscura. “In this dark tomb allow me to forever rest and the shadows to disappear…” The shadow of his father continued to loom large over him even in death. The following was etched on his tombstone: "May the name of his father be his epitaph, as his veneration for him was the essence of his life."

Hard to imagine, but the name CHOPIN (1810-1849) is forever linked to Mozart. Indeed, the young Polish-born Frederic was known from his youth as “the next Mozart” and “Mozart’s successor.” When the famous German composer and music critic Robert Schumann hear Chopin perform, he is quoted as saying, “Hats off, gentlemen: A Genius!” Perhaps all this attention and comparisons are among the reasons he left Warsaw for Paris… Before he created his two astoundingly beautiful and romantic piano concertos, he had already established himself as a new force in the musical world. Chopin was already touring throughout Europe and gaining important musical connections by the time he was 20. Just weeks after performing his Piano Concerto #1, which was hailed as one of music’s most sublime works, Chopin left for another European tour. He never returned home, settling in Paris. He performed this concerto once more, receiving deafening BRAVOs, but also criticism for not using the orchestra enough, and for being old-fashioned, while not adhering enough to true classical forms. You know, you just can’t please everyone! The first movement, rather than holding to the typical “Sonata-Allegro” form, is really a long orchestral introduction, followed by a series of stormy, sentimental, and completely ROMANTIC piano music with a simple accompaniment.

Rounding out the programme is music by somewhat of a rival to young Wolfgang – Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827.) When talking with Sasha about my ideas for this concert and all its youthful elements, he immediately offered Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto. This is such a perfect way to close tonight’s event; Wolfgang, Frederic, and Ludwig were all mere teenagers when they composed the works we are featuring tonight. Like Chopin’s first two concerti, the numbering of Beethoven’s is a little confusing: both composers ended up getting their SECOND Piano Concertos published before the first, so the one we will hear Sasha perform was actually the first major orchestral work of Beethoven. Young Ludwig was a teenager still living in his parent’s house in Bonn, Germany, when he started this work in 1786. After moving to Vienna, the concerto occupied much of Beethoven’s time until it finally got to perform it in 1798, and then revised it several times before it got published in 1801. Interestingly, the composer himself was very critical of this work, saying it was not one of his best compositions, but it remains one of the finest examples of Beethoven’s early period. He learned well from his teacher Haydn, and from his studies of Mozart’s work! At times rich and powerful as in the first movement, then profoundly moving and sustained in the second, then concluding with a wildly fun and dancing Rondo as the finale, this is a tour de force! 

We are all glad you are here tonight! Thank you for supporting YOUR Lions Gate Sinfonia in all our endeavours, particularly as we nourish and share our experiences with our young musicians. We love performing for you, whether it is a Mozart Symphony, a Beethoven Concerto, or some good old Celtic Fiddling tunes!!! As always, welcome to this wonderful theatre we call home, and thank you for your presence. We look forward to seeing you again soon at SINFONIA!

Musically yours,


Posted on January 31, 2013 and filed under Example category.

Lions Gate youth Orchestra ~ a post by Clyde Mitchell

An outstanding youth orchestra exists on the North Shore?!? Yes, indeed! I think I am the luckiest man in the world – I get to work with our professional Lions Gate Sinfonia players AND the eager and talented young musicians in our new Lions Gate Youth Orchestra!

Lean how you can join Lions Gate Youth Orchestra

Sinfonia has long been involved in sharing music with students of all ages and levels of musical experience. Since our very first concert in October of 2000, we have encouraged people of all ages and musical backgrounds (and who love ALL types of music) to enjoy being part of our musical family. That experience includes not only attending concerts designed specifically for young people, but also what I have always called our "Side-by-Side" educational events. This is where fine young students are selected to sit and play on stage with us - right next to and along with our professionals! We have always thought about creating our own youth orchestra, but only now, with a dozen years of audience development and performing under our belts, we have finally launched this all-important project. It was natural growth that led us to this point – in the events of the past we would always bring in 15 to 20 young players to have an annual experience where they would receive coaching and play in rehearsals and concerts with us, but somehow, we knew there was more that we could do for these fine young musicians to make music an indispensable part of their lives.

The Lions Gate Youth Orchestra takes that experience and makes it a WEEKLY event! Our Thursday evening rehearsals are a combination of hard musical work and joyful camaraderie. Starting in September, we have presented these auditioned players in several events, including “sitting in” with the professional Lions Gate Sinfonia in our regular Centennial Theatre concert series, participating in the spectacular “Community Days Orchestra” made up of dozens of local players, and even presenting a short Christmas concert for families and friends following one of our regular Thursday evening rehearsals. Plans for the remainder of the term include performing on our own throughout the spring at several Senior Centres and hospitals, and a big Gala Inaugural Season-Ending concert on June 1.

