Our arrival at Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Islands just south of downtown.

By Bob Fraser

Wednesday, March 30 — Quebec City to Toronto

Thursday, March 31 — Toronto

The Toronto performance on the tour was particularly special for me, as it fell on my fiftieth birthday! In nine days I will be celebrating the 26th anniversary of the day I won the audition for the Victoria Symphony, so half my life has been spent making music with this great organization.

The Birthday Boy warming up.

I have just over 600 Facebook friends, and in preparation for the tour I tagged everyone I could think of who lived in one of the tour cities, to invite them to celebrate with me and hear some great music-making. I jokingly refer to this as “Bob’s 50th Birthday Tour”.

One thing that this tour has made me realize is just how connected the musical community is – I have reunited with many friends from my past and as I introduce them to my VS friends it doesn’t take long to establish connections. “Oh, so you must know….” usually follows an introduction between musicians. At the receptions, people have been meeting up with people they worked with in other orchestras, studied at summer music festivals with, or went to school with.

Another great thing about touring is getting to see other orchestras’ facilities. As I look at my camera roll I see that I have taken a lot of pictures of backstage areas, locker rooms, musicians’ lounges, and of course, the various stages we’re performing on. Even something that might seem mundane to the ordinary observer is noteworthy to us: “They have places to put your cases!” “Their library is only a few feet from the stage!” (ours is a few blocks from the Royal Theatre). I wish we could take all of our Victoria audiences on tour with us so they could hear how different we sound in these other halls.

Backstage at Roy Thomson. The whole perimeter is set up to accommodate musical instrument cases for 100 musicians. There are also banks of lockers for safekeeping.

We had acoustic rehearsals in both Quebec City and Toronto – just brief 50-minute rehearsals to play parts of pieces to get used to hearing each other in a different space. These can be scary at first – we are so used to playing in the 1416-seat Royal Theatre and today we were in the 2,630-seat Roy Thomson Hall. However, we quickly found our bearings – the nice thing about Roy Thomson is that it was designed specifically for orchestral concerts. It is set up with walls around the stage and a reflective array of wood around the orchestra so we can hear ourselves very clearly.

One thing that we were all worried about was: “Will people come?” When you live in Canada’s largest city you have access to so many cultural activities – would we get an audience on a Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.? The answer, we were surprised and delighted to see, was “Yes!!” The hall was about 75-80% full, and the Toronto audience made us feel very welcome indeed. Stewart Goodyear gave another stellar performance of the Grieg that brought everyone to their feet, and all of the various solo bows Tania gave to soloists in the Firebird Suite were met with loud cheers from the audience.

The crowd dispersing after our concert in Roy Thomson.

Because this was a matinee concert, we had two free evenings in Toronto – perfect for birthday celebrations – and perfect for culture vultures like us. Some of us heard the Toronto Symphony do a Pops concert the night before, some took in other shows, some went to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and all of us took in the excitement of the big city.

Off to the Nation’s Capital!