MY TOWN | Music Maestro
Not only is Boris Brott one of Canada's most famous conductors, he's a household name in Hamilton, too. His namesake music festival is celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, and in true Boris fashion, he sat down with Marc Skulnick to look back on his career at home, and abroad.
What brought you to Hamilton?
The feasibility study for Hamilton Place. I was assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic and was introduced to Tom DeGaetani of Bolt, Beranek and Newman, a New York Arts Consultancy firm hired by the city to advise on the building of Hamilton Place. Learning I was Canadian, he hired me to help in the study.
How has the city influenced your music career?
First, Hamilton influenced my life in that I met my wife Ardyth here and we have lived and brought up our three children here. Hamilton is a perfect place to live and bring up a family.
In Hamilton I was able to realize my dream in the creation of an orchestra made up of chamber musicians which, in 23 years, grew into a Canadian success story – when I left the Hamilton Philharmonic we had more subscribers to our concerts than the Ti-Cats had to their football games.
The Hamilton audiences are devoted supporters who have cheered my accomplishments both in the city and abroad for over 43 years.
You've performed all over the world, but what's your greatest hometown Hamilton career highlight?
Probably conducting Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Brott Festivals for a standing room only audience at Hamilton Place. We're planning to do it again in August 2013! But there were so many highlights – helping to found Opera Hamilton as its first conductor, building the Hamilton Philharmonic to a 42-week season and, probably most of all, the Brott Festival and National Academy performances. 2013 is the 26th anniversary for the festival, and the 25th for the academy.
You've enjoyed an international career as guest conductor: What's the one orchestra/symphony you'd like to conduct?
I'd love to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. I think they are probably the greatest orchestra in the world. They play with such excellence and yet such engagement – moving to the music like a 100-member rock group. I love the "sound" of that orchestra. It has a smooth elegance unequalled in the world.
Best meal you've eaten in the city?
Too many great restaurants to make such a definitive choice: Shakespeare's, Hamilton Club, Lo Presti's, Denninger's for lunch, Coach and Lantern Pub in Ancaster, Carriage House Burlington, Lord Nelson… etc.
One-way streets: love 'em or hate 'em?
Love 'em! There were never traffic jams in Hamilton. Bring them back!
What's one local event you look forward to every year?
(besides the Brott Music Festival, of course!) James Street North Art Crawl!
What's your favourite thing to do in the city?
Pier Four, walking along the waterfront trail.