Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

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Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO)
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Bramwell Tovey.jpg
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Bramwell Tovey in 2009
Founded 1919
Concert hall Orpheum
Music director Bramwell Tovey
Official Vancouver Symphony Orchestra logo

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The VSO performs at the Orpheum, which has been the orchestra's permanent home since 1977. With an annual operating budget of $13.5 million, it is the third largest symphony orchestra in Canada and the largest performing arts organization in Western Canada. It performs 140 concerts per season. The VSO broadcasts annually on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2008, The VSO's recording of the Korngold, Barber, and Walton violin concerti, featuring Canadian violinist James Ehnes won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra, and a Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year.


The VSO was founded by the Vancouver Symphony Society in 1919, largely through the efforts of arts patron Elisabeth (Mrs B.T.) Rogers. A previous unrelated orchestra had operated under the name of the "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra", which was formed in 1897 by Adolf Gregory and lasted for only one season. The first conductor of the current VSO was Henry Green, with F.L. Beecher as its president and Rogers as its vice-president. The orchestra performed for two seasons before financial strains and the disappearance of Green forced the orchestra to suspend activities in 1921. Performances resumed in 1930.

Performances were held at the Georgia Auditorium from the 1940s, until 1959, when the Orchestra moved its performances to the new Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The VSO also served as the Vancouver Opera company's orchestra during the 1960s and 1970s, until creation of the separate Vancouver Opera Orchestra in 1977. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the orchestra often appeared in joint concerts with the Vancouver Woodwind Quintet.

In 1979-1980, the VSO had the largest subscription list of any symphony in North America.[1] However, in spite of a CBC recording contract, a quarterly magazine and an ambitious touring schedule, the VSO began to encounter financial difficulties. In 1988, the VSO was forced to shut down for five months to regroup and deal with a $2.3 million deficit. With local financial intervention, and a $500,000 federal grant, the VSO began to rebuild, focusing more attention on popular works and collaborations with contemporary artists. To this end, the VSO has continually appointed a composer in residence since 1996.

Since 2000, the VSO's Music Director is Bramwell Tovey. His initial contract was extended in December 2004 through the 2009-2010 season,[2] and further extended in January 2010 through the 2014-2015 season.[3] In November 2013, the VSO announced the further extension of Tovey's contract through the 2017-2018 season, and the scheduled conclusion of his music directorship of the VSO at that time. Tovey is scheduled to take the title of VSO music director emeritus with the 2018-2019 season, the VSO's 100th season.[4] The VSO and Tovey won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with Orchestra), for their recording of the Korngold, Barber, and Walton violin concerti, featuring Canadian violinist James Ehnes. The recording won a 2008 Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year (large ensemble).

The VSO's Conductor Laureate is Kazuyoshi Akiyama, who was Music Director from 1972 to 1985. Affiliated with the orchestra, the VSO launched the VSO School of Music on Sept 6, 2011. Chamber music concerts by VSO musicians take place at Pyatt Hall on the VSO School of Music campus.

Music directors[edit]

Composers in residence[edit]

Presidents and Managers[edit]

  • Victor White (1963–1972)
  • Michael Allerton (1972–1985) (Orchestra Manager)
  • John Smith (1985–1986) (Interim General Manager)
  • Ed Oscapella (1986–1989)
  • Diane Hoar (1989–1992)
  • Graeme Page (1992–1993)
  • Howard Jang (1993–1995)
  • Ron Dumouchelle (1995–2000)
  • Jeff Alexander (2000–2015)
  • Kelly Tweeddale (2015–present)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henighan, Tom (2000). The Maclean's Companion to Canadian Arts and Culture. Raincoast Books. ISBN 1-55192-298-3. 
  2. ^ Ben Mattison (20 December 2004). "Conductor Bramwell Tovey Extends Vancouver Symphony Tenure, Steps Down From Luxembourg Post". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  3. ^ David Gordon Duke, "Bramwell Tovey signs on for five more years". Vancouver Sun, 28 January 2010.
  4. ^ David Gordon Duke (2013-11-30). "VSO transition: Music director Bramwell Tovey to step down after 2018 season". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  5. ^ Bryan N.S. Gooch; Evan Ware; Lawrence Cluderay (23 June 2011). "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 

External links[edit]