The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

 

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Regina Symphony Orchestra

The Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is Canada’s oldest continuously performing orchestra. Its first concert, as the Regina Orchestral Society, was given on December 3, 1908, under the direction of its founder, L. Frank Laubach. What was then an amateur group with musicians and singers from the community has developed into a professional orchestra with musicians who come from all over the world. Its musicians provide an important resource for Opera Saskatchewan, the Regina Philharmonic Choir, and performers visiting the city. They regularly perform for government functions; they are faculty members in the Music Department at the University of Regina and they teach music lessons to countless young performers. The RSO’s mandate is to promote and enhance the performance and enjoyment of live orchestral music in Regina and southern Saskatchewan. Consequently, one of its most deliberate undertakings is extensive outreach into the community through forty school concerts that reach 12,000 students; its annual outdoor concert; fifteen free concerts in churches, libraries, and a brew pub; its mentoring of the young musicians in the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra; and its four-day New Music Festival.

In its early incarnations as the Regina Philharmonic Society and the Philharmonic and Orchestral Society, the orchestra consistently performed works for orchestra and choir. Upon Laubach’s retirement in 1922, there began an evolution that resulted in the separation of the Regina Symphony Orchestra and the Regina Choral Society. Laubach was succeeded first by George Coutts and then by W. Knight Wilson, who developed a disciplined but collegial relationship with the musicians that resulted in skilled performances and rapport with performing soloists. He remained with the orchestra until 1955. He was succeeded by John Thornicroft, who conducted the orchestra for the next four years. The 1960s and early 1970s saw significant changes to the orchestra’s situation. Grants from the Canada Council, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the City of Regina grew from $25,000 in the late 1960s to nearly $400,000 currently. The transformation of Regina Campus into the University of Regina in 1974 resulted in a larger music faculty, which in turn brought professional musicians to Regina and thus to the RSO.

Kathleen Wall

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