69 Years in the Making
The St. Catharines Civic Orchestra was established in 1948 under Jan Wolanek as a community orchestra; its governing body assumed the name St. Catharines Symphony Association in 1963 and changed it again in 1978 to the Niagara Symphony Association to reflect increased regional responsibilities.
Leonard Pearlman took over the orchestra in 1958 (after an interim year under F.R.C. Clarke) soon supplementing the regular series with performances of small-scale baroque and contemporary works at Rodman Hall. In 1963 the Niagara Symphony Chorus (subsequently known as Chorus Niagara) began its fruitful collaboration with the orchestra. The Niagara Symphony is also the parent organization of the Niagara Youth Orchestra, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Pearlman was succeeded in 1964 by Milton Barnes who mounted the first opera production and made a conscious effort to attract young people to symphonic music. In 1972 Leonard Atherton became Music Director. He enlarged the scope of both the orchestra and chorus, introducing new series and founding groups such as the Cantata Choir and the Madrigal Singers. During Atherton's tenure the orchestra's membership became professional.
A regular series of four POPS! concerts held at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake was inaugurated in 1976. Atherton's departure in 1980 was followed by three seasons of guest conductors, among them noted conductor Uri Mayer. Ermanno Florio became Music Director in 1983 and Michael Reason served as Music Director from 1995 to 1999.
In 1999 Daniel Swift succeeded Reason and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra (NSO) became Orchestra in Residence at Brock University, moving all of its concerts to the University's Sean O'Sullivan Theatre. By 2005, the season had expanded to include four Masterworks programmes and four POPS! programmes (12 concerts) each year.
In May, 2010, after a two year Quest for the Podium search, the NSO proudly announced the appointment of Bradley Thachuk as its 8th music director. The spring of 2015 marked the final season of the Brock University Centre for the Arts and the NSO's residency there. In the fall of 2015 the City of St. Catharines opened the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in the heart of downtown St. Catharines, and the NSO moved all its concerts from the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre to the new facility. Now in his sixth season, Bradley Thachuk has worked to expand the orchestra's programming to include five grand Masterworks programmes in Partridge Hall, 2 intimate Masterworks/C programmes in the smaller Cairns Recital Hall (4 concerts), four POPS! programmes (8 concerts) and three Classical Family programmes designed specifically for young children and families (6 concerts).
The Niagara Symphony Orchestra Bylaws have been subject to review for several years and, importantly, is in accordance with the Ontario Not-For-Profit Corporation Act for a non-share capital corporation. Important changes to note are term limits for directors, except when also officers of the organization, and revisions to the eligibility of elected and ex-officio directors.
An amended copy of the Bylaws are now available by request from the NSO office.