It was an evening one century in the making. Celebrate 100: A Gala Celebration with Yo-Yo Ma, held on November 16 at Roy Thomson Hall, was the crowning event of our ongoing and unforgettable Centennial festivities.
It began with a sold-out Gala Dinner in Roy Thomson Hall’s South Lobby “for some 250 of TSO’s greatest supporters,” as The Globe and Mail’s Nolan Bryant reported in his social column, and engaging pre-concert lobby performances by TSO and Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians for all concert attendees. This was followed by an enchanting, one-night-only concert conducted by Music Director Gustavo Gimeno and featuring stunning performances by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and JUNO Award and Polaris Music Prize winner from Tobique First Nation Jeremy Dutcher.
Yo-Yo Ma has a long history of creative collaboration with the Toronto Symphony—he first performed with us in 1979, and he’s appeared on our stage dozens of times over the years. In what the Toronto Star hailed as a “triumphant return to Toronto,” Ma performed Dvořák’s ever-popular Cello Concerto, “pouring every ounce of emotion into his instrument and producing a sound that was both warm and thunderously brilliant.” The Globe and Mail added that “such clear musical understanding between Ma and Gimeno yielded glorious results for the TSO’s 100th anniversary concert, and inspired new hope for the future.”
The audience clearly agreed, responding with a tremendous and lengthy standing ovation, which inspired Ma to borrow the closest cello within reach—that of TSO Principal Cello Joseph Johnson—to play “The Song of the Birds”, a Catalan folk tune, as an encore. And when this, too, was met with enthusiastic applause, Ma humorously conjured an additional bird with his hands, briefly performing a mock shadow play.
Another highlight of the concert was “Honour Song”, a Mi’kmaw work composed by George Paul, arranged by Jeremy Dutcher, and orchestrated by Owen Pallett. Accompanied by Ma, Dutcher sang the song in multiple languages, producing “a powerful call to gather: the perfect message as audiences return to the concert hall and the TSO embarks on its next 100 years” (Toronto Star).
After the performance, all concert attendees were treated to prosecco, sweet treats, and live jazz in the lobby. It was an incomparable evening of music and magic that we were delighted to share with so many of you.
Proceeds from the Celebrate 100 Gala will support the TSO’s artistic, education, and community-engagement initiatives. Our sincere thanks to the Gala’s Lead Sponsor, Mirabella Development Corporation, all Gala supporters, and concert patrons.