A gift for the ages: Weingarden donation sets up a bright future for WSO

It was called an Ode to Canada, but the opening concert of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra’s 70th season at the Capitol Theatre on Sept. 23 was an ode to this city’s enduring love affair with cultural excellence.

There was the revelatory performance of perhaps the greatest symphonic work ever written, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Ode to Joy. There was the Windsor Symphony Chorus pulling out all the stops in the finale. There were four international soloists, a children’s choir from area schools, the launch of a book by regional poets, and a newly commissioned work by Toronto’s Jordan Pal.

But, if all that wasn’t enough, there was a dazzling gift from two of the city’s great patrons of the arts.

Madelyn and Arthur Weingarden have provided funding for a Steinway concert grand piano. The instrument can cost upwards of US$250,000. But the gift is worth far more than that given the legacy it will instantly create and the opportunity to attract some of the world’s top soloists in all fields of music. The company’s website (admittedly not the least biased of sources) states that 98 per cent of the “giants” in the classics, jazz and pop prefer to play on a Steinway.

If you buy it, they will come.

Peter Hrastovec, a former WSO board president, responded this way to a remark about how long this community has waited for a professional-grade piano: “Years? Decades is more like it.”

Seven decades, to be precise. Hopefully, the orchestra takes delivery of its new prize possession by Nov. 18, when one of Canada’s supreme soloists, Alain Lefevre, brings his Canada 150 Project to the Capitol.

Sept. 23 was a sellout, and for good reason. The opening pops weekend, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, of the music of Star Wars was also sold out. The WSO is batting 1.000!

The launch of Black Moss Press’ Because We Have All Lived Here was further cause for celebration. Local actors Tracey Atin (Korda Productions) and Timothy Maitland read excerpts from the poems of Carlinda D’Alimonte, Marty Gervais, Peter Hrastovec, D.A. Lockhart, Dorothy Mahoney, Mary Ann Mulhern, and Vanessa Shields. The readings were inserted between movements in Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn, a unique and effective forum devised by WSO conductor Robert Franz.

Franz began his fourth season at the helm, and the future looks bright under his leadership.

As October moves forward, we have promising Classics in the County and Intimate Classics concerts in store on Oct. 21 and 22. It’s titled Bach & Sons and features section leaders from the orchestra and guests in performances of J.S. Bach and his sons. I’ve always believed a day without Bach is a day without sunshine. Here’s a chance to load up for those rainy days.

The concerts are at Leamington’s United Mennonite Church on Oct. 21, and the Heritage Auditorium (formerly Assumption Chapel) in the University of Windsor on Oct. 22. Check out windsorsymphony.com for tickets.

If you’re interested in the book of poetry, which celebrates Windsor’s 125th anniversary, go to blackmosspress.com, or visit Windsor’s premier bookstore, Biblioasis, 1520 Wyandotte St. E. (biblioasis.com). While there, pick up a copy of Marty Gervais’ latest tribute to his hometown, Five Days Walking Five Towns, published by Biblioasis. It will have its official launch at the store on Nov. 17.

Speaking of books, the 13th Bookfest Windsor, subtitled The Next 150 (a reference to Canada’s birthday year), takes place at the Capitol Theatre, Oct. 20-22. Website: bookfestwindsor.com.

That will be followed on Oct. 30-Nov. 5 by the Windsor International Film Festival. Website: windsorfilmfestival.com.

I’ll have more to say in this space about both those events in the coming weeks.

It has been fun getting back in the saddle. The blog will evolve over time and contain elements of my old Artbeat column in The Windsor Star, as well as my reviews and interviews. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!