CPO on the Town: Orchestra’s City Spaces series brings new, curated concerts in local landmarks to Calgarians at home

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) is presenting free, online concerts this spring recorded in various familiar locations around the city, which you can access from home as restrictions related to the pandemic continue to limit gatherings across Alberta. 

Paul Dornian, President and CEO of the CPO says, “We’re excited to shine a spotlight on our musicians and give audiences a view from inside such familiar Calgary landmarks.”

So popular have the concerts been, the orchestra has announced a new series of dates in more other spots around the city.

Associate Conductor, Karl Hirzer, says the CPO chose locations for the City Spaces series that had great acoustics of course, but also ones that locals could recognize and respond to visually. 

“Like many arts organizations, we’ve had to shift what we offer to the public. For us, that means a more visual medium than usual, and it’s really cool that the series brings live, classical music into some unorthodox spaces,” he says.

Each City Spaces concert features a new performance in one of Calgary’s iconic locations, followed by a short conversation about the music facilitated by Hirzer, and are paired with curated selections from the CPO live-stream library.

The first instalment of the City Spaces series transported us to the top of The Bow at sunset. Here, violinist and Assistant Concertmaster, Donovan Seidle, performed in the atrium surrounded by the warm glow of dusk that enveloped the space and skyline. (Each concert is available to watch anytime within 30-days of airing.) 

Other locations in the first round included: a Contemporary Calgary concert that premiered April 3 and featured five musicians performing in locations throughout the brutalist-era art gallery; and an April 17 concert from the exquisitely elegant Alberta Room in the historic Fairmont Palliser, which featured two performances by a duo and soloist followed by a live-stream feature from the Orchestra’s 2018 and 2020 seasons.

The newly announced City Spaces 2.0 features concerts from Spark Science Centre on May 15, Heritage Park on May 29, and the Jack Singer for the series-closing performance June 12, which also marks the CPO’s 15th free online concert since the fall.

The CPO’s live-stream initiatives first started in 2017, which laid the groundwork for the virtual content they’ve honed in on for the past year, and the current series. 

Working with local video production team, Deluxe Design Group, on a lot of these projects — including City Spaces — has been amazing, according to Hirzer. “They are incredible filmmakers. Alongside our audio engineer and rest of the CPO team, there is so much creativity added to what we produce together.”

The CPO has received great feedback on their efforts so far. “Music and the arts, it’s what we’ve all turned to more than anything during this past year when we’ve been so isolated from one another,” Hirzer says. 

Although the orchestra is excited for when audiences can come together again and resume performing in the Jack Singer Concert Hall, they’ve been busy in the rehearsal hall recording, producing and filming content to keep music accessible throughout the pandemic. 

Dornian says he hopes the CPO will be able to return to the concert hall soon and start rehearsing with larger ensembles, but one way or another, they’ll keep finding ways to deliver music to their community.

(Note: This story was edited to insert information about the new series of dates from a CPO press release and to reflect the completion of the first series.)