Ah, an evening at the symphony. Your classiest outfit, a smart cocktail and that fantastic feeling that you’re feeding both your soul and your brain with some of the finest music history has shared with us. For many, such an event is a special occurrence, necessitating a juggling of work schedules and perhaps a few early-morning regrets as we yawn through our job, ruminating over the joy and pain of staying out late on a work night.
“Typical concerts start at 8pm and end at 10 or later,” says Adrian Ishak, who works at a downtown law firm. “It can be difficult to make that commitment, especially on a weekend.”
Ishak puts in the serious hours one would expect of a city lawyer and still finds time to indulge his love of classical music, courtesy of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Happily, this treat is far easier to accommodate with the TSO’s new Afterworks concert series, an earlier, slightly abbreviated evening that gets its audience home in time for dinner, already filled up with brilliant sounds played by one of the world’s best orchestras. It’s an idea perfectly suited to Ishak and his hardworking ilk.
“There’s an acknowledgment especially where young professionals are concerned,” Ishak says. “We sometimes can’t be downtown at 8 o’clock, so this is the perfect opportunity to take in a concert at 6:30pm. It’s immediately after work, and you have the extra bonus of avoiding the rush hour.”
The slightly shorter program also removes the necessity of an intermission, further reducing the time commitment. For TSO principal cellist Joseph Johnson, the series adds an exciting variety to orchestra life. “It’s a little bit more casual,” he says. “We’re not wearing our tails, and we’ll have a host who will explain a little about the piece in a fun way. It gives the audience a bit of an inside view of things.”
Johnson is definitely one of the orchestra’s bright lights, earning raves for his passionate cello solos since his arrival three years ago from Chicago. And did the transplanted American and his partner find it tricky to acclimate to a Canadian lifestyle? “It was pretty easy, actually,” he says. “The city is a lot like Chicago, same size and same sort of climate, so I feel very at home here. There’s a lot of places I’d never want to live, so I’m lucky to have a great job in one of the world’s best cities.”
The cellist is thrilled with TSO’s continuing drive to reach out to audiences both new and old, and he hopes the Afterworks series will attract those who may normally be intimidated by a night at the orchestra.
“Instead of going to see a big long epic, you can see a one-shot piece that hasn’t drained you of all your energy,” he says. “You can even go out afterwards to dinner. It’s like a little hors d’oeuvre, an appetizer of live music, and you’ll come away feeling great.”