A Brief History
Live Classical Music comes to Grey and Bruce Counties.
The Georgian Bay Symphony was founded in 1972 by a small group of dedicated area musicians who had come together to compete in the local Kiwanis Music Festival. Their passion for live classical music was rewarded when the adjudicator, UWO music professor Herman Dilmore, was so impressed he asked the group to form a community orchestra. He became the first Music Director. To this day the Symphony awards a bursary to a high school music student in his name.
There have been several highlights over the years. In 1985, the orchestra played host to a unique on ice live performance with Toller Cranston. In 1988 a fine Yamaha concert grand piano was purchased with the help of Miss Agnes Brown. In 1990, they hosted a performance of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra on a good will tour of Canada. In the autumn of 1999 the Symphony moved into their new home at the 761 seat OSCVI Community Auditorium. The Symphony had helped with the major fundraising campaign for this new cultural venue with a donation of $25,000. In fact, auditorium space in the new school was designed to provide a beautiful acoustically excellent theatre for the symphony to perform in for decades to come.
Over the years the orchestra has also premiered work by several Canadian composers: F. R. C. Clarke's "Saugeenia" March 8, 1981 in concert with the Centennial Singers in Port Elgin. Andrew Ager's "Autumn Overture" October 25, 2003. Kevin Lau's "Sea of Blossoms" March 3, 2007 and "The White Horse" February 2009. Luc Martin's "Concerto for Recorder and Double Base" February 7, 2015. Richard Mascall was the Composer in Residence from 2007-2010. While holding this position he created several works that were premiered by the GBS: “Giizhigoong” commissioned as part of the City of Owen Sound’s 150 Anniversary celebrations, “Dream of the Anishnabaek”, “Ojibway Songs”, “Nanabush and the Giant Beaver”, Manitoulin”. Many of these works have been performed by many other groups including “Manitoulin” by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Guest artists have included some of Canada’s best musical talent, including Shauna Rolston, Angela Cheng, Nadina Mackie-Jackson, Alain Trudel, George Gao, Adrian Anantawan, Richard Raymond, and Sharlene Wallace. The iconic Canadian story “The Hockey Sweater” was performed at the 2016 Christmas event, with composer Abigail Richardson-Shute in attendance, and author Roch Carriere reading live for the concert.
The GBS has grown to an outstanding community orchestra attracting talented musicians from Grey and Bruce Counties and Owen Sound under the musical direction of François Koh since 2015. The GBS performs five “Main Series” concerts in the OSCVI Community Auditorium each season. Guest artists have included some of Canada’s best musical talent including Shauna Rolston, Alain Trudel, George Gao, Adrian Anantawan, Richard Raymond, and Sharlene Wallace. The Symphony participates in many community events including performing the National Anthem before at least one OHL Jr A Owen Sound Attack hockey game each season. In May 2013, the Symphony co-sponsored Owen Sound's first International Fiddle Day.
The GBS encourages talented young people with a bursary and scholarship program supported in part by our subscribers. Several of our regular players are now attending university to study their chosen instrument and the Symphony offers them a small ‘bursary’ to come back and play at weekend performances.
The GBS is supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the Leflar Foundation, its many sponsors and over 480 season subscribers with average attendance of over 650 patrons.
The City of Owen Sound highlights the uniqueness of having a symphony orchestra in the community as part of their tourism and relocation marketing strategy of “Where you want to live”.
The aim of the Georgian Bay Symphony is to enhance the appreciation of classical music through the performance of live orchestral concerts within in Grey Bruce Owen Sound area. ,
We envision the Georgian Bay Symphony as a premier arts organization performing live classical music and other genres in Grey and Bruce Counties, with a national reputation for enriching the lives of residents of all ages, and for an artistic excellence reflecting the skills and talents of community musicians.
Music Director and Conductor
Hermon C. Dilmore 1971-1976
Eric Woodward 1976-1979
Jim White 1979
Jerome Summers 1980-1981
Erna Van Daele 1981-1983
Kerry Stratton 1983-1989
Clyde Mitchell 1990-1993
John Barnum 1993-May 2015
François Koh June 2015-Present
Archivist : Donna Steinacher
Digital Archivist : Shirley Dickson
Assistant Photographer : John Dickson