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Brant Performing Arts Featured Member: Brantford Symphony Orchestra

Brant Performing Arts Featured Member: Brantford Symphony Orchestra

The Brantford Symphony Orchestra has a long and storied history of performing world-class symphonic music in Brantford that dates back almost a century. Their Mission Statement reads, “Our mission is to provide the best symphonic experience, giving people of all ages opportunities for musical growth and education.”  As a collection of professional musicians, their musical genres include classical and pops; and they have worked with various choruses, soloists, and theatrical groups with world music, musicals and film themes.
It was first established in 1919 under the direction of Dr. F. C. Thomas, continuing into the mid-1930’s after which there was a gradual decline and eventual disbanding of the orchestra.
In March of 1948 the symphony “rose from the ashes” of the war years under the direction of Fred R. Godden, organist of the Wesley United church and supervisor of music at Brantford Collegiate Institute. In 1951 Mr. Godden returned to his native England and the group disbanded.
In the fall of 1953, John Gilbert was invited to conduct the new Brantford Symphony Orchestra, whose first concert was performed on May 9, 1954, at Colborne St. United Church.
In the 1960’s, they moved their venue to the Capitol Theatre under the direction of Horace Beard, who served as conductor form 1954 to 1962. Subsequent directors included Claude Keast (1962-1967), Walter Babiak (1967-1974), Stanley Saunders (1974-2001), David Bauser (2002-2005), and Philip Sarabura (2008-Present).
The current form of the Brantford Symphony Orchestra has been in existence for over fifty years. In that time they have evolved from primarily a community orchestra into a fully professional one. In large part, that evolution is in response to a change in the city of Brantford’s culture. Fifty years ago, it was normal for people of all socio-economic backgrounds to play a musical instrument as a pastime, frequently to a very high degree of proficiency. So there were a great number of people looking for an ensemble to play in. Today, there aren’t enough people in the community who play musical instruments to that high of a level so, in order to maintain an orchestra in this community, it is comprised of hired professionals.
The inspiration behind the BSO is to ensure that high-quality musical performances are something that people everywhere can experience, not just people living in a major city. It is important to the BSO to keep orchestra music alive and accessible in Brantford. They enjoy performing great music of many different styles for an appreciative audience and are so happy to do so in one of the great concert halls of North America, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts.
Most of the BSO concerts take place at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, but they also perform at St. Andrew’s United Church for a more intimate setting, and a small ensemble performs at the annual Brunch with Bach event at the Brantford Polish Hall. They also present the annual Fall Music Crawl that