SIMS: London orchestra’s planned new home Never-say-die hits the right note

It would have been so easy for some of London’s most talented musicians to throw in the towel eight years ago and perform offstage.

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It would have been so easy for some of London’s most talented musicians to throw in the towel eight years ago and perform offstage.

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Instead, London Symphonia, the innovative ensemble that emerged in 2015 after Orchestra London’s demise, took a long and thoughtful callback to become a cultural force in the city.

Call them the little orchestra that could.

They’re about to resolve a lingering sour note the town could never figure out. The orchestra and the Metropolitan United Church have partnered to create an acoustically excellent performing arts space downtown, similar to what died on the city’s drawing board years ago.

“We believe this will benefit the London Symphonia, the Metropolitan United and the wider arts community,” said Andrew Chung, the orchestra’s artistic producer.

“When you have a space that hosts a large orchestra, it opens up a world of possibilities.”

After the orchestra’s concert, A Necessary Lightness, at the church on Saturday, it was announced that the federal government was promising a $300,000 grant that will be used to renovate the space so musicians have a permanent place to hang out. player.

The money comes from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. What’s planned is to expand the stage space for the musicians, update the lighting, and hardwire technology for live performances.

“It was necessary. It had to happen,” said London North MP Peter Fragiskatos, who is a fan of the orchestra. “Without them, our city is less. Our city is diminished.

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In addition to the federal grant, the orchestra has seen private and government donations steadily increase, giving it a solid financial footing. Individual donors liked what they saw and remained loyal, even during the pandemic. Even corporate sponsors are getting in on the act.

Now is the time for “the next chapter, to have a venue that reflects the quality of the work we do,” Chung said.

It’s a remarkable turnaround, given the history surrounding the death and rebirth of orchestral music in the lumber town.

The city debated for decades whether to build a performing arts center. The idea never received the necessary support, leaving Orchestra London to play in cavernous Centennial Hall yet again. In 2014, the orchestra was saddled with a six-figure deficit, leading to the resignation of executive director Joe Swan, and the city decided not to bail him out.

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The music could have died, but the musicians didn’t let it. They formed #WePlayOn in 2015 and through a variety of work and outreach eventually became Symphonia London.

With a “super efficient operating model,” a $500,000 budget and some ingenuity, the orchestra was buzzing. “Before the pandemic, we were just on a great upward trajectory and I felt we did a great job,” Chung said.

Then came COVID-19, which knocked out the arts community. However, true to form, Symphonia found a way, broadcasting live concerts and creating “beautiful works”.

“It really advanced where the orchestra was going five years, easily,” Chung said.

While many arts organizations bid farewell to live streaming and video productions, Symphonia “embraces it with open arms” to produce high-quality video and sound that can be seen across the country and around the world. .

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The partnership with Metropolitan is the icing on the cake. Symphonia signed a 10-year occupancy agreement with the church and together they have embarked on a vision that allows the church to maintain its fundamental purpose, while creating space for the growth of the arts.

Some of the inspiration comes from Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, which is a hub for the arts, while “always honoring the need to worship,” Chung said. Metropolitan has a capacity of around 1,000 which is perfect for orchestral music and the acoustics are ‘just in the right place’.

And the location couldn’t be better at the corner of Wellington Street and Dufferin Avenue to become an arts destination.

All of this has the potential to attract more people to the orchestra and to get the music playing. “People who haven’t seen an orchestra concert can try it out,” Chung said. “Once you’re addicted, you’re addicted.”

With London being named a UNESCO City of Music, it all makes sense. Or beautiful music.

Let the music play. Well done.

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