Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony | Bon Appetit!

Written and photographed by Sean M Puckett

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony | Bon Appetit!
Written and photographed by Sean M Puckett

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony | Bon Appetit! Words and images copyright 2010 Sean M Puckett. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission except as provided for by law. Published 2010 Sean M Puckett. Sean M Puckett is a photographer, writer and arts activist living and working in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Learn more about Sean and his photography at This PDF version is intended for fast viewing on computer screens and the images have been reduced in quality. If you are interested in a printed & bound book, contact the author directly.

Who could imagine a romantic evening meal without musical accompaniment? And yet, oddly enough, we’ve become accustomed to having our music served alone. Centuries ago, music and food were almost always served together, especially at large celebratory feasts. It is only in the past hundred years or so that the formal and serious classical music concert has become a tradition. Have we become too accustomed to near-perfect silence while the music plays, remaining nearly motionless in ranked rows so we do not disturb our seat mates, obeying regimented manners to applaud only when the music stops? Can we no longer conceive of an alternative? Might there be another way to enjoy music, a way foreign to us but familiar to our ancestors? This concert answers that question. Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony music director Edwin Outwater says, “music and food go together! They’re both very sensual experiences.” He has a plan to explore this sensual intersection and to challenge our formal concert traditions. Tonight, we turn the familiar romantic meal with musical accompaniment on its head: a romantic evening concert accompanied by food and wine. Bon Appetit!

Tonight’s music
Raymond Scott (1908 - 1994) Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals Per Nørgård (b. 1932) “Pastorale” from Babette’s Feast Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975) Tahiti-Trot (Tea for Two) John Estacio (b. 1966) “The Harvesters” from A Farmer’s Symphony Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) “March Past of the Kitchen Utensils” from The Wasps Cole Porter (1891 - 1964) / arr. Edwin Outwater “The Tale of the Oyster” from Fifty Million Frenchmen Lee Hoiby (b. 1926) Bon Appetit! Strawberry Alarm Clock / arr. Nicole Lizée Incense and Peppermints

Photo: KWS Librarian Corey Rempel shows us where the music sleeps. The green boxes marked EMO are Edwin Outwater’s personal collection. The crowded shelves at right are a small portion of the KWS permanent music collection.

Preparing the (musical) menu
Left: Corey prepares music for a future concert for school children. Each roughly one-inch-thick stack is a single piece of music printed in all of the versions needed by every musician that will play it. The front stack holds excerpts from John Williams’ score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Upper right: tonight’s concert, Bon Appetit, includes a famous tune most people don’t know by name, but have heard dozens of times. Raymond Scott’s Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals was musically quoted many times by renowned Warner Bros. cartoon score writer Carl Stalling. Lower right: on the table to the left of percussionist Lori West are two rusty metal objects. These are brake drums that she will strike to make metallic sounds during the performance of The Harvesters. Far right: harpist Lori Gemmell’s silhouetted hands run through a phrase during rehearsal.

Group rehearsal
Even though each musician is a virtuoso, the group still must practice together as a unit: as the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Bringing the musicians together into a musical whole is the multifaceted role of the conductor. From the podium in the centre of the orchestra, the conductor sets the tempo and can gauge whether each instrument is playing too loudly or softly. More importantly, the conductor is responsible for the feel of the music. Through body language, movement and facial expression, the conductor directs the orchestra to perform symphonically -“sounding together as one.” Rehearsal sessions typically last about two and a half hours. Fifteen to twenty minutes of music from the final concert are covered during each session. There’s plenty of time to try variations and to adjust performances to suit the conductor’s wishes. Photo: KWS rehearsal in session.

Edwin Outwater, seen here at the conductor’s podium during rehearsal, is in his third year with the KWS. In these sessions, he listens both to the music he “hears in his head” from studying the score, and to the ideas of orchestra members. Interpretations are tried and perfected so the final public performance is at its musical best.

Above: Lori West and Dave Campion in the percussion section. Opposite: guest soloist mezzo-soprano Megan Latham in rehearsal with the KWS.

