By Kris Ketonen
How is Arthur Post describing the 2016/2017 Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra season? With one word: “bittersweet.” This season is the final one for Post, who’s been TBSO music director for seven years. He’ll conduct his final TBSO performance on April 29.
“I need to honour it,” Post says of his final concert. “Both for me, and for the audience. You have to confront the occasion, and the fact that you’re leaving, what it means and what it’s been.”
And while it’s evident Post is looking forward to the next phase of his career, he does look back on his years with the TBSO with pride. Among the highlights was an expanded repertoire, with the TBSO performing pieces that were written for larger orchestras (the TBSO has 30 musicians, Post says, but has branched out to perform works intended for orchestras with 70 or more players).
“We haven’t used that many musicians, but we’ve been able to play that repertoire with a few adjustments,” Post says. Another highlight, he says, was performing—and even commissioning—more music by Canadian composers. Post also cites the modernizing of the TBSO’s image as a point of pride. That’s important, he says, as it’s a facet of a major challenge faced by symphonies everywhere—attracting a new, younger audience. The answer, Post says, is complicated, involving such things as which pieces are programmed, and how information is provided to patrons who may not be familiar with the music itself.
“[New audiences] probably know what Mozart sounds like, they’ve heard Beethoven before,” Post says. “But there’s a lot of music, they just don’t know what it is, they don’t know what to expect…if we can’t communicate to them something about what they’re going to hear, we’re not going to get their ticket purchase.”
As for Post’s life after the TBSO, he’ll be focusing his professional attention on Europe, where he’ll be closer to his family, who live in Barcelona. “It’s been a wonderful, intense period of work,” he says of his time in Thunder Bay. But, he adds, “it’s a stress, logistically” to travel between Spain and northern Ontario with such regularity.
“I’ve done a lot of what I set out to do,” he says. “We really have achieved a lot, and there are young conductors who can bring new energy to the orchestra.”