On a crisp late-autumn evening, Bob and Alice Thomas sit across from one another in their living room discussing the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the first CPO performance they attended at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.
Bob and Alice reminisce about that first performance, trying to recall what that first concert so many years ago had been.
“I think it was Mahler,” Bob says.
“That’s right — it was a Mahler,” Alice agrees. “It was quite an excitement about that whole event, as there is when there is the first concert of the season.”
The Thomases, who are both in their seventies, can be described as nothing short of art enthusiasts. A quiet, mild-mannered couple, the two moved to Calgary in 1967.
Since then, they have held season tickets at one point or another to many of the major arts establishments in the city, from Theatre Calgary and Alberta Theatre Projects, to Alberta Ballet and Calgary Opera. However, it is the Philharmonic that their heart truly belongs to. The two have had season tickets to CPO since the ’70s.
At one point in time, the couple held season tickets to four different arts establishments in the city.
“We actually had a hard time keeping up with all of them,” Alice says. “And then we’ve gradually decreased them to the point that we go to the occasional theater and the occasional event at the Jubilee. But we’ve restricted it primarily to the Philharmonic, because I think Bob enjoys those a lot more than any of them.”
CPO performs for 100,000 people each year. Bob and Alice see four performances annually, and both agree that it is important for their quality of life to participate in the arts regularly.
Although neither of them has much experience in music — “I enjoy it but I can’t perform it,” Bob acknowledges — both of them share a love of music.
Photo by: Danielle Semrau
The two originally purchased tickets back in the 1970s because of Bob’s interest in classical music. Alice says with a fond laugh that Bob “chooses the concerts and I go along.”
At the start of their relationship with CPO, the orchestra performed at the Jubilee Auditorium. In 1985, CPO moved into Jack Singer Concert Hall at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts. Alice fondly remembers the very first concert the two saw at the renowned concert hall.
It was quite memorable, she says, adding she enjoys the first concert of any season because everybody sings the national anthem. The combination of the orchestra playing and everybody singing is, she says, incredibly exciting.
It is perhaps this energy that keeps the couple going back time and again, year after year. As time wears on, the memories of many of the shows fade, with only the strongest of the performances standing out. This year, the couple says that the first show was quite incredible.
“It was the tribute to 9/11 and they had the (John) Adams piece, which was specially written for 9/11,” Alice says. “And then that finished off with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
“That first – that Adams piece – was just amazing with the sounds and the lighting. They just did a magnificent job with that. And of course Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the most beloved pieces around.”