The Return of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

The Return of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Image credit: Eric Kozakiewicz
"I could hear the joy in the applause and cheers from the audience. The ESO was live again! Thank you, Edmonton, for welcoming us back into your lives."
- Nora Bumanis, ESO Principal Harp

The energy in the air at Hawrelak Park on Thursday, August 26th was undeniable. The anticipation and excitement swirled around attendees, volunteers, staff, and musicians alike. After 18 long months, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was together once more, ready to fulfill the human need to make and share music.

Applause rippled through the audience as guest conductor Lucas Waldin took the stage. Without a word, Lucas turned to face the orchestra, and the crowd fell silent. Though the orchestra was masked, their smiles shone through: it was finally time to play together again. Then, the music began.

Between August 26 and September 6, the ESO played a total of 10 concerts at Hawrelak Park, serenading over 9,700 audience members with tunes from Hollywood Hits and Festival Favourites. From the music of Star Wars to Tchaikovsky’s beloved 1812 Overture, no stone was left unturned in the ESO’s triumphant return to the stage.

Cosette Justo Valdés, ESO Assistant Conductor and Community Ambassador, conducted her first full Symphony Under the Sky concert this year.

“To be back on stage with the ESO and live audience was a transcendental experience for me. We had waited so long! The energy the musicians and I share while making music together is very powerful. Every concert was unique, full of its magic moments. I felt very honoured to have spent all those moments with our musicians and to be able to speak to our audience. They gave us so much love back! I think we are very lucky in Edmonton, for the orchestra we have and for how our audience supports us,” she said about the experience.

The return of live music meant something different for everyone, both onstage and in the audience, but the impact and hope in the air was particularly meaningful. Soloist and ESO Principal Oboe, June Kim, shared the following story:

“A staff member told me that her friend who came to one of the Hollywood Hits concerts found some comfort after listening to Gabriel’s Oboe. She had lost a family member to COVID-19 and after listening to our concert, she felt a little bit better and a bit more healed. Her kind words made my first full orchestra concerts even more meaningful and special.”

Simply Symphony Under the Sky was special in a variety of ways, and was the perfect entrance into the upcoming ESO season. From first-time symphony-goers to seasoned SUTS subscribers, the 10 concerts were a breath of fresh air after a confusing and difficult 18 months. Bianca Chambul, ESO Principal Bassoon, shared that “it was incredible to play for live patrons again, and to know that just by being here together we were turning the corner after such a long period of uncertainty.”