Teaming up with artist collective 6+1 is the latest in a series of changes for the International Symphony Orchestra.
The 62-year-old semi-professional – about 30-35 per cent of its Canadian and U.S. members are contracted, the rest volunteers – ensemble (ISO) that splits its 12 annual shows between Sarnia and Port Huron, Mich. is settling into its new downtown Sarnia office, about a month after moving in.
New executive director Anthony Wing, hired last fall, said hanging and helping sell the group’s art on the walls at the former dance studio at 143 Christina St. N. is a sound move, not only because it helps the orchestra connect with the downtown community – they’re also planning lunch concerts and events First Fridays, as well as renting the office as rehearsal space to other community groups – it’s also better for acoustics.
The artwork absorbs some of the sound and dulls echoing, said ISO marketing director Monica Coombs.
“It kind of goes hand-in-hand with our wanting to be more of a cultural centre,” she said about the partnership with the about 30-member collective.
“It just made sense.”
The orchestra – also about a week away from launching a newly designed website at theiso.org, complete with online ticket purchasing – found the downtown space after ownership changed at its former home at 251 Vidal St. and ISO was evicted, Wing said.
The unsought move has nevertheless helped spur action to make the orchestra more appealing to youth, he said.
Part of that is a concert called At the Movies, being added to the upcoming October to April season.
“I did some research of the regional symphonies in Michigan and they’ve experienced explosive responses to film scoring, so we said ‘OK, let’s do a movie night,’” said Wing.
Think scores from the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings, he said.
The concert is planned for February.
Wing, a pianist, will also be soloing with the orchestra for the show, featuring as its centerpiece “one of the most famous melodies in history thanks to its appearance in a film score,” he said, Mozart’s “Elviro Madigan” Concerto.
“I’m doing it because I’m a cheap date,” Wing joked.
ISO regularly brings in professional talent for its shows to accompany the orchestra.
With the new downtown space, ISO is also planning to feature popular music from the likes of, for example, David Bowie and Queen at First Friday events, Wing said, noting the venue, being dubbed the ISObar, will serve alcohol.
Branding and lettering on the front glass is expected in about a week, he said. A grand piano should arrive in two.
“So by First Friday August we’ll be set.”
Former executive director Anne Brown created an “enormous well of potential to build on” before she retired last year, Wing said, noting she played flute with the orchestra about twice a year.
“I’m going to see if I can get her to come back,” he said.
A Summer Strings program is also planned for the week of July 22, giving youth a chance to learn different instruments.
Typically 12 to 18 take part, he said.
“The most salient and important part of our mandate is young people, reaching out to young people,” he said.
That includes efforts to broaden the subscriber base, made up mostly of seniors, he said.
“They still are our backbone,” he said.
He’s hoping, he said, to appeal to city council for two 15-minute parking spaces in front of the office to make it easier for older concert-goers who drop in to pick up tickets.
Shows in Sarnia are held at the Imperial Theatre, Temple Baptist Church and Bethel Pentecostal Church.
The new office, meanwhile, is also being used rehearsal space for the symphony singers, who previously rehearsed in a church, and another small orchestra, Wing said.
Lunchtime concerts and First Friday affairs will also be used to give musicians in the orchestra more exposure in the community, he said.
“Because it really is a remarkable level of talent here and on the other side.”