Symphony Season Opening Concert

The Search is Over

Saturday October 21, 7:30pm

River Run Centre

1. Symphony no. 2 in D major- Beethoven

2. Breathe- Carlos Simon


3. Concerto no. 2 for piano and orchestra- Rachmaninoff


Sheng Cai, Piano

Adam Johnson, Conductor


Adam Johnson, Conductor

Award-winning conductor Adam Johnson has been hailed as “an exciting talent” and for his “charismatic and commanding presence” on the podium. He completed his tenure as assistant conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) in 2018, and was named conductor-in-residence for the 2018-2019 season. He has conducted over 70 concerts with the OSM and is frequently reengaged as a guest conductor.

Internationally, Adam Johnson has conducted at the Opéra National de Paris as well as in Spain, Germany and the United States. Prior to his tenure in Montreal, Mr. Johnson worked for three seasons with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and continues to regularly guest conduct orchestras across Canada. He has also just been appointed as the Music Director of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s a privilege and honor to have been chosen to lead the Guelph Symphony Orchestra into this next chapter, and I’m looking forward to exciting and meaningful music making together. From my first concert with the musicians of the GSO, I saw a deep dedication to creating a truly special experience for the audience, and I’m happy to be able to build on what we’ve started. The mark of any great city is the vibrancy of its cultural scene, and our aim is to continue to expand the presence and impact of the orchestra for the people of Guelph so everyone can benefit from the powerful richness and beauty of great orchestral music.”


Program Notes

The 31 year old Beethoven (1770 – 1826) was already famous for his revolutionary approach to composing when he wrote his second symphony, and it continued to break the mold in exciting yet shocking ways for the public of the time. The work still follows the basic outlines of a traditional symphony of the day, however it contains huge contrasts that are at times humorous and other times violent, bold ideas, and exquisitely beautiful melodies in the Classical style. Traditionalists were perturbed by the young vagabond, and one Viennese critic wrote in a paper called Newspaper for the Elegant World that the symphony was “a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die, but writing in its last agonies and, in the fourth movement, bleeding to death. Such criticisms did not dissuade Beethoven, however he did plunge into despair shortly after completing the symphony when he learned his progressing deafness was incurable. He even contemplated suicide, choosing ultimately to complete his artistic destiny despite his afflictions. His temperament, struggles and genius flowed ever more freely into his music as a result and he changed the course of music history. Not giving in during his darkest hours resulted in a timeless gift to humanity through his music, and his example can inspire all of us to keep going in the face of our challenges.

The next piece on the program is Breathe by Carlos Simon (b. 1986), who states: “One of my favorite books to read and re-read, has been Meditations of the Heart written by renowned theologian, Howard Thurman. A spiritual advisor to many including Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurman was a prolific writer and preacher who lived in San Francisco for a large part of his life. Meditations of the Heart is a collection of meditations and prayers on the beauty of humanity. I was deeply inspired by one section entitled “Still Dews of Quietness”, which urges one to “stay put for a spell”. Through his words, I wanted to take the gesture further by writing a piece that encourages others to simply reflect and breathe.” The specific passage quoted by Simon for the piece reads: “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our striving cease”


Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) was one of the finest pianists of his day and was an aspiring composer, however the harsh criticism of his first symphony led him into a four-year depression which halted his creative output. After successful psychotherapy his creativity flourished and he wrote his 2nd Piano Concerto which won immediate acclaim and has endured as one of the most popular concertos of all time. Even artists like Celine Dion have been inspired by the lush melodies and beautiful harmonies of this technically demanding concerto. Like Beethoven, Rachmaninoff can inspire us to not suffer alone when in difficult times, but to seek help and have faith that wonderful things are ahead as long as we continue to breathe and put one foot in front of the other.

Adam Johnson

Sheng Cai, Piano

Canadian pianist Sheng Cai’s performances have touched audiences and won the praise of critics on four continents. The Toronto Star headlined ” This is a young man with real talent… from a clear, singing tone to a subtle sense of rubato to a judicious choice of tempi”.


