Once upon a time in 1987, the population of this fair city was just under 55,000 and the Red Deer College Arts Centre had just opened its doors when a gentleman by the name of Howard Mar took his vision of a community symphonic orchestra in Red Deer, enlisted the financial support to the tune of $165,000 from Red Deer’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #35, rallied his friends and fellow patrons of the arts, gathered a group of musicians both amateur and professional and... created the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra!
Dr. Alan Johnson, former head of Obstetrics at the RDRHC and the first president of the RDSO said of the beginning: “It was mostly Howard, really. As far as my involvement was concerned and you can quote me - I’ve been at many deliveries before but this one has got to be one of the biggest.” Mr. Mar was the parent; the community delivered and nurtured the creation.
There have been many changes in the last three decades: the population has grown and so has your symphony. Under the creative and talented guidance of Maestro Claude Lapalme, the caring guardianship of many, many board members and volunteers throughout the years, the support of numerous patrons, sponsors and funding agencies, the RDSO has matured from a community based, semi-professional orchestra to a fully professional symphony orchestra, employing union musicians. We have moved from a four-concert season with a budget of $71,000 and an apprenticeship program, to a seven-concert season with a budget of over $500,000 and a range of musical education experiences. Our community programs include the Dress Rehearsal program that is aimed at making the RDSO accessible to anyone, the Choir Kids program (where children in the Red Deer schools get a chance to publicly perform their songs arranged by our Maestro and played by the symphony); and the budding Music Plus program, which is an El Sistema inspired, after school social development program that uses music as a lever to engage socio-economically challenged kids in North Red Deer in creative and artistic activities that improve their quality of life.
Although much has changed, much has also remained the same. We are still run by a volunteer board that works very hard to keep the music playing. We are still financially reliant on the generosity of our local patrons and businesses. We still hold to the original vision of providing education of symphonic music to central Alberta. We still share the stage with amateur musicians, groups from around the area such as the Red Deer Royals, the Red Deer College Choir, the Lindsay Thurber Composite High School’s choirs, the Rosedale Valley Strings, Soliloquy, and the Red Deer Youth Orchestra.
Despite the growth and evolution of the RDSO, we still hold to the grand vision “to provide a season of orchestral performances for the residents of Red Deer and central Alberta”... furthermore, under the magical baton of our beloved Maestro Lapalme... to provide a creative, brilliant and inspiring season of performances, not only for this, our 30th year... but for many more seasons to come...
Whether you are a seasoned symphony veteran or an avid lover of music, we invite you to enjoy your Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.
A warm and heart-felt thank you to the community of central Alberta, for continuing to help make the vision a reality!