By Troy Hasselman, February 8 2019—
University of Calgary graduate Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser will conduct Soul Legends: From Isaac Hayes to Marvin Gaye in his debut with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance covers genres ranging from soul to funk to disco from a list of artists including Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Outkast. The performance is also part of celebrations for Black History Month.
Currently based in Kitchener, Ontario, Bartholomew-Poyser hails from Calgary and has performed with orchestras across North America, including Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax and the San Francisco Symphony. This performance will be his debut conducting the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. His love of music originated from his childhood in Calgary and was further deepened by his time at the U of C as a student in the school’s music program.
“In Grade 6 I heard the band at Branton Junior High School play the theme from Superman. That’s how I knew I wanted to take band. From there, when my band teacher found out that a very close relative of mine had died, she said I should listen to Mozart’s Requiem. That was a big moment for me,” Bartholomew-Poyser says. “I owe a lot to my U of C professors, many of whom are still teaching at the school,, like Ken DeLong, Jeremy Brown and Allan Bell, who all deeply inspired my love of music and gave me a great education.”
The performance’s use of orchestral instruments in the context of popular music is not necessarily a new idea, but it’s one that Bartholomew-Poyser thinks will become increasingly prevalent in the future.
“Orchestral instruments have always been used in soul music. Putting a show on with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is a natural outgrowth of what has been happening in soul music for years,” Bartholomew-Poyser says. “There is a distinction in terms of style between classical and popular music styles. But there is also a lot of crossover. For example, Beyoncé’s Lemonade uses strings and quotes from Tchaikovsky. I think we will continue to see an increased use of orchestral music in pop music. We will see more people not only wanting to listen to music but perform it privately in their own home and for their own enjoyment.”
Bartholomew-Poyser is the subject of a yet untitled upcoming documentary about his life as a black member of the LGBTQ+ community in the orchestral world. While he says he sees the orchestral world as inclusive and accepting place he does hope to see more representation in the orchestral world.
“I do know there are many notable people who have been a part of the LGBTQ community who have done orchestral music since time immemorial and that has made it a much safer space in my experience,” he says. “What’s interesting is that less than one per cent of people involved in classical music are black. The orchestral world is about 90 per cent white. I hope more kids of colour will consider making the arts part of their life or a viable thing that they can do. I hope my performing in orchestral music will break stereotypes about people of colour, what we do, what we listen to and what we like.
“Having had my experience I think the best thing that I can do is to continue to pursue excellence as best I can and hope that I can open doors for others along the way.”
Bartholomew-Poyser was also pleased that Soul Legends will be the first concert he conducts in Calgary.
“It’s gonna be a great concert and I’m really proud that my first concert in Calgary is going to be a concert of music that everybody can enjoy,” he says.
Soul Legends: From Isaac Hayes to Marvin Gaye will be performed at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Feb. 9. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through the Calgary Philharmonic website or by calling 403-571-0849.