Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conductor returns for ‘Women Rock’

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conductor returns for ‘Women Rock’
As the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s first only female associate conductor, Melanie Leonard made CPO history in 2012.

Now, Leonard is back to lead the orchestra in its latest concert, Women Rock.

“I think it certainly makes sense that a woman conductor would conduct a program that honours women in music,” Leonard said during a rehearsal at the Jack Singer Concert Hall this week. “Certainly I’m happy to be here and to be performing this music.”

Women Rock features the work of several female artists who are credited with changing rock and roll forever.

“It’s a program that highlights the talents of singers and songwriters that were all women,” explained Leonard. “So singers like Tina Turner, for example.”

“Women Rock” features the work of several female artists who are credited with changing rock and roll.

Vocalists Tamika Lawrence, Katrina Rose and Cassidy Catanzaro sing a variety of popular hits accompanied by a small rock band and a much larger orchestra.

“You have to stay grounded,” Lawrence said, “because otherwise the music can become overwhelming and you get caught up in the rapture so you have to stay that much more grounded.”

The performance is likely to take a few concert-goers by surprise — Lawrence, who is new to the show, just asks that people keep open minds.

“I think it’s really awesome when something that is considered heightened and classical can come together with something that is more contemporary,” she said.

“Women Rock” features the work of several female artists who are credited with changing rock and roll.

Katrina Rose has been with the production since it’s inception in 2017 and said she loves how audiences respond to it.

“A lot of these symphony audiences that we’re going into have no idea what they’re in for,” Rose said with a laugh. “I sort of joke during the show that you think you’re going to have a classy night at the symphony and then we’re screaming rock and roll songs at you.”

Rose said the orchestra provides an “amazing energy” to the songs.

“To have those exciting new string lines that you’ve never heard or [a] horn section that’s really crazy — it comes out of nowhere — there’s just a real excitement to it,” she said.

“Women Rock” features the work of several female artists who are credited with changing rock and roll.

Cassidy Catanzaro has also been with Women Rock since the beginning.

“It wasn’t until I got to our first symphony show that I realized, I think, the magnitude of this thing and how you sort of have to bring your ‘A’ game [because] you’re with the best of the best across the land — really, all these symphonies are at the top of their game,” said Catanzaro, who is also the lead singer of the all-female rock band Antigone Rising.

“It’s so beautiful and it’s so powerful and it’s such a huge responsibility,” she added. “I mean all these songs mean so much to so many people. People grew up listening to these songs and they were done by the best artists in our business.”
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