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Planning for MSO concert already underway

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 22/06) - It may be four months away, but a planned performance by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) in Yellowknife is already a top priority for organizers.

"We know that the symphony is coming. The venue has been booked. We are now in the process of going through the logistics of bringing them in for one day," said Northern Arts and Cultural Centre executive director Ben Nind.

As can be imagined, hosting the 100-member ensemble is no small feat, and will stretch the skills and resources of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre's staff and volunteers to their maximum.

A huge part of the work will involve converting the St. Patrick high school gymnasium into a space "that would truly celebrate the best in classical music," said Nind.

This includes developing proper staging, bringing in special chairs for the musicians and audience, as well as setting up lights, curtains and rugs. This will accommodate 800 audience members, 100 musicians and 60 volunteers. Nind said 600 tickets are already spoken for.

"We've put a lot of thought into how this will be done," Nind said.

In all, he estimates the performance will cost between $40,000 and $60,000 to stage, even with the orchestra covering their own food, accommodations and travel.

The huge undertaking was a surprise announcement this September, when Nind released the 2006-2007 NACC season. NACC posed the idea of a truly Northern concert to the MSO earlier in the year, and they went for it.

"(The concert) is opening up their national tour," he said. "They haven't been on tour in quite a long time so this is a real celebration."

Led by conductor Kent Nagano, the orchestra is considered (by Nind and many others) to be one of the finest in the world. For their Yellowknife performance, they will bring three soloists to perform pieces by Rossini and others, followed by a full rendition of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

"I feel incredibly honoured to be able to be a part of the team that's going to host them," Nind said. He said this could be one of the most important cultural events in Yellowknife since the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Yellowknife performance in the early 1990s.

"It's going to be quite the night."