Since winning the top prize at Concour OSM (Montreal Symphony Competition) and Toronto Symphony’s competition at just fifteen years old, Sheng Cai has performed a broad spectrum of concerto repertoire from Mozart to 21st century composers with great orchestras worldwide. Recent concerto performances include Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Quebec Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, in Germany with Philharmonisches Orchester Erfurt, Sinfonieorchester Aachen, Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha-Eisenach, the Krakow Philharmonic of Poland, North Bohemian Philharmonic of Czech republic, Orchestre national de Cannes in France, Malaga Philharmonic in Spain, Biel Solothurn Symphony in Switzerland, Jalisco Philharmonic of Mexico, Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota in Colombia among many others.  He has recently worked with many conductors such as Keith Lockhart, Yoav Talmi, Gerhardt Zimmermann, Myron Michailidis, Donato Cabrera, Robert Franz , Dina Gilbert, and Adam Johnson.

In solo recitals, Sheng Cai has been heard in many prestigious venues in North America, such as Steinway Hall in New York, Jordan Hall in Boston, Chicago’s international Music Center, the Cleveland Play House, the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham, and CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

Sheng Cai began his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto followed by studies at the Juilliard School’s pre-college division in New York. He received his Bachelor of Music Degree, under full scholarship, at The New England Conservatory in Boston. His teachers and mentors include pianists Anton Kuerti, Gary Graffman and Russell Sherman.

Our Orchestra

First Violins

Jose Molina, Concertmaster*

Margaret Zak

Carol Sammut

Paul Macnaughton

Yonhee Chang

Roza Ushkanova

Jef ten Kortener

Bridget Walsh


Second Violins

Elayne Ras *

Philipp Samutin

Alison Feuerwerker

Jay Samuel

Janine Smith

Veronica Kroess


* Principal Player



Catherine Molina  *

 Sheila Smyth

 Ron Dolynchuk

Linda Umbrico

Charles Small



Jeremy Cook *

Janusz Boroiec

Marlena Tureski

Keren Canche

Stephanie Lai


Double Basses 

Mac VanDuzer*

Ralph Blackman 

Lech Straczynski


Esther Choi*

Christoph Kessel


David Vanbiesbrouck*

Paul Goeglein



Larry Moser *

Tilly Kooyman



Simion Ciobanu *

Lulia Tiba



Andras Molnar *

Todd Holland 





Tony Snyder * 

Kim Christensen

Heath Allen

Jeryl Phillips


Bob Phillips *

Leila Mehkeri

Collins Saunders


Al Carter *



David Knight *


Rich Burrows

Ryan MacKinnon


Special Thanks to our Donors!

GOLD BATON $1,000+

Friends of the Guelph Symphony (FOGS)

Dorothy Bakker & Danny Lui

Peter Hannam

Marilyn Kuhn & Zoltan Petrany

Theresa Lammer

Gerry & Suzanne Meinzer

Catherine & Jose Molina

Harold & Marilyn Quinn

Stephen Salt


SILVER BATON $500-$999


June Cauthers

David & Janet Knight


BRONZE BATON $250-$499

Barbara Alderson

Ian & Carol Blain

John Hofstee

Simon and Janice Irving

Marion Steele

Janet Takata

Sylvia & Glen Tarlin

Butch & Judy Waldrum

Special Thanks to!

Dorothy & Ken Fisher

Cynthia Davis

Danny & Dorothy Bakker

Larry Walsh, photography

David Knight, production

The Guelph Concert Band (for the loan of percussion instruments) 

All of our patrons and supporters!


FRIEND  $100-$249

Aileen & John Campbell

Edwina & Neil Carson

David & Wilma Churchill

Malcolm & Marta Coutts

Nicole deFrancesco

Dorothy & Ken Fisher

Judy Kingdon

Rosanne Morris & Duncan MacKenzie

Anne Mattheson

Joe Ringhofer

Monika Wright


And to the

GSO Board of Directors

Lisa Kohlmeier, Chair
Danny Lui, Treasurer
Kim Wakeford, Corporate Secretary

Frank Brewster
Cynthia Davis
Shane Fernandes
Roger Garriock
Catherine Molina, ex-officio