The Guelph Symphony Orchestra was founded in 2001. The concept was developed and implemented by the founding Musical Director, Simon Irving. The orchestra has grown from a chamber group to a full symphony orchestra with up to 50 instrumental musicians on stage, depending on the works that we have chosen to perform.
I have been a member of ‘Guelph’s Own Symphony Orchestra’ from the very beginning, playing trumpet, serving on the Board of Directors and working on our marketing committee. Over the years, we have performed a variety of works, featuring many vocal and instrumental soloists.
The idea of putting a rock band in front of the orchestra had been on my mind for several years. I had played in many rock and jazz bands in high-school and professionally, on the road. In order to make it work, I needed musicians who could play to the high musical and artistic standards established by the GSO. The concept became serious when I approached Simon Irving and told him that I wanted to produce a concert and utilize the GSO.
Five years ago, I made a commitment to undertake this massive project as the producer. In order to fulfill a musical dream that I have had, literally for decades, I needed to move from trumpet over to bass guitar and vocals. I also had an idea of being united on stage with the very best rock and pop artists that either live in Guelph or are originally from Guelph. For these series of concerts, I formed Euphoric Flight (formerly the Guelph Pop Rock Artists Group.)
For many years, Chris Cigolea has worked as Principal Trumpet of the GSO. Having earned a Master’s degree from University of Toronto in performance, and currently working on his Doctorate Degree, he expressed an interest to be appointed the Musical Director for the concert. Having worked in the orchestra (literally) beside Chris for many years, it was easy to choose him because of his talent, passion and leadership.
Every member of the band was told right from the start that I was going to feature vocals in this concert. Chris approached a lead vocalist that he had worked with in the recent past. Tony Hastings has an outstanding voice, adaptable to any mode of music. When I heard him sing at our first vocal rehearsal, I was amazed. He has been a gift to me in directing all vocal activities, including the recruitment of all of our singers. I could not have finished the repertoire selections or developed our exciting set lists without the contribution from Tony.
The biggest challenge that any other producer would encounter wasn’t a challenge for me, at all. Because of the arrangements I had wanted to commission, I had to hire a top-level musician who could cover a second guitar, second keyboard, sax and vocals. The dream was becoming more of a reality when my twin brother, Steve, accepted the offer to join the band. Steve is the ultimate utility musician, and not the kind that messes around with instruments. We are talking about studio-level quality performing skills, music business sense and exceptional teaching skills. I attended one of his digital recording arts classes at Fanshawe College, where he has been a Professor for 15 years, and it was electric. The 90 minutes went by in what felt like 10. He and I made hundreds of calls in the first year of working on this project. After rehearsals, we usually talk to the wee hours in the morning. He is the one that calms me down when panic begins to creep into me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be reunited on stage with a musical artist, brother and friend.
From the beginning, I wanted to work with an experienced arranger who would deliver rich and tasteful arrangements, working through complex harmonies and be able to write for the orchestra who is supporting Euphoric Flight. I searched for several months. One thing that the internet has brought us is the ability to literally search the world for what we need. Dawn Selby lives in Durban, South Africa. I had heard some of her arrangements, and was impressed with the style and emotion she expressed in the music she was writing. Dawn realized that this was a big project and wanted to face the challenge of arranging 20 pieces for the premier concert. It wasn’t long after we started working together that I realized I was dealing with a true professional, a world-class artist. The arrangements are perfect for the combination of musicians we assembled and the repertoire that we had selected. Of all the duties required to produce this concert, the arrangements have consumed well over 50% of my time. But it has been worth it – I couldn’t be more pleased. This sets us up perfectly for future concerts.
By the way, in all of this process of writing and arranging and listening and working, I had never met or spoken to Dawn Selby. Until the day before our premiere concert in 2009, 100% of our business and music communications had been via email. At the same time, I feel like I know Dawn better than most people. This project was so special to Dawn that she decided to travel from South Africa to Guelph to be present for our dress rehearsal and premier show!! I could not wait to meet her — and cannot wait to see her again!
Thank you to my many friends who have responded to the many favors I’ve called in. Nothing has been compromised in the production of this special event… every detail has been discussed and optimized. Even the rehearsal venue was chosen to maximize the efficient use of our time and afford us an excellent acoustic environment. As proud Canadians, we are celebrating the city that we love – Guelph. We are so lucky to be living here where we have a long tradition of producing great music and exceptional musicians. I wanted to give something back to Guelph for all that she has given to me. Nothing is more important than providing you a totally impactful musical experience. I invite you and your family members to enjoy something very special with us and with each other.
See you October 3rd!