For a long time, the pandemic stripped music from our lives. We could listen to music in our homes, of course, and I suppose those evenings where we’d bang our pots from a distance was a form of music, but concerts were not permitted, singing at school was banned, and bands and orchestras that once played together were separated. It was depressing. Now that things have opened up, we’re seeking out opportunities to enjoy music, for ourselves and our kids. One of the greatest experiences our city has to offer is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert Series.
Don’t let the name fool you: while the programming is designed to introduce children and youth to a wide range of orchestral music, it is also designed for adults to enjoy too. “This is not a children’s concert, it’s a family concert. It’s music for everybody, young and old,” says Conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, specifically talking about mad.sad.glad, taking place this Sunday, May 15, but also referring to all TSO Young People’s Concerts.
A symphony of feelings, mad. sad. glad. shows audiences the power that music has to channel and support our emotions. “It’s about experiencing our emotions and how music can accompany our journey,” says Bartholomew-Poyser, explaining how the concert will use instruments and music to explore each feeling, while also sharing real-life stories of composers, fun facts, and even jokes. “It’s about listening to our emotions, feeling our emotions and sitting with them, and that’s hopefully something that young people can take away from the concert—and also the adults!”
There are three performances happening this Sunday, including a Relaxed Performance at 11AM, intended to be sensitive to and welcoming to neurodiverse audiences, including patrons on the autism spectrum, those with sensory and communication disorders, and anyone who wants a more relaxed concert experience. “The relaxed concert looks like any other concert except for the fact that there are accommodations made. If people need to stand up in the middle of a concert and go for a walk, or if they need to stand up and dance, or move to the back of the hall, spin— we’re expecting that and they don’t need to feel any shame in it. They can do what they need to do.”
The relaxed performance is one way the TSO is broadening their audience, ensuring that they are creating an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for different Toronto communities. The other way is through the actual programming: the variety of concerts organized for young people in 2022/2023, the TSO’s centennial year, is impressive. “Everything is totally different. We have a collaboration with Platypus Theatre, and then we go in a sports direction with The Hockey Sweater—the story by Roch Carrier—then we have Why Sci-Fi?, which is all about science fiction music… then we have a concert featuring reggae!”
In Bartholomew-Poyser’s opinion, the best way to nurture a child’s love of music is to introduce them to as many genres as possible, and the TSO’s lineup offers a great range that appeals to different interests. “Give young people the choice and then let them decide.”