Top left: rehearsal winds down. Far left: harpist Lori Gemmell and members of the violin and viola sections. Near left: the piano is tuned before each performance. Above: KWS musicians Anthony Christie (cello), Daniel Warren (trumpet) and James Mason (oboe) at ease following the rehearsal.

Food to accompany the music
Three tasting courses are planned for the evening. Each course will be served on a small spoon with just enough on it to give the audience a taste of the featured flavour. With over 200 seats in the audience and three courses, preparing the food is a two-person job. Natalie Benninger, coowner of Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 restaurant in Waterloo, along with server Kevin Kraemer, work feverishly before the concert to prepare the courses: 1. Endive salad with caramelized walnuts and Benedictine blue cheese, from the movie Babette’s Feast, will accompany the music from that scene in the film: Per Nørgård’s Pastorale Moderato. 2. Crisp cornmeal polenta cake with micro herb salad in a lemon vinaigrette, a dish that goes perfectly with John Estacio’s The Harvesters. 3. Gâteau au Chocolat, created by Julia Child, will be served during Bon Appetit by Lee Hoiby. Left, from top: Kevin prepares the endive salad; tasting spoons ready for their savoury payload; Edwin sampling the gâteau as Nat looks on. Right: Kevin awaits the signal to bring the tasting courses to the front of the house for service.

The evening begins
The KW Symphony performs its main series events -Signature and Pops, eight concerts each -- at Kitchener’s world renowned Centre in the Square, a 2000+ seat facility. The KWS has such a dedicated following in the region that these performances take place three times, twice in Kitchener and then once more in River Run Centre in the nearby city of Guelph. Bon Appetit, part of the smaller Intersections series, is being performed at the 300+ seat Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, the KW Symphony’s new home in downtown Kitchener. Two nights of performances are also required to handle the ticketing demand for Bon Appetit. Thursday’s premiere concert was sold out, and Friday’s concert, tonight, only has a few unsold seats remaining.

Left: before patrons are admitted to the hall, the evening’s ushers are briefed on the emergency exits. Right, from top: the audience gathers in the lobby; the audience begins to fill in; central seats are taken quickly.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra
“The KWS was formed in 1945, the brainchild of Dr. Glenn Kruspe, then-director of the Philharmonic Choir, who suggested forming an orchestra to play for a choir performance in April of that year. The performance was an overwhelming triumph, with over 2000 people in attendance. “Today, the KWS performs over 90 concerts every season to a combined audience of over 90,000 concert-goers. Nationally acclaimed, the KWS is the cultural centrepiece of the Waterloo Region. Comprehensive school programs and free concerts at hospitals, soup kitchens and seniors’ homes are offered every year to the community. “The KWS also supports the activities of a Youth Orchestra Program, which involves five distinct ensembles: Preludium Strings, Youth Strings, Youth Sinfonia, Youth Orchestra and Valhalla Brass. Its musicians range in age from 8 to 24, and number over 100.” --- KWS Biography, from

The orchestra from above
There are fifty-five musicians in this photograph, including: Eight violins, six violas, six cellos, seven second violins, two trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, four horns, percussion, tympani, four basses, two clarinets, two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, a harp and a keyboard player. Plus a soloist, and a conductor. And when they play together, they play as a single musical entity. A symphony orchestra is a truly amazing example of cooperative and synchronized human group activity.

Intersections and conversations
Tonight’s concert abandons our classical concert habits of formality and seriousness not only by bringing food together with music, but by adding conversation during the concert as well. At left, a live video feed opens up during the concert to Nick Benninger, Nat’s partner, back at the Uptown 21 restaurant. Edwin and Nick converse briefly about music and food, and Nick admits that he prefers the Rolling Stones to classical works. Edwin’s fine with that; he likes the Stones too! Above right: Edwin and Nat chat between songs. Centre right: during intermission, Bryan Izzard, owner of artbar -- a bistro favourite of KW’s art and music crowd -- serves wine he has chosen to compliment the music and tasting courses. Below right: in another break of formal concert tradition, the wine is permitted into the theatre. Wine and food during a classical music concert? Yes!

