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Conductor Alex Prior shares his best of Edmonton

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Alex Prior, chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, is preparing for a performance of Handel's Messiah this holiday season. Supplied photo

Alex Prior is in the midst of his first season as chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The British-born musical prodigy, who conducted his first orchestra at the age of 14, is notably just 25 years old.

His latest project with the ESO is the Christmas traditional performance of Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 15 and 16.

“This year’s Messiah is going to be a first of its kind in Edmonton,” Prior tells . “A huge orchestra and a huge choir complete with three flutes, three oboes, three clarinets, three bassoons, trumpets, and trombones. This is not standard practice for Messiah as it very rarely presented this way.”

We checked in with the conductor before the big holiday performance, and asked him about how he’s finding Edmonton’s arts and culture scene.

Much was made of your move to Edmonton before joining the ESO. Why do you think it’s a place that draws creative people such as yourself?

Alex Prior A patron recently remarked “It’s the artists that make cities interesting. The rest of us just take advantage.” Artists need a workspace to invent and design, to rehearse and perform. Given all the moving parts, artists’ lives are fairly unpredictable. Edmonton is a fantastic space to create. There is something very comforting about this city. It felt like home way before my tenure as chief conductor.

Alex Prior is currently in the middle of his first season as chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Alex Prior is currently in the middle of his first season as chief conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Supplied photo
Can you name some of your favourite local Edmonton talent?

Edmonton is filled with wonderful talent and I am looking forward to taking part in more performances outside the Winspear [Centre] now that I am an Edmontonian — I hope it’s not too early to say that. My favorite homegrown talent is of course the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. These are a group of musicians who are extremely passionate about creating an experience that everyone will enjoy and feel inspired by. I am so excited to be on this fantastic journey with them. I have also been taken by the alternative theatre and music scene as well as pop-up drama. Of course, with theatre and music come wonderful people — and those people make the city.

What are some of the highlights of the cultural scene in Edmonton? Any underrated spots or places tourists should immediately check out?

I recently sat down for an interview and the headline for the feature read: Alexander Prior wants Edmontonians to take as much pride in symphony as Oilers. I think the symphony is undervalued. I have had the luxury of traveling around the world and am constantly blown away by the quality and dedication of the symphony. Now this does not surprise me in the least as the Winspear is one of the best in the world. I do run into people who ask why I chose Edmonton as I could be conducting anywhere around the word. I reply Edmonton chose me and the caliber of talent here is world class.

Do you have a favourite restaurant yet?

I have been so lucky to check out a number of fantastic places around the city and I could not just list one. I usually choose spaces close to the Winspear as I am not only a creature of habit but someone who likes to rehearse a lot. I want performers to appear effortless. It’s my job to create magic on stage. I support all restaurants in our wonderful arts district. I am looking forward to making more restaurants my favorites.

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