President Ed Herold opened the meeting at Trinity United Church at 9:56 am with 38 members in attendance. He welcomed today’s presenter, Judith Yan, and a potential new member guest, Sal Guimond. Additionally, John Sneyd, was introduced as a new Club member.
Following opening greetings President Ed gave his thought for the day on how we should go about trying to avoid stress.
Normand Genest was called upon to introduce our guest speaker, Judith Yan. Judith Yan is the Artistic Director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Principal Conductor of Opera on the Avalon. She has been a Staff Conductor for the San Francisco Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet of Canada. With the San Francisco Opera, she served as Staff Conductor, assistant to Maestro Donald Runnicles. While with SFO, her performances of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for San Francisco Opera (Merola) was included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top Ten Classical Performances of the Year. She made her company debut with Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera. Prior to San Francisco Opera, she served as the first Conductor-in-Residence of the Canadian Opera Company, where her performance of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia garnered critical acclaim. She made her German conducting debut at Ulmer Oper with Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Mozart’s Idomeneo , and her Italian debut in 2007 in Sulmona, Italy with Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro . She returned the following season to conduct Puccini’s La Boheme . As a conductor of ballet, she has led over 90 performances at the Four Season’s Centre for the National Ballet of Canada. Since 2010, she has had a close association with Hong Kong Ballet, conducting the company’s production of Swan Lake as well as premiering all three of the company’s most recent productions of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Don Quixote . In 2014, she made her Seoul conducting debut with Korean National Ballet’s La Bayadére, conducting the Korean Symphony Orchestra, and returned in 2015 for productions of Swan Lake and Giselle . 2015/2016 season also included performances of Hong Kong Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty at National Arts Centre in Ottawa, a world-premiere of Jack Perla’s An American Dream with Seattle Opera, a debut at Teatr Wielki for Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew for Polish National Ballet, Mozart’s Requiem, a return to Korean National Ballet for performances of La Bayadére and the world-premiere of John Estacio’s opera, Ours , with Opera on the Avalon, where she returned for her sixth season as Music Director and Principal Conductor. As a guest conductor, she has performed internationally, most recently with Seattle Opera, IU Opera and Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Opera, Pacific North West Ballet in the US, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in New Zealand, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Korean National Ballet, and Hong Kong Ballet in Asia, Manitoba Chamber Symphony in Canada. She looks forward to her Australian conducting debut in 2017 with a production of Don Quixote with West Australian Ballet. Judith Yan – Adventures in Music
Judith Yan began her talk by telling about her experiences in Australia when she was informed about extremely poisonous spiders and being teased by some colleagues. At one performance at which she was the conductor she discovered two spiders in her dressing room. Thinking about the “poisonous” nature of these spiders as she had been informed, she sought help from a stage manager. He asked her if she needed him to “escort” the spiders out of her dressing room to which she eagerly agreed. However, unbeknownst to her all the stage performers and stage hands wore mics and head sets and her whole conversation with the manager was broadcast throughout the theater and everyone had a good laugh at her expense.
Although Judith Yan never intended to be a musician she attributes her career in music to her parents who were also musicians and pushed her into music. At first she went into music and ballet because it was supposed to be a good education to teach you discipline before going into a profession such as a doctor, lawyer, dentist or accountant. She ended up really loving music but nevertheless she went to University of Toronto to study English literature. However she liked music more and became an orchestral conductor of symphonies, opera and ballet.
Judith talked about her parents and their love of music. Additionally her parents loved movies and her dad took her to every single James Bond movie made since 1971. They also liked adventure like riding motorcycles and skiing in several countries. They were great at throwing parties which Judith attributes to her love of good parties. But her likes of great movies and movie scores was accentuated by her love of James Bond movies and the music that was in them. She says music scores are so great and it's the incidental music that drives the drama.
Later in her career Judith did meet Christopher Plummer and Roger Moore. Roger Moore invited her to a party and she got to sit next to him and his wife at a dinner when she was in Vienna. She described them as being very gracious.
