The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has commissioned an orchestral adaptation of Roch Carrier's classic children's story The Hockey Sweater for its 2011-12 season.
The story, about a young Montreal Canadiens fan who receives a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater by accident, will be set to a classical score by Dundas, Ont.-based composer Abigail Richardson.
The Hockey Sweater was one of four commissions announced by music director Peter Oundjian on Wednesday as he outlined the TSO's upcoming 90th season.
The musical adaptation will premiere in May 2012, at a performance for young audiences narrated by the author himself and hosted by hockey legend and MP Ken Dryden.
Carrier's story, an allegory of Canada's linguistic divide, is considered an iconic piece of Canadian heritage, with excerpts from The Hockey Sweater immortalized on the $5 bill in 2002.
The unusual union of hockey and classical music had Oundjian, who has a nephew playing with the Black Hawks, thinking about the legacy left by great Canadian cultural institutions. He drew a round of applause from TSO subscribers as he pondered at the NHL's inability to create rules that prevent young players from getting severe concussions.
"I wonder what message that sends to young people," he said. Oundjian had just finished describing the TSO's programs for young people, which this year will include contact with artists such as Itzhak Perlman and Lang Lang.
"Here we send a different message of compassion and deeper understanding of human nature," he said. "We get young people to turn off the electronic devices and stop and just experience music."
The season's opening concert is devoted to the works of Shakespeare. The TSO will perform British composer William Walton's music from the 1943 film version of Henry V, with actor Christopher Plummer providing narration.
The concert will also feature the Toronto Children's Chorus — directed by former conductor Andrew Davis — performing a new work by Toronto-based composer Larysa Kuzmenko entitled Behold the Night.
Davis, who helped found the Children's Chorus, is one of three former TSO conductors returning to help celebrate the symphony's 90th anniversary.
Gunther Herbig, who was director from 1989 to 1994, and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who led from 1994 to 2001, are also planning visits to conduct the orchestra.
Also, "the door is open" to noted conductor Seiji Ozawa, who is in poor health, Oundjian said.
The full season will lean on much of the TSO's traditional repertoire, in recognition of the legacy left by these directors, he added.
The season will also see three residencies with high-profile musicians:
- Pianist Lang Lang, whose two-week residency will include performing all five Beethoven piano concertos as well as holding workshops with young pianists.
- Violinist Itzhak Perlman, Oundjian's mentor, will spend a week in Toronto and perform J.S. Bach's Concert for Two Violins with his former student.
- Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, whose week with the TSO will include the Canadian premiere of the new work Night Music: Voice in the Leaves by Dmitry Yanov-Yanovsky.
Other highlights of the season include:
- The Mozart@256 festival, featuring performances of Requiem.
- Free concerts during the city's annual Luminato festival.
- Guest spots by artists such as violinist James Ehnes, conductor and pianist Leon Fleisher, soprano Karina Gauvin and pianist Louis Lortie.
- A performance of Gustav Mahler's 8th Symphony, often called the Symphony of a Thousand, to close the season.