The tasting
The challenge for the evening is to serve three tasting courses to the audience while the orchestra is playing -- without causing undue disruption. Careful planning and timing are essential, as are the cautious and considerate hands of the ushers.

Left, from top: from a sideboard staged in the lobby, Kevin stages the tasting spoons on trays; ushers carry these trays into the hall; waiting for the cue to begin service. Near right: an overhead view of the tasting. Ushers bring the trays quietly down the steps and pass them to patrons at the end of each row. Patrons pass them across, taking a spoon each. Later, trays cross again to collect empty spoons. Far right: sampling the polenta.

The second half
Audience members, having heard about the selections of wine chosen to match the music and the food, are intrigued by the possibilities. Most have chosen to bring their beverages back into the hall to complete the sensual triple-play: food, music and wine.

Left: returning from intermission, a patron descends the stairs just in time for the second half to begin.

The soloist: Megan Latham
The second half of the concert also brings us tonight’s soloist: Canadian mezzo-soprano Megan Latham. Ms. Latham’s rich, melodic and artful voice is a perfect compliment to the musical works to come. From Cole Porter to 60’s psychedelic rock to the avant garde musical experiment Bon Appetit, her keen feeling for dramatic portrayals never leads the audience astray. In this photo, Ms. Latham is wearing a pink shawl and is standing just to the left of conductor Edwin Outwater.

In this overhead shot, Ms. Latham performs Edwin Outwater’s orchestral arrangement of the humorous Tale of the Oyster, a playful and light-hearted story about the adventures of an eponymous shellfish written by the jazz-era master Cole Porter. The next piece is Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit, an interesting musical recapitulation of Julia Child’s recipe for gâteau au chocolat (chocolate cake). The vocal performance includes not only the full recipe for the cake, but also every word spoken by Ms. Child during the episode of the television programme that presented the recipe. As the final song for the evening, she will perform in an orchestral arrangement of the famous 1960’s psychedelic rock song Incense and Peppermints by Strawberry Alarm Clock. The arranger for this innovative version, Nicole Lizée, is in the audience.

The evening ends
We have spent two and a half hours exploring the intersection of food and music. With classical orchestral compositions, jazz standards, art songs, and psychedelia -- accompanied by wine and both sweet and savoury tasting experiences -the evening has been a sensual tour-de-force. One of Edwin’s final comments to the audience: “Thank you for coming out for something we’ve never done before, and something I’ve never even heard of before!” With daring experimentation like this, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Intersections series is on the leading edge of orchestral musical performance. I know I speak for more than myself in saying that I am thrilled to live in a community that is willing to take artistic risks like this, see them through with talent and enthusiasm, and thereby produce something new and wonderful! Bravo! Left: the audience and orchestra members applaud Ms. Latham’s performance. Right, from top: ushers open the doors as the concert ends; patrons in the lobby, on the way home after a satisfying evening; Kevin cleans up the preparation area.

KWS staff and volunteers
The non-profit Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony is not just a group of musicians. Nearly two dozen staff members plus many volunteers work to keep the organization running. So, when you think of the KWS, don’t just think of the wonderful music and the talented musicians -- also think of the hard-working and dedicated team working behind the curtain. Administration Genevieve Twomey, Amy Higgins Artistic Edwin Outwater, Olga Myachajluk Finance Marilyn Fitzpatrick Development Jana Gordon, Sarah McPherson, Sandra Villaraga Marketing Jessica Jones-Deziel, Tal Hebdon, Esther Wheaton, Stephanie Munger, Rob Covens Education & Outreach Christopher Sharpe, Barbara Kaplanek Operations Laurie Castello, Dawna Coleman, Michelle Lawson, Corey Rempel, Nancy Wharton

This book would not have been possible without the enthusiastic cooperation of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony staff and musicians. Not only have they given me full freedom and access to their rehearsals and concerts, they have responded enthusiastically to every idea and challenge I’ve thrown their way. It is every author’s dream to work with a group who are so engaged and responsive. For this book in particular, I would like to thank Jessica and Dawna for cheerfully making impossible things possible. Thanks again. -- Sean M Puckett, March 2010

Written and Photographed by Sean M Puckett |

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