The enthusiasm is palpable (I always wanted to write those words!) and the reward of our hard work is seeing young musicians playing their first Mozart Symphony, their first Chopin Piano Concerto accompaniment, and their first work by a living composer! We aren’t just playing music by “The Three B’s,” either – we have tangos, folk songs, show tunes, and music from the Baroque era right up to the music of today!

The key word in all of this is “share.” We pros from Sinfonia are sharing our experiences and knowledge with these young musicians, and we are all sharing music with our combined audiences in formal concerts and casual settings. Who knows? Maybe someday a few of these players will become professional performers or teachers or composers or conductors themselves! Until that someday comes, though, we are having a blast making music together and learning all the lessons that go along with that: teamwork, goal-setting, and discipline, and enjoying making new friends and colleagues.

Maestro’s Message ~ Dec 15, 2012

WELCOME! It is a joy and a privilege to share this time together, and on behalf of all our musicians and members of the Board of Directors, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Wonderful Winter Solstice, Joyeux Noel, and a very happy and safe holiday season. We are delighted that you have chosen to share this evening with your Lions Gate Sinfonia at home in our “living room” of the Centennial Theatre. With the addition of our very special guest host, Jurgen Gothe, it will seem like the good old days at the CBC – live to air from Jurgen’s living room!

This is my favourite season of the year, with lots of great music and singing and dancing and food and family time. “Dancing?” you might ask. Yes, and with bells on – as well as tu-tus and tap shoes and amazing costumes! We are honoured to have a tremendous team of dancers from Pro Arte joining us for our annual Sinfonia Family Christmas. We’ve been calling it that for 13 years now, but never have we played music from that superb ballet Tchaikovsky set on Christmas Eve, The Nutcracker. The dancers from Pro Arte are very well-known here at home on the North Shore and around the province, and we have a very important team member in common; Michael Conway Baker is Composer-in-Residence for both organizations! It is a natural fit for us, since Michael is truly a wonderful musician and lover of the dance, and he has composed literally hundreds of works for orchestra, including several successful ballets. We are honoured to present a world premiere of his Aurora, composed especially for Sinfonia and Pro Arte for  tonight’s performance. The dancers will also be featured in a couple of other very appropriate and seasonal treasures: the famous Les Patineurs (the Skater’s Waltz) by Emil Waldteufel, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J. S. Bach. As usual, we will all join in singing some holiday carols and songs, and maybe we can even get the younger audience members to lead us in Rudolph and Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman!

On the first page of the NY Times Arts and Entertainment section one day near the end of November, the headline read in big, bold letters, “Tis the Season of Sugar Plums!” OK, I’ll admit that sounds fun and catchy, but it just felt a bit early to me! We were still recovering from “Black Friday” and it wasn’t quite cold enough to see snowflakes falling on my nose and eyelashes… I just wasn’t in the Christmas Spirit yet! Now, however, Sugar Plums and snow are in the air (at least in the AREA!) and I am totally in the mood for the holidays!

I hope this finds you in the holiday spirit, too, and that you enjoy very safe and happy and warm days with lots of family and friends. Your presence here is truly a gift to us, and all of us at your Lions Gate Sinfonia thank you for your support and patronage all year long. We wish you a Happy New Year, too, and look forward to seeing you again in January for our next concert. Mozart and family will be in the air, along with great masters of the piano, Beethoven and Chopin. See you again soon at the Centennial!

Musically yours,


Posted on November 26, 2012 and filed under Sinfonia's Suite Christmas • December 15, 2012 .

Maestro's Musings ~ Clyde Mitchell

Good evening and welcome to this very special concert.  Sharing the stage with your Lions Gate Sinfonia is Pandora’s Vox, that incredible women’s vocal ensemble from right here on the North Shore.  Sinfonia last worked with “the Vox” and their brilliant founder and director Gillian Hunt in 2010, which was their 20th anniversary, and Sinfonia’s 10th!

At this time of year, as we approach Remembrance Day, and it was not a difficult decision at all as to what our theme would be for the evening.  I have attended Pandora’s Vox concerts with “in memory’ themes, attended and conducted many Memorial and Patriotic concerts, and even humbly walked around a very cold and rainy Ottawa on November 11, 2000. With a father, brother-in-law, many friends and colleagues, and 4 uncles who served in the military, I am honoured to present a programme of music to salute our women and men heroes: the fallen, and the current troops in harm’s way.

