Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra (KWSO) was founded in 1944, to accompany the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir. The orchestra's founders included Glenn Kruspe (the choir's conductor 1941-60), Charles Thiele, and the percussionist Archie Bernhardt.

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra (KWSO) was founded in 1944, to accompany the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir. The orchestra's founders included Glenn Kruspe (the choir's conductor 1941-60), Charles Thiele, and the percussionist Archie Bernhardt. The choir and orchestra first performed together 17 April 1945 at Kitchener's Queen Street Auditorium. The first orchestral concert followed 21 October 1945 at Kitchener's Lyric Theatre; the program included the Grieg Concerto with Ada B. Eby as soloist. The KWSO has grown to comprise 52 full-time musicians; it performs over 80 concerts each season. A Kitchener-Waterloo Junior Symphony Orchestra (later renamed the Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Orchestra) was formed in 1967 and performed under the senior orchestra conductor.

Conductors and Artistic Directors

Glenn Kruspe was conductor and music director of the KWSO 1944-60. He was succeeded by Frédéric Pohl (b Strasbourg 1898, d 1979). During Pohl's term 1960-70, the 65-piece orchestra performed at the Capitol theatre and Kitchener Collegiate. Boris Brott was interim conductor for the 1970-1 season. Raffi Armenian became music director in 1971. He remained the KWSO conductor until 1993. He was succeeded by Chosei Komatsu that year, and Martin Fischer-Dieskau in 2002. In 2004, Simon Streatfeild was artistic advisor and principal guest conductor, with Brian Jackson as principal pops conductor, Daniel Warren as resident conductor, and Raffi Armenian as music director laureate.

The orchestra has welcomed many guest conductors over the years. In 1992, guest conductors included Christopher Kendall, Samuel Wong, Richard Buckley, Bernhard Gueller, Colman Pearce, Brian Jackson, Odaline de la Martinez, and Georg Hanson.

Performance History

In 1972 the orchestra moved for its concerts to the Humanities Theatre at the University of Waterloo. In the early 1970s it began to program music by Canadians (eg, Applebaum, Beckwith, Somers, Schafer) and concert versions of operas (La Traviata, Carmen, La Bohème, Don Giovanni), and to present outstanding Canadian soloists (Jon Kimura Parker, Jon Vickers, Anton Kuerti). The orchestra also accompanied productions of the Centre Opera Studio (founded in Waterloo, 1977).

In 1980 the orchestra began performing in the Centre in the Square. Performing 30 concerts in its inaugural season there, the orchestra later expanded its season to more than 60 concerts, many of them heard on the CBC. Series in the 1990-1 season included Masterpiece, Pops, Seagram Sunday Serenade (the light classics), Baroque and Beyond, two series for children, and an extensive program of school concerts for more than 15,000 children annually. The orchestra presented its first free outdoor concert in the 1989-90 season. Highlights of its programming included a ten-year Mahler cycle under Armenian, and the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with Anton Kuerti in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.

In 1996, the orchestra featured guest performers such as Jon Kimura Parker, Quartetto Gelato, the Penderecki Quartet, and the Gryphon Trio.

The KWSO provides learning programs and presents free performances in hospitals and other facilities. In 1992, the orchestra promoted the Adopt-a-player program of school talks. In 1998, KWSO with composer-in-residence Peter Hatch performed in Kitchener's NUMUS concerts with the Elora Festival Singers and at the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound.


In the fall of 1988 the full orchestra toured for the first time, performing concerts in central and northern Ontario. It toured New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland in November 1990. In addition to tours within Canada, the KWSO toured Europe in 1984, 1986 and 1990, and South America in 1984 and 1989, where its music was defined as the "golden sounds of Canada" (Kitchener-Waterloo Record). In 1996, the orchestra toured Japan.


Many of the orchestra's early concerts have been recorded. It has also recorded over 16 CDs, including Brahms: Serenades (CBC, 1995) and Wagner: Siegfried Idyll with the Canadian Chamber Ensemble (1996). In 1997, KWSO and Japan's Ark System Corporation signed an international recording and broadcast deal, a North American first. The orchestra is heard regularly on CBC Radio. In 2002, under conductor David Alger, the KWSO recorded a concert with Angela Cheng. The CBC has recorded KWSO performing works by Jacques Hétu, Malcolm Forsyth and Phil Nimmons (1994). In 1996 a KWSO recording was the winner of the Grand Prix du Disc.


In 1995, the KWSO performed Inner Voices by Melissa Hui; this was a KWSO commission (with the Saskatoon Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestra). In 1998 the KWSO, in cooperation with NUMUS and the Elora Singers, premiered a string quartet by Glenn Buhr.


The orchestra has been supported by the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo, and by individual donors and corporate sponsors. As part of a program funded by the Canada Council, Gary Kulesha was named composer-in-residence with the orchestra in 1988 for a three-year term.

See also Kitchener and Waterloo, Canadian Chamber Ensemble

Further Reading

  • 'Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony... ' CanComp, 23, Nov 1967

    Edds, Jack. 'See what the black walnut produced,' OCan, vol 4, Sep 1977

    Machan, Claire. The First 40 Years (1945-1985) - The History of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra (Kitchener 1986)

    "Adopt-a-player is a great success," Orchestra Canada, vol 19 no 3, Mar 1992

    "Armenian's farewell season," Orchestra Canada, vol 19 no 4, Apr/May 1992

    "World of Music - Musicmakers, Kitchener," Classical Music Magazine, vol 16 no 4, Sep 1993

    Carter, Christine. "Symphony Highlights," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 19 Apr 1996

    Finch-Durichen, Paulin. "Japanese deal 'like magic'," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 4 Apr 1997

    "World of Music - Musicmakers, Kitchener," Classical Music Magazine, spring 1998

    Poole, Elissa. "From chopsticks to Mozart," Words and Music, vol 5 no 10, Nov/Dec 1998

    Everett-Green, Robert. "The conduct of an anti-maestro: What the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony didn't want was an autocratic leader," Globe and Mail, 30 May 2003

    "KWSO association members to gather Feb 16," Globe and Mail, 7 Feb 2004

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