Classical Q&A with Orchestra London’s Alain Trudel

Londoners have their first opportunity to hear Orchestra London in action this season when Timothy Chooi performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 on his 1729 Guarneri del Gesù violin (on loan from the Canada Council) at Centennial Hall, October 5. The following week, principal flutist Kaili Maimets brings Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 to St. Paul’s Cathedral while Sarah Slean headlines opening night at Red Hot Weekends.  

Now in his third year on the podium, conductor Alain Trudel recently shared his thoughts on cooking up a great season, attracting new audiences, and London’s need for a new performing arts venue.

Last year you did a Beethoven-themed season. This year, Orchestra London is celebrating Mozart. What goes in to planning an orchestral season?
There is so much to take into account when you are planning a season.  It’s like planning a meal. You need the perfect mix of ingredients so that the taste leaves people with a great memory. 

Our ingredients are what the public wants to hear, as well as what kind of music I would like to introduce them to. And what type of music is good for the orchestra to play? They need to play Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Hayden. Those are very important composers but if we only played that we would bore people to death so we need to mix it up. 

I like to go out into the audience and talk with people before the show, or after. And people tell us what they enjoyed and what they would like to hear.  So it’s a mix of what the public likes, and once they trust me, what I can help them discover. We move from what we know to things we know a little bit less, and then come back to our old favourites. It’s important to have all those ingredients to have a memorable meal.

I notice that Orchestra London is now reaching out to new audiences through several different ticket packages and special programs, including a $76 Family Pass, the $65 Student Bottomless Pass, the Cultural Access Pass and the Under 36 Club. Is this a push to dispel the notion that classical music is only for the elite?
I think it’s important to create a real sense of community and in order to do this we need to invite people to join us. We need to create occasions and tools we can use to help people discover the orchestra.  We want to play for as many different people as possible and share music with everybody.

There is a big misconception out there which is really the fault of the symphonic world. We dress funny and it looks very official, but really we’re just a group of people who like playing music. You don’t need to have classical music training to enjoy the music of Mozart. Come and enjoy the music, and hear a live orchestra, which is quite different from listening to a recording.

Since London is once again debating the need for a performing arts centre, I would like to ask you – as someone who has conducted and performed all over the world – what Londoners are missing by not having a proper performing arts venue, or even an adequate orchestral concert hall?
For me, what is important about getting a new hall is to have new ways to share music. There are so many communities that I would like to welcome to our stage. I would love to do a super-big choral event, or welcome anyone who plays an instrument and do an Orchestra London music day. These are all ideas that I have, but to do them we need to have a space that would be large enough, efficient, and pleasant for the patrons.  The halls that were built around 50 years ago were all built as multi-purpose centres, but not necessarily to make live music. So this is a wonderful opportunity to come together and to create opportunities for the community to play music together. This is a place of sharing. That’s really how I see it.

(This interview has been edited and abridged.)

If You Go:
What: Mozart & Brahms - Opening Night
When: October 5 @ 8 pm
Where: Centennial Hall

What: Maimets Plays Mozart
When: October 9 @ 8 pm
Where: St. Paul’s Cathedral

What: Sarah Slean
When: October 11 & 12 @ 8 pm
Where: Centennial Hall

Nicole Laidler is a former oboist who now expresses herself with words. Visit her at



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