We are also using tonight’s event to introduce members of our newly-formed Lions Gate Youth Orchestra for the first time. We welcome them to the stage to share the 3 opening numbers on our concert with their senior colleagues and mentors, members of our own Lions Gate Sinfonia.  Please welcome them to the stage, and encourage them as we work on some of the great literature from the great masters, as well as some interesting lighter material by living composers. It has been a great pleasure to launch this wonderful new project, and to work with some of the finest young musicians I have ever met!  

Tonight, with music ranging from the ultra-serious to the serene to the lightest and happiest, we salute our loyal women and men from the last century’s major wars as well as the current wars overseas. You will hear familiar “Classical” melodies such as Barber’s Adagio (to which I have added a few extra players!), the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, Pachelbel’s famous Canon, Humperdinck’s Evening Prayer, and music by Beethoven, Mahler, Faure and Holst. There are also plenty of familiar songs and poetry from our folk traditions: Danny Boy, In Flanders Fields, as well as lots of music based on poetry. From our more popular song traditions there are songs familiar to our war-time heroes from WWI and WWII, and interspersed throughout there will be the traditional bugle calls as handed down from our military traditions through the Royal Canadian Legion. We will close tonight’s concert with what has become and anthem for peace, John Lennon’s IMAGINE. 

Take a moment and thank a veteran for their service. Buy a poppy and wear it proudly. Most of all, at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of November 11, think of how fortunate we all are to have what we do. Without their sacrifice, many with the greatest sacrifice of all, we would not enjoy the freedom to vote, worship, and even exist as we choose to do.

Blessings and Music to all,


Posted on October 30, 2012 and filed under Music of Remembrance • November 3, 2012.

Maestro’s Musings for Sept 29, 2012

I am on Cloud Nine – or is it Cloud THIRTEEN?!? We have planned a spectacular opening night of our 13th Season, with plenty of Fanfares and other fabulous music! Welcome to this special evening, friends. After a few fun appearances during the summer, your Lions Gate Sinfonia is finally back inside our home at the beautiful Centennial Theatre. There is no more celebratory work than the mighty Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, with its haunting and mystical opening in C minor giving way to the positively brilliant and life-affirming C Major finale.
Posted on September 26, 2012 and filed under Opening Night • September 29, 2012 .

Maestro's Musings

Welcome one and all to our “Classics and Clarinet” concert! As always, we greatly appreciate your presence here at the home of your Lions Gate Sinfonia, the beautiful Centennial Theatre. Tonight’s concert features one of our own brilliant Sinfonians, Clarinettist extraordinaire Mary Backun. We see her regularly as our Principal Clarinet player, and now we have her “front and centre” as she brings us TWO lovely works for her instrument. In addition to Mary’s music, we have selected an unheralded masterwork by one of the greatest masters; on the 2nd half of tonight’s concert we present you with Beethoven’s charming and brilliant Fourth Symphony.
Posted on February 23, 2012 and filed under February 25, 2012 ● Classics and Clarinet.

Maestro's Message ~ Clyde Mitchell

Welcome to the annual Lions Gate Sinfonia Family Christmas Concert! Yes, we all knew it was coming, and now Christmas and the holidays are right around the corner. Every year I like to AVOID hearing my first Christmas song as long as possible, then when we are all ready, really go for an all-out musical celebration! Tonight, that is just what we have in store.
Posted on December 12, 2011 and filed under December 17, 2011 ● Mozart and Messiah.

Welcome to our Side by Side presentation - Clyde Mitchell

Welcome to our Lions Gate Sinfonia annual Side-by-Side with Strings Concert! If you have attended one of these concerts in the past, you will know that this is a special educational initiative where outstanding young string players are selected to sit in with our professional players. The repertoire is by no means “Youth Orchestra” material; rather, we choose great masterpieces of music that we will ALL enjoy, and that the students will study and learn with great enthusiasm! Our concert will feature these outstanding young talents sitting right next to our regular members in Tchaikovsky’s incredibly passionate String Serenade.
Posted on November 14, 2011 and filed under November 19, 2011 ● String Serenade.

Maestro's Musings

No one knows precisely where nomadic Gypsies came from. Some say their language, Romani, originated in Northern India. Romanis migrated west across central Asia and Europe, settling in countries such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Spain, but they also established themselves in Africa, Australia and the Americas.
Posted on October 5, 2011 and filed under October 15, 2011 ● Opening Night.