Symphony Nova Scotia | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Symphony Nova Scotia

Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS). Halifax orchestra formed in 1983 as a successor to the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, whose assets Symphony Nova Scotia acquired.

Symphony Nova Scotia

Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS). Halifax orchestra formed in 1983 as a successor to the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, whose assets Symphony Nova Scotia acquired. Founding conductor Boris Brott led the orchestra in its first season January-May 1984, using a core of 12 full-time players and hiring freelance musicians from Halifax and southern Ontario as required. By its 2004-5 season the orchestra, with a budget of $3.5 million, employed 37 full-time resident players and presented a 34-week season, including 40 series concerts, mainly at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.


Under Brott's tenure 1983-6 Symphony Nova Scotia presented standard orchestral and pop concert repertoire. Its repertoire was later expanded beyond the standard for an orchestra of its size. Symphony Nova Scotia also presents works such as Das Lied von der Erde.

Canadian works performed by the orchestra include Mather's Scherzo, Morawetz'From the Diary of Anne Frank, Adaskin's Diversion for Orchestra, Glick'sSonata for Orchestra, Hétu's Antinomie, Mercure's Cantate pour une joie, Prévost'sCelebration and Évanescence, Symonds's Maya, Peter Allen's Mar Atlantico, and Christos Hatzis' Zeitgeist, Pyrrichean Dance, and Concerto for Oboe.

Alasdair MacLean was appointed composer-in-residence 1996-2000. The orchestra premiered his Signs of Change and Move Homeward.

Tours, Special Projects, Concert Series

Symphony Nova Scotia has toured regional communities and given school concerts throughout Nova Scotia, and in New Brunswick as well. Georg Tintner led the orchestra in a tour of New Brunswick, Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa in March 1990; in 1992 they toured the Maritime provinces to mark the orchestra's tenth anniversary. In April 2003, SNS toured New Brunswick, followed by appearances under Gueller at the National Arts Centre in April 2003, when the Ottawa Citizen noted that "some members of the audience might have been surprised to hear a strong performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 emanating from an orchestra of fewer than 40 musicians. Beethoven wouldn't have, however, as this size was normal in his time. Among the performance's assets were a precise, robust string sound, idiomatic wind playing and, perhaps, more than anything, the vigour and intelligence of Gueller's interpretation."

Symphony Nova Scotia accompanied the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble's Atlantic tours of The Tales of Hoffmann in 1987 and The Marriage of Figaro in 1988, and accompanied a production of The Nutcracker with Ballet de Montréal Eddy Toussaint in 1989. In 1987 the orchestra participated in a tribute to Helen Creighton, broadcast on CBC TV as The Legacy of Helen Creighton. In 1988 and 1990 it held week-long workshops in which works by Atlantic composers were premiered and performed on CBC national radio.

Educational programs include a school tour 1999-2000, and Adopt-a-Musician (2003). Innovations have included the mounting of The Nutcracker (annually from 1991) with the Halifax Dance Theatre and Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Other collaborations include The Messiah with the Halifax Camerata Singers, Nova Scotia Mass Choir, and the Black Cultural Centre; and Martin Luther King tributes 1992-3 and 1999-2002; with Jest-in-Time Theatre, Peter and the Wolf (2002) and Carnival of the Animals (2003); and with Mermaid Theatre (2002), the orchestral premiere of Little Lame Prince.

In 1996, SNS introduced the Maritime Pops series. Guest artists included Lennie Gallant, the Barra MacNeils, J.P. Cormier, the Rankin Sisters, the Ennis Sisters, Men of the Deeps, and Barrachois. SNS also presented new music festivals in 1998, 1999 and 2001. Other regular series have included Celebrity, Musically Speaking, Baroque, and Traditional Pops.

Conductors and Music Directors

Following the 1986-7 season, when guest conductors were engaged, Georg Tintner became music director and resident conductor of the SNS 1987-94. He was conductor laureate 1994-9, and artistic advisor 1994-5 and again in 1999. Under Tintner Symphony Nova Scotia was augmented from time to time by up to 22 players to present works such as Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 and Brahms's Symphony No. 2.

In 1995, Symphony Nova Scotia experienced a financial crisis. Raffi Armenian stepped in as artistic adviser and principal guest conductor 1995-6; Leslie B. Dunner took over 1996-9. For the 2001-2 season Simon Streatfeild was artistic adviser and principal conductor; in 2002 Bernhard Gueller became music director. Howard Cable conducts the Traditional Pops Series; Jeanne Lamon conducts the Baroque Concert Series; Scott Macmillan conducts the Maritime Pops Series.

Since Tintner's time, Symphony Nova Scotia has been augmented from time to time to more than 100 musicians (professionals as well as the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra), to present works such as Mahler's Symphony No. 5, and a multimedia production of Holst's The Planets, both directed by Gueller.


The SNS is broadcast frequently by CBC radio. In 1986 under Brott, it recorded " ...with glowing hearts," a collection of arrangements of Canadian and European ballroom and theatre music of the 19th- and early 20th-centuries (CBC SM 5062). Under Tintner, the SNS recorded Down Under (1988, CBC SM-2-5088 CD), featuring works by Canadian, Australian and New Zealand composers, and works by Mozart on Le Petit Riens and Other Dances and Marches (1990, CBC SMCD-5095). Symphony Nova Scotia has since made other recordings under Tintner, Scott Macmillan, and Howard Cable (see Discography).

In 1995, the orchestra won an East Coast Music Award for the Music of Frederick Delius, in 1998 for Late Romantics, and in 2002 for MacKinnon's Brook Suite. In 2003, the first of the Tintner Memorial Collection was issued by Naxos, including seven live Symphony Nova Scotia performances originally broadcast by the CBC.

Guest Artists

Soloists with the orchestra have been Liona Boyd, Measha Brueggergosman, Michael Burgess, Holly Cole, Mark DuBois, Renée Fleming, Amanda Forsyth, André Gagnon, Marc-André Hamelin, Hagood Hardy, Angela Hewitt, Chantal Juillet, Anton Kuerti, André Laplante, Louis Lortie, Natalie MacMaster, Rita MacNeil, John McDermott, Richard Margison, Jon Kimura Parker, Maria Pellegrini, P.J. Perry, Pascal Rogé, Sophie Rolland, Robert Silverman, Steven Staryk, Jean Stilwell, William Tritt, Yuli Turovsky, and Edith Wiens.

Guest ensembles have included the Vienna Boys' Choir, Aeolian Singers, the Danovitch Saxophone Quartet, The Nylons, Rawlins Cross, and the Tudor Singers of Montreal.

Samuel Wong, Nicholas Braithwaite, Michael Stern, Sydney Harth and Bramwell Tovey have been some of Symphony Nova Scotia's guest conductors.

Concertmasters and General Managers

Concertmasters have been Anne Rapson 1983-4 (acting) and Philippe Djokic 1985-8, succeeded by George Maxman 1989-99. Rapson again acted until Terence Tam took up the position in 2002.

General managers have been Loredana Flebbe 1983-6 and Luc Charlebois 1986-9, succeeded by Michael LaLeune 1990-3, Merv Henwood 1993-4, Jody Wood 1994-5, Barbara Richman 1996-2000, Katherine Carleton 2000 to Jan 2003, and Louisa Horne (acting) until May 2003, when Mary Pat Mombourquette took over.

Further Reading

External Links