U of G orchestra to perform Holst's The Planets
English composer Gustav Holst's most famous work, The Planets, is too large of a piece for most Canadian orchestras, outside of perhaps Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Montreal Symphony Orchestra, to perform on their own, but the conductor of the University of Guelph Orchestra has invited other musicians to help perform Holst's masterpiece at the River Run Centre April 4.
Musicians from the National Ballet, the Canadian Opera Company, and local youth and community orchestras will perform the seven-movement piece of music with the 45 members of U of G's orchestra. "It's a really popular piece of music and I figured it probably wouldn't be too difficult to persuade extra players to come and participate," said conductor Henry Janzen. "The reality is there won't be that many chances in their lifetimes for them to play this piece."
"The Planets is a really great piece of music," said Janzen. "The movement Mars, the ‘Bringer of War,' is so incessant and has such large brass forces and organ and everything else in it and it shakes the ground. You feel as if you've feel caught up in this horrible activity, but it's so powerful and it's totally unstoppable."
Fourth-year drama and music student Ryan Shantz says he had never heard a performance of The Planets when Janzen first proposed putting on the work. The cello player has since grown to really enjoy Holst's music. Surprisingly, Shantz is one of the only music students in the orchestra. "Most students are from biosciences it seems or pre-med sciences," said Janzen.
The orchestra, which has been under Janzen's baton since 1992, is open to anyone in the community. "There are audition requirements, but they pertain mostly to those who want to take it for credit," said Janzen. Students, faculty members, alumni and Guelph residents, including a technician at the Guelph General Hospital, all meet Thursday nights throughout the school year to keep up their musical interests.
Prof. Barbara Mable, Botany, believes the orchestra has attracted scientists like herself and zoology professor Beatrix Beisner for a reason. "There are a lot of scientists who play music," she said. "Scientists enjoy challenges and music represents a different type of creative focus that can provide a release from the stresses that can be associated with research."
Mable played oboe with the orchestra as an undergraduate student from 1982 to 1986 when the orchestra was under the direction of Stanley Saunders. The orchestra dispersed with Saunders' departure and so Mable was delighted to rejoin the group when she returned to Guelph in 2000. "Henry's a very good conductor. He has a very good sense of humour," said Mable. She said The Planets is quite an ambitious piece of music for a student orchestra. "The one thing about a student orchestra is that people will often leave things to the last minute," she said. "But this has been better than most semesters for commitment."
The orchestra normally performs in the fall and winter. Their 1995 performance of Handel's Massiah at Church of Our Lady was probably their next largest production. "We packed the place and turned away probably close to 400 people at the door," said Janzel. "It was an electrifying performance."
Shantz says he is eagerly awaiting the April 4 8 p.m. performance. He's playing first chair cello. "You couldn't drag me away from the orchestra," he said. "I love performing. I love being on stage."
Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. For more information or to order tickets, contact the River Run Centre through their Web site, www.riverrun.guelph.on.ca, or by phone, (519) 763-3000.
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.