SSO’s Principal Flute to Say Goodbye With Departures

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Sarah Yunji Moon will play her last engagement with the SSO during a concert on April 27. (Julie Isaac Photography)

After two seasons as principal flute with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO), Sarah Yunji Moon is preparing to say goodbye. 

In September 2016, Moon moved from Toronto to take up the position in Saskatoon. She has since returned to Ontario for a job at Queen’s University and will soon play her last engagement with the SSO during a concert on April 27.

“We’re so sad to see Sarah go,” said SSO executive director Mark Turner. “In an orchestra, it’s not uncommon to have people come and play for a few years and move on to the next step in their career. When Sarah moved here, she brought a different style and energy to the group that the audience was captivated by. She was a brilliant player who regularly inspired all of us.”  

Moon will take her final bow with the SSO during a performance of the flute concerto Departures, written by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. When the SSO programmed the piece it wasn’t known that Moon would be leaving, “so, in a twist of fate, it is sort of the perfect way to say goodbye,” said Turner.

“Hatzis wrote an exceptionally demanding flute piece in Departures. It’s fiendishly difficult for the soloist; it features the flute in an endless array of techniques that we don’t normally hear from the instrument,” he said. “It’s a truly beautiful piece of music that showcases Sarah’s remarkable talents.”

Moon was born and raised in South Korea and moved to Canada with her family when she was 15. She worked and studied in a number of cities before coming to Saskatoon, including Toronto, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Halifax and Guadalajara, Mexico.

“The most memorable part of Saskatoon is the definitely winter,” said Moon. “I had never experienced anything like the winter in Saskatoon. I love seeing the ice fog on the river, and how the sound around me feels a bit dampened, like I am inside of a snow globe, on a cold -30 winter day.” 

Moon said the best part of living in Saskatoon was working with the SSO. She described it as “a very special orchestra that puts in enormous effort to keep the intimacy between the music and community,” noting she particularly enjoyed the school shows.

“Every year, 10 core members from the orchestra go to as many schools as we can in Saskatoon to play an educational concert specially designed for students,” she said. 

“We get to perform, meet and chat with many students and teachers all over Saskatoon. The questions these students ask – they can be really funny, but also surprisingly philosophical at times. I witnessed what an arts organization can bring to the community with the continuous effort in outreach, and I was very proud to be part of it. As a Korean immigrant who specializes in European classical music in Canada, working at (the) SSO taught me how to find my own ways to stay relevant and contribute to the community I belong to.” 

In addition to Departures, the April 27 concert will also feature one of the most popular orchestral works ever written: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Turner said Eroica is the piece of music the SSO has received the most requests for in the last few years – both from audience members and from the orchestra’s own musicians.

“Eroica may well be the best symphony ever written. Some symphonies have highlights mixed with sections that aren’t quite as well written; Eroica is a masterpiece from beginning to end. It’s absolutely thrilling,” said Turner.  

“Beethoven had written it with the intent of dedicating it to Napoleon, as he admired Bonaparte’s championing of the middle class. When Napoleon declared himself emperor, Beethoven was so furious he violently scratched the dedication off the score and dedicated it to the ‘memory of a great man.’ It’s full of drama and passion.  

“It’s a rollercoaster for the audience,” Turner added. “It’s Beethoven at his best – all the angst and fire and joy packed into one piece. Right before he wrote this symphony, Beethoven had accepted that he was going deaf. So I think when the audience puts that into context as they listen, it’s even more astounding that this kind of musical expression could come from such a difficult chapter in his life. The final movement is so triumphant that it leaves you breathless.”

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at TCU Place. Tickets range from $34 – $73. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go online to saskatoonsymphony.org.