The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (= OSO) is a full size orchestra in Ottawa including professional, student and amateur musicians. With around 100 musicians, the OSO is Ottawa's largest orchestra, which allows it to perform large symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Canadian composers.
In 1944, Ottawa musicians formed an orchestra with Allard de Ridder as the conductor. The 75-player ensemble was officially called the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra until 1952, but it was commonly known as the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. The Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra was suspended in 1960 because there was not sufficient funding to pay the musicians' salaries. When the National Arts Centre announced the formation of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO), a resident, full-time professional orchestra based in Ottawa, the board of the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra dissolved the ensemble.
In 1965, the largely amateur Ottawa Civic Symphony was formed by former auxiliary Ottawa Philharmonic members, under the baton of Maurice Haycock. The Ottawa Civic Orchestra was renamed the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra in 1976. The annual concert series - four concerts in 1991 - was at first performed in Ottawa high schools. In the early 1970s, the OSO began performing in the large concert hall of the National Arts Centre. Previous conductors have included Thomas Mayer (late 1950’s), Clifford Hunt (1965-1966), Nicholas Goldschmidt (1966-1967), James Coles (1969-1975), and Brian Law (1975-1991).
The OSO's Mission Statement is "to enrich the life of the community through, and to foster public appreciation for and interest in, symphonic music." OSO activities such as its concert series, educational outreach activities, and its mentorship program help to support this mission statement.
Almost all of the musicians and audience of the OSO are drawn from Ottawa and the local municipalities. The OSO musicians consist of professional musicians (including performers from the National Arts Centre Orchestra), advanced university-level music students from the University of Ottawa, and highly-skilled and experienced local amateur musicians.
Support for the OSO comes from the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, The Ontario Trillium Foundation, the City of Ottawa, the Canada Council for the Arts, the University of Ottawa, and from private donors, foundations, major companies, and season sponsors.
The OSO has a different repertoire from the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The OSO is a larger orchestra than the NACO, which allows the OSO to perform works for large orchestra that would not be possible for the NACO. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, "The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra has co-existed gracefully with the NACO, playing in the same magnificent auditorium (the Opera of the NAC) and planning its program to complement the more complex fare of the full-time orchestra."
The OSO frequently collaborates with other Ottawa-area music ensembles, such as Opera Lyra, the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the Ottawa Choral Society, the Central Youth Choir and the University of Ottawa Chorale. The University of Ottawa has had a longstanding relationship with the OSO, which includes the mentorship program (which allows advanced University of Ottawa music students to perform in the OSO).
The OSO has premiered music by Canadian composers such as Jan Jarvlepp, Jean Coulthard, Robert Fleming, Andrew Huggett and Colin Mack.
In May 1992, David Currie was appointed as music director of the OSO. As music director, his duties include leading rehearsals, conducting the orchestra concerts, and planning the programmes, and engaging in community outreach activities. As concertmaster of the OSO, David Stewart leads the first violins and performs violin solos.
The OSO presents a series of five concerts each season in Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre under Music Director and Conductor David Currie. In recent years the Orchestra has attained new levels of artistic excellence, and has experienced growth in its audiences. Reviews cite: ”robust and compelling”, “Symphony in superb form,” ”Symphony reaches new heights.” - The Ottawa Citizen
The OSO also performs a series of free educational performances. Giving students the opportunity to attend and witness live concerts, at a young age, instills an appreciation for music and fosters academic achievement. With the generous support of sponsors we are nurturing the next generation of musicians and concert patrons.