SSO Joni show with Sarah Slean et al

photo from SSO facebook page


What a wonderful reckoning of a dream! At the opening of this Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concert, Executive Director Mark Turner gave his introduction expressing how inspiring he found the music of Joni Mitchell when he discovered one of her albums at the tender age of 18. Mark gave a heartfelt introduction to the concert that included praise for all the guest artists performing at the concert as well as a deep and inspiring statement about Joni’s music and the concert we were about to hear (his words here, slightly reminiscent of a song by Tina Turner …), “Hang on Every word, and get Lost in the Music.” And, that is exactly what we did for the entire concert!


This really was a wonderful celebration of Joni Mitchell’s music and of her musical life. The whole package: orchestration, interpretation, presentation, right down to the lighting – and for me, the lighting was far more than setting the stage for the music: it was integral to the Magic of the show – the right touch for each song: each cinematically orchestrated vignette brought to life by a stage full of musicians working together as one.


Sarah Slean has been my hero for close to 20 years now. It was a thrill to hear her and watch her bring this music to life. She sparkled in her golden gown and gave so much to breathe new, rich life into songs we thought we knew – her interpretation made them new again – so clear, clean, embodied anew.


Conductor-composer Vince Mendoza spoke with passion about the project and shed light on his own processes. His direction was wonderfully clear as only he could be as the original composer and arranger of these orchestrations for these songs.


Peter Erskine proved to be quite the storyteller – as player and speaker from behind the drums: he had us spellbound with his one story he told about Joni Mitchell and his original involvement with a Joni Mitchell recording project. His playing was subtle, specific, and inviting throughout the show.


Mark DeJong, saxophone: a lovely touch to the program here and there – world class playing – especially near the beginning of the show!


Edwin Livingston, bass: provided all the necessary support and groove as a sensitive and solid part of the rhythm section.


It was such a thrill to see and hear these musicians join our beloved SSO on stage – and what an ensemble they were all together!!! I am so grateful I was able to attend this concert: I cried and I laughed and I cried some more – it was more cathartic for me than I expected it would be! I am so very proud of our SSO musicians for the work they did as a unit in this concert bringing to life those sweeping cinematic orchestrations – truly recording quality right there on stage in front of us. Thank you to all involved – you were all integral to the success of this show. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I could indeed drink a case of you!


The choice to have no encore at a concert that had people in the audience on their feet immediately following the final notes of the concert: well done! The show ended with Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now” – a tender and extremely effective setting and rendition of this song that needed to not be followed by anything further. All that needed to be said had been said and crafted in just the right way, and in just the right amount to leave the audience with the experience of a lifetime.


Thanks for reading and if you were at this concert, thank you for attending and sharing this experience with me!!



Anna Marie Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

Anna Marie Bekolay 2016 - Copy cropped and resized

Anna Marie Bekolay, soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator – performs with many ensembles in and around Saskatoon and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Her current projects include: her classical vocal album under the stage name, Anna Maria Soparlo: “Songs In Loving Memory of My Father” (2017), Back of the Bus (Celtic), The Stephanies (Pop/Folk), The Whiskey Jerks (Klezmer/Folk/Jazz), Mac Talla Quartet (classical/Pop/Folk), Troubadours du Bois (Renaissance), a brand new project called Phantasma (exploring the combination of operatic vocals and heavy bass and drums), and a variety of freelance collaborations including performances with Flamenco Borealis and Free Flow Dance, a recent retirement party that involved some music from the musical, “Billy Elliot”, and a Fringe play, “Brel!” (July, 2017), based on the music of Jacques Brel – where she was both musical director and performer. Ms Bekolay’s singing was also featured recently at the 2017 Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala in the collaborative presentation of the wearable art piece, “Faceted Wings” by Nadine Jaggi.


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