The SPOGreatMusic Podcast Series: S01E02

Release Date: October 2, 2020

How have plagues and pandemics affected musical life, musicians, and composers? This episode focuses on the European plagues from the 1300s through the 1800s, and the global 1918 and 2019 pandemics. Featuring interviews with Dr. Remi Chiu, author of “Plague and Music in the Renaissance” (Cambridge University Press), Katherine Carleton (Executive Director, Orchestras Canada), and Conductor/Composer, William Rowson (Stratford Symphony Orchestra).


Dr. Remi Chiu

Remi Chiu is Associate Professor of Musicology at Loyola University Maryland. He specializes in the historical intersections between music and medicine. He is the author of Plague and Music in the Renaissance, published by Cambridge University Press (2017), and the editor of a companion volume of Renaissance plague polyphony entitled “Songs in Times of Plague.” In addition to the musical responses to epidemic disease, he also studies the use of music in medical and scientific entertainments at the end of the nineteenth century. Learn more about Dr. Chiu on his website


Katherine Carleton, Executive Director of Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Katherine Carleton has been Executive Director of Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada, the national association for Canadian orchestras, since 2005. Noted as an arts advocate and a leader in collaborative initiatives among arts service organizations, for four year she served as volunteer co-chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition and leader of the Arts Service Organization Learning Network. In December 2016, she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada, “for her efforts to promote a thriving arts and culture sector in Canada as an advocate and voice for Canadian orchestras.” Key accomplishments during Katherine’s tenure at Orchestras Canada include a renewed commitment to research, expansion of the membership, a strengthening of OC’s dual language service delivery, and enhanced partnerships with a range of colleague organizations. Katherine has worked as a clarinetist, teacher, program manager, granting officer, and orchestra manager. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from the University of Toronto, a Master’s in Management from McGill University through the McGill-McConnell Program for National Voluntary Sector Leaders (where her major paper focused on happier life and work in symphony orchestra organizations) and a certificate from the inaugural Schulich-Maytree Executive Directors’ Institute at the Schulich School of Business at York University. You can find contact information on Katherine’s LinkedIn profile


Orchestras Canada / Orchestres Canada

Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada is the national association for Canadian orchestras, with 130 member orchestras from coast to coast, ranging from volunteer driven youth, training and community ensembles to major institutions, in every province. OC’s mission is to “help orchestras achieve together what they cannot accomplish alone, serving Canadian orchestras in both official languages, through research, knowledge-sharing, convening, and advocacy”, and we have a national board of directors, and staff and consultants from Victoria BC to Halifax, Nova Scotia. OC offers the nation’s recognized job board for playing jobs in Canadian orchestras, has a lively following on social media, and is lead partner in the new ArtsBoost digital marketing and fundraising fundamentals program, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. OC is a registered charity, and is honoured to receive core operating funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Learn more about this fantastic organization on their website


William Rowson

Mr. William Rowson, Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Stratford Symphony Orchestra

William is hailed as one of Canada’s most compelling and versatile young artists. He currently serves as the Artistic Advisor and Music Director of the Stratford Symphony Orchestra.  In 2019 he completed a 3-year tenure as the Assistant Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, where he led the Grammy and Juno award-winning ensemble in over 160 performances. To great acclaim, he conducted the VSO’s inaugural Sunset Beach outdoor concert to a crowd of over 14,000. William has collaborated with vocalists Meredith Hall, Rufus Müller, Lawrence Wiliford, Krisztina Szabó and Jann Arden, as well as instrumentalists Sarah Pratt, Nicholas Wright, Sharon Wei and astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Highly regarded in the New Music community, Rowson has conducted the premieres of over 65 new works and is a strong advocate for music by Canadian composers. An active composer as well as conductor, Rowson’s Fanfare for Canada’s 150th was premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. This performance has been viewed 140,000 times on YouTube.  In August 2018, his Short Variations on Waves was given its premiere by Ensemble Made in Canada at the Festival of the Sound, and has since been performed in every Canadian province and territory. Rowson has also composed the scores to several films including the 2019 Canadian feature film Brotherhood, which is playing in theatres across Canada throughout 2020.

In addition to performances with the Stratford Symphony, upcoming season highlights include appearances with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Regina Symphony as well as return engagements with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and the VSO.

Bill grew up in a musical family, starting the violin at age 3 in his hometown of Saskatoon. He began conducting while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music.  He also holds degrees from the University of Toronto and Western University and has benefited from the mentorship of conductors Bramwell Tovey and Otto Tausk.

Learn more about William Rowson by visiting his website here, or by visiting the Stratford Symphony Orchestra website here.


The Stratford Symphony Orchestra

The Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra has partnered with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra for our 2020/2021 Season.

The Stratford Symphony Orchestra was founded in 2004 by educator and arts manager, Yootha Neller. Her goal was to establish a fine orchestra within the Stratford community to present excellent performances with a broad stylistic range. Since that time, the SSO has presented an annual season of live performances of classical and contemporary music, with a special emphasis on Canadian composers. The SSO has beecome an integral part of the region’s arts community, collaborating with other cultural and educational organizations and participating in community events.

Now in its sixteenth season, the SSO has impressed audiences with its virtuosity and variety of musical offerings. Nothing compares with live music, delivered with the joy, passion, and skill that talented musicians bring directly to their audience. Concert after concert, audiences have given standing ovations to tell the orchestra how much they appreciate the music and the musicians. This season, the SSO will deliver its music and community programs digitally to a global audience.

Behind the scenes, a board of directors and dozens of skilled and dedicated volunteers support all aspects of the SSO”s operations. Funding support for the Orchestra comes from tickets and subscription sales, donations, fundraising events, and sponsorships.

Connect with the SSO by visiting their website, or on Twitter and YouTube. You can also donate to the SSO here.


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