Stuart Martin, conductor of the new Surrey City Orchestra, at home in the Morgan Creek area. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Fledgling Surrey City Orchestra tunes up for showcase concert Friday

Conductor Stuart Martin’s four-year goal is to build a core group of about 60 Surrey-based musicians

The creation of Surrey City Orchestra takes another step forward Friday evening (Sept. 28) with a showcase at Surrey Arts Centre.

The event, an hour-long kickoff concert for the weekend-long Arts4All festival, will feature two dozen professional musicians in a performance of six diverse pieces of orchestral music.

Stuart Martin is excited about having Surrey residents hear the orchestra he’s been hired to conduct.

“Things are coming together, and it’s really exciting to be part of this momentum,” Martin, a Semiahmoo Secondary grad, said during an interview at his Morgan Creek-area townhouse.

“This year isn’t really our inaugural season, because we have a couple of concerts we want to do in the spring, and then next fall will be more the start of our first season, officially.”

In the works for a couple of years, Surrey City Orchestra debuted last spring at a SFU Surrey-hosted gala, followed by a performance with Grammy winner Ricky Kej at Surrey Fusion Festival in July.

On Friday, the ensemble’s concert will open with Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” overture, followed by the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings,” the Chinese folk tune “Jasmine Flower Song,” Bizet’s “Carmen Suite” and works by Jules Massenet and José Pablo Moncayo.

“One of the aims we have as an orchestra is to represent the diversity of Surrey, by introducing more culturally diverse music,” Martin explained. “I would say 95 per cent of standard orchestral repertoire is composed by dead white guys.… Our goal is not to be just a standard orchestra that does Beethoven and Mozart and nothing else, we’re going to try to introduce new music, new things to audiences here. It’s something that will reflect nicely in Surrey.”

• RELATED STORY: New Arts4All festival in Surrey to celebrate city’s 25th anniversary.

Tickets are $25 for Friday’s 8 p.m. concert; call 604-501-5566 for details, or visit tickets.surrey.ca.

Last week, city council granted $10,000 to Surrey City Orchestra Society in order to stage the concert.

“That $10,000 is not even enough for 24 musicians for an hour concert, just to give you an idea how expensive it is to have a professional orchestra,” noted Martin, son of retiring city councillor Mary Martin.

Fresh from earning his master’s degree at the University of Illinois, Martin is eager to shape the orchestra as a showcase for musicians who call Surrey home.

“It’s a dream to come straight from (university) and be a conductor for a full orchestra, because that just does not happen,” Martin said. “Usually you’d be slogging it out for, like, 10 years as an assistant conductor and getting maybe two performances, so this is an incredible opportunity.

“With this orchestra,” he continued, “it’s going to take a few years to get our momentum going and be a full orchestra, but the fact that I can pick pieces and do pieces I like and kind of form the direction of the orchestra with Ellen (Farrugia, founder of the initiative) and our board, it’s amazing. It’s beyond amazing.”

• RELATED STORY: Surrey City Orchestra idea hits right notes with backers, who eye proposed concert hall as home, from November 2017.

With fundraising and sponsorship plans in place, the goal over the next four years is to build a core group of about 60 musicians for Surrey City Orchestra performances, possibly at a new performance arts centre being considered for construction in the heart of the city.

“Those would be contracted musicians we’d have for, say, 10 shows, and that would be the core ensemble,” Martin explained. “At the moment, because of funding and everything, it’s more on a concert-by-concert basis. Our principal strings are the Borealis String Quartet, and they’re fantastic…. And then we hire out at the moment, and we try to hire all Surrey musicians. The great thing about Surrey is that there is an abundance of talented musicians who live here, so we really get to choose the best ones to come perform with us, it’s amazing.”

Friday’s concert at SAC’s main stage will be “a good little introduction for the orchestra,” Martin added.

“I’ll be speaking about the pieces in between, to fill it out nicely. The thing with the arts centre is, it’s a smaller stage so we have to reduce what we do – we can’t do these massive works just yet.”

Late this year, the orchestra will perform a Dec. 1 concert featuring Handel’s “Messiah” with Kwantlen Polytechnic University Chorus, followed on Dec. 8 by a co-pro with Vancouver Bach Choir. Details will be posted soon on the organization’s website (surreycityorchestra.org), which remains under construction and should be live by early October, Martin said. On social media, the orchestra can be found at facebook.com/surreycityorchestra and twitter.com/SurreyCityOrch.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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