Kingston Symphony

The Kingston Symphony. Orchestra organized in 1953 as the New Symphony Association of Kingston. It succeeded several short-lived ensembles dating back to the mid-19th century and an earlier Kingston Symphony Orchestra directed 1914-36 by Oscar Telgmann.

Kingston Symphony

The Kingston Symphony. Orchestra organized in 1953 as the New Symphony Association of Kingston. It succeeded several short-lived ensembles dating back to the mid-19th century and an earlier Kingston Symphony Orchestra directed 1914-36 by Oscar Telgmann. The orchestra became known as the Kingston Symphony Association (KSA; also the name of its umbrella organization) in 1963.

Under its first conductor, Graham George, the Kingston Symphony made its debut 12 Apr 1954 at Grant Hall in Haydn's The Creation with the Kingston Choral Society and a team of soloists that included James Milligan. The Grand Theatre later became the main venue for Kingston Symphony concerts. There were two concerts a year until 1957, but by 1990 the orchestra was presenting more than a dozen concerts each season. The Kingston Symphony was conducted by George 1954-7, William Hill 1957-9, Frédéric Pohl (one concert in 1960), Edouard Bartlett 1960-5, and Alexander Brott 1965-81. After a season of guest conductors, Brian Jackson was conductor 1982-91, when he was succeeded by Glen Fast.

Under Brott the orchestra developed into an important community orchestra of 60 musicians, including a professional core of nine contract players in first-chair positions. The Vághy String Quartet held first-chair string positions 1968-88. Gisèle Dalbec-Szczesniak became concertmaster in 1989. Under Jackson the orchestra presented operas (Fidelio 1983, La Traviata 1985, La Bohème 1988), and such works as Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (1984) and Symphony No. 5 (1989) and Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (1987). The Kingston Symphony and Kingston Choral Society have performed together annually, and in 1988 they presented the premiere of Healey Willan's Requiem Mass as completed and orchestrated by F.R.C. Clarke.

Performances 1990s-Present

The Kingston Symphony had to scale back operations in 1996 after granting agencies cut its budget by over 12 per cent. To counter the loss, Fast instituted cost-saving measures such as programming a Baroque series, and using local and emerging soloists. These changes did not stop the orchestra from performing big works such as Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (both in 1997), a concert version of La Cavalleria rusticana (1999), Carmina burana (2000), and - with the Durham and Oshawa symphony orchestras - Mahler's Symphony No. 5 at the Toronto Arts Centre (2007). With growing funding in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the orchestra once again welcomed renowned soloists such as Angela Cheng, Rivka Golani, André Laplante, Richard Raymond, Lara St John, and David Stewart.

Canadian Works Performed

Fast continued the orchestra's championship of Canadian music, premiering Chan Ka Nin's Violin Concerto (1998); Marjan Mozetich's Piano Concerto (2000); Srul Irving Glick's last work, Isaiah (2002); John Burge's Clarinet Concerto (2004); István Anhalt's The Tents of Abraham (2005); and Peter Paul Koprowski's Tapestries of Love: Symphony for Soprano and Orchestra (2007). The Kingston Symphony has also premiered works by Brott, Clarke, Clifford Crawley, Kelsey Jones, Bruce Pennycook, and Norman Sherman.

Near the end of the first decade of the 2000s, the Kingston Symphony is a professional orchestra of 55 musicians, 11 of whom are under annual contracts. They give 13 regular-season concerts divided into three series, as well as outdoor concerts at Fort Henry most summers. The orchestra normally plays in the Grand Theatre but, due to renovations, played at the Kingston Gospel Temple 2006-7.

The orchestra's budget had grown from a little over $2,000 in its first year, to over $400,000 by the 1988-9 season.

Member Groups of the Kingston Symphony Association

The Kingston Symphony Association is an umbrella organization that in 2007 included the Kingston Symphony, the Kingston Choral Society, the Kingston Youth Orchestra, the Kingston Youth Strings, the Kingston Community Strings, and the Volunteer Committee. The 60-piece Kingston Youth Orchestra was formed in 1968 by Bartlett and was conducted 1974-9 by Crawley assisted by John Gallienne. James Coles was conductor 1979-96. He was replaced by Gordon Craig. The Kingston Youth Strings is a training orchestra for the Kingston Youth Orchestra; it was conducted by Bob Clark until 1996 and since then by Gisèle Dalbec-Szczesniak. The Kingston Community Strings is a 40-member amateur string orchestra under the direction of Kingston Symphony musicians. The Volunteer Committee (the former Women's Auxiliary) comprises about 200 paying members and organizes fundraising activities and manages financial awards for young musicians.


Further Reading

  • 'A symphony... of success,' Kingston Whig-Standard, 9 Mar 1968

    Whalley, George. 'Growth of an orchestra: the Kingston Symphony Orchestra,' Canadian Composer, 37, Feb 1969

    Barber, David. 'KSO: the flight of the bumble bee,' Kingston Whig-Standard, 23 May 1987

    Frith, Valerie. 'Orchestrating a regional profile,' Ontario Arts Council n.b.7, Autumn 1989

    Barber, David. "New conductor brings cohesion, confidence to KSO," Kingston Whig-Standard, 31 Oct 1991

    Gurnsey, Paul. "The gift of music," Kingston Life, Winter 2003-4

    Williams, Malcolm. The Kingston Symphony 1954-2004 (Kingston 2004)