When she got out of University she needed a job and didn’t see her English composition as leading to job. But as a young girl she had instructed ballet classes so she landed a job as a pianist with the National Ballet of Canada. This, Judith credits to a conversation she had with Richard Bradshaw, who was the conductor of the Canadian Opera Company. She was astounded to land such a prestigious job at such a young age. The first day on the job was really tough and they hazed her by giving her two scores to play: The Nutcracker and Serenade for Strings which are the two most difficult scores to play on the piano.
After three years at the COC Judith called Richard and said I think I’ve had enough experience of being terrified at the Opera Company. She then called up Pierre Hétu, who was a brilliant conductor and pianist that she knew from her time studying at University of Toronto. Pierre Hétu was the conductor of the Montreal Symphony. He took her under his wing “and taught her how to behave.” He showed her by example how to behave as a conductor and taught her the technique of being a conductor and how to make a connection. She went to many rehearsals to learn how to conduct. Following her three-year learning experience Pierre Hétu set her up with Richard Bradshaw who gave her the chance to conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He took her back stage at the Toronto O’Keefe Center and Richard knew every single person connected to the theatre including their names, as well as the names of their wives and kids. This had a tremendous impact on Judith about how to treat people. Richard introduced her to all the people connected with the production including the librarians who helped her to find the music scores that she needed.
Eventually Richard Bradshaw advised her to get out of Canada in order to get a more experience. So she landed a job at the San Fransico Opera Company and went to a company with a much higher annual budget. So she went from putting on two shows at once to a company that put on seven shows simultaneously and working in several different languages. At one point she worked at San Fransico Opera Company working 12 hour days for 37 days straight.
Again after working three years in San Fransico she was advised to get out of North American and go to Germany to gain more experience. A friend there got her a job with the German Metropolitan Opera Company. Judith told us about many new experiences she had in Germany such as learning to speak German and riding her bike to work along the Danube. This was a really great time in her life.
Judith told us that she was she was supposed to take over her father's company where he made plastic bottles. And if it wasn't for the 1997 takeover of Hong Kong by China she thinks her life would be different and she would still be in Hong Kong working in her father’s factory.
When she came back from Germany she returned to Canada she conducted 98 performances with the National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Center. Then an opportunity came up to conduct the Guelph Symphony Orchestra and to be the artistic director. So in the past few years they have added more concerts to their season in their home of the Cooperator’s Hall at the River Run Centre. Many of her friends who have come to the River Run Centre are impressed with the venue and 785 seats and not a bad seat in the house with great sight lines.
One of the accomplishments she is most proud of is the increase in the Symphony’s outreach program to youth. There are ten concerts per year for little kids five and under along with GSO Kids which are teen-year-olds who are13 and older in the Symphony Club. The intent is to put music into the lives of every child. In Judith’s ideal dreams she thinks music should be free for children and every child should be able to attend a GSO concert for free. Research shows the effects of music on children. Regardless of the socio status of children, or what school district they belong to, children who participate in high quality music programs score 20% higher on English and math standardized testing.
For the past two years and this year there is the incredible museum concert series where the GSO puts on two free concerts while the museum offers all-day free admission to everyone.
Judith informed us about the next season for the Guelph Symphony Orchestra with a grand Season Opening Gala Oct. 27, 2017. This can be found on-line for the Guelph Symphony Orchestra.
Judith Yan completed her presentation by showing us pictures of functions and performances by the Guelph Symphony Orchestra and then responding to questions from the members.
At the conclusion of Ms. Yan’s presentation Julian Sale thanked her and gave her a token of appreciation from the Club.
Activities Committee – Ray Biffis - The night at the Horse Races at Elora Raceway will take place on Sept. 25th; - 27 people are signed up and after August 31st if there is still room, members can sign-up additional guests;
- On September 14th Richard Sawyer will be speaking to us about being a glider instructor. He has agreed to take members gliding on Sat. Sept. 23rd for a fee of approximately $140 per person. More details to follow.
Coffee Club next Thurs. Aug. 24th at the Boathouse and the Airpark Café
Next meeting on August 31, 2017 with Guelph Mayor, Cam Guthrie