The Huronia Symphony Orchestra (HSO) 2018-19 season promises to be an eclectic one, with something for everyone.

Program artistic director and conductor Oliver Balaburski considers the season opener, on Oct. 28, to be a personal presentation for the audience. It’s called Opening Night.

“Usually we aim to have a first and last concert of the season with more serious programs because we have an audience that really wants to come and listen to something more substantial,” he said. “The opening concert pieces are special in the music literature – they’re pieces I’m personally presenting to the audience.”

While Beethoven’s Pastorale, Symphony No. 6, and Richard Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration take top billing, the program also features Canadian composer Christine Donkin’s Three Autumn Scenes. Of the three pieces, the Strauss composition is considered to be a challenging one for the orchestra.

“There is not often an opportunity to listen to pieces from this composer,” said Balaburski of Strauss, a German composer (1864-1949). “(They are) difficult to perform and it requires a huge orchestra – for this concert we may have an extra 15 people.”

The HSO currently has a membership of 55 musicians, a mix of professional and volunteer talent,  including young students, who are drawn from across Simcoe County. It is the only community orchestra in the county.

Since Balaburski joined the orchestra, he and principal second violinist, Valerie Selander, teamed up to start a youth program. It began with five young musicians and continues to grow today. Open to all music students who live or study in Simcoe County, the program is free of charge. Students participate in rehearsals to learn several pieces and, then, join the entire orchestra one concert each year, in February.

“We would like to attract more musicians that would like to play in the February concert,” said Balaburski. “This year they’ll play with the big orchestra but we are aiming for them to play pieces by themselves depending on the group. Last year we had between 20-30.”

Music teachers who are interested in having their students participate can find out more at huroniasymphony.ca. A rehearsal schedule and application forms are available online. The February concert is always a family concert and, this season, it features selections from The Barber of Seville, Swan Lake, The Phantom of the Opera and Harry Potter along with Beethoven’s dramatic Fifth Symphony.

In addition to the annual Christmas concert, the HSO will be presenting A Night at the Opera with special guest singers on March 30, before wrapping up the season with a spring concert May 12.

Subscriptions for the five-concert season are $100 each, available until Oct. 21. The Opening Night concert, Oct. 28, takes place at Collier Street United Church in Barrie at 3:30 p.m. Visit huroniasymphony.ca for tickets.

Photo: Oliver Balaburski conducts the Opening Night concert of the Huronia Symphony Orchestra Oct. 28. MarkWanzel photo

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