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Photo by Tanvi Sankar

Become a philharmonic expert with this Continuing Education course

By Jill Girgulis, April 6 2018 — 

Feeling uninspired by midterms and finals? Want to take a fun new elective but never seem to have room in your schedule? Fortunately, there’s a solution. The University of Calgary offers a wealth of unconventional courses through their Continuing Education department, all of which are available to current U of C students and offered year-round.

One such course, HUM 405: Evenings with the Calgary Philharmonic, gives students the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and the music they perform at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary.

The course is offered during the fall, winter and spring semesters. During spring 2018, students will attend an evening classroom session during the week leading up to each of four different classical concerts offered by the CPO during the months of May and June.

Jennifer MacDonald is the director of artistic operations for the CPO and instructor for HUM 405. She says the course is both an accessible entry point to classical concerts and a way to indulge in an existing passion.  

“I think the kind of enigmatic quality of classical music is built up for various reasons and I don’t know if it’s intentional,” MacDonald says. “[We’re interested in] anything we can do to break those barriers down and help people understand that no matter where you’re coming from, whether you have no background or you have real passion and a long history of listening to classical music, you can come in and hear and listen and enjoy the concert hall.”

MacDonald describes the class as being open to students of all levels of understanding.   

“What we’re trying to do is clarify, ‘Yes, there’s a huge amount of information to learn about classical music — it’s an incredibly rich art form,’ ” she explains. “But, at the same time, it’s for everyone.”

One feature of the course is the promise of a backstage tour of the Jack Singer Concert Hall during one of the concerts that the students will attend together.

“We meet in advance and I take them through the hall and on the stage. They can see the hall from the stage perspective and [ask] any questions on the set up or the organ — there’s a lot of detail there,” MacDonald says.

Of course, there wouldn’t be an orchestra without orchestral musicians and MacDonald is eager to feature them.

“An important component of every class is that someone from the orchestra visits and talks about their perspective and their history or their road to get to a job in a professional orchestra,” she says.

If you’re interested in meeting these musicians, gaining a deeper appreciation for classical music and learning about the inner workings of the CPO this spring, consider giving HUM 405 a try.

“I tend to get pretty excited about music, so I think that that can be infectious,” MacDonald says.

HUM 405 runs from May 7 to June 16. Registration is still open. For more information, go to conted.ucalgary.ca.

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