Once again this year, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s Big Ticket concert will be hosted by a hard ticket.
Comedian Mark Critch of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” is returning to his gig as emcee for the NSO’s Big Ticket gala at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre tonight, for the fifth time.
“I think he enjoys it as much as the audience enjoys seeing him,” said Heather McKinnon, member of the NSO’s board of directors and vice-chair of fundraising, with a chuckle. “I think he enjoys the banter that he exchanges with some of the more prominent members of the audience.”
This is the 20th gala concert for the NSO, which traditionally features the orchestra playing with some of the province’s up-and-coming contemporary musicians, performing the musician’s own original music.
Past guests have included Rex Goudie, Kim Stockwood, Hey Rosetta! and The Ennis Sisters.
This year, Dana Parsons will open the show with a few jazz numbers, before The Masterless Men perform four of their most popular tunes, including “Nancy Spain” and “Bramble and the Rose.”
Codroy Valley’s Sherman Downey, who won MusicNL’s Male Artist of the Year award just last week, will perform four tracks from his debut album alongside the orchestra. As of press time, Downey had yet to rehearse, and was driving in from the west coast for the show.
“(Artistic director Peter Gardner) and I keep our eyes open on who’s up and coming, and we keep a running list on who we’d like to see with the orchestra and what will work with the orchestra,” McKinnon said, explaining how they come up with guest performers.
Musicians generally jump at the chance to play with the NSO.
“It can be a little daunting in theory, but once they’re there, their musicianship takes over and it becomes natural. It’s something most of them don’t ever forget, and they call it a dream.”
“I think he enjoys it as much as the audience enjoys seeing him.” - Heather McKinnon
While traditional Newfoundland tunes and Downey’s dreadlocks and folk-pop style might not immediately conjure up images of a 60-piece, four-section orchestra, they are a magical fit, McKinnon said — especially after composer Jim Duff does the arrangements.
Also appearing on stage will be local-raised and internationally known violinist Mark Fewer, who performed with the NSO’s chamber orchestra, Sinfonia, last month.
“He’s a true fiddler, but he’s also a classical virtuouso violinist. He effortlessly switches back and forth from jazz to classical, and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” McKinnon said.
Conducted by Gardner and Marc David, the orchestra will also be performing some movie scores during the concert.
The Big Ticket pops gala has become the NSO’s main fundraiser of the year and always does well, with the money raised going to support the operation of the orchestra and to maintain its artistic programming.
Hibernia Management and Development Co. Ltd. (HMDC) has been a sponsor of the event since the first one, in 1991.
“The NSO gala blends the music of the orchestra with local singers and musicians; it is a very unique evening,” said HMDC president Paul Leonard.
“It is important for the corporate community to support the NSO, and I am pleased that (HMDC) has been supporting the symphony for 20 years.”
Tickets for the concert at $100, and are available at www.ticketpro.ca or by calling 722-4441. and the charitable portion of the price is tax deductible. Showtime is at 8 p.m.
Audience members will have the chance to mingle with the musicians in a post-concert reception in the Arts and Culture Centre’s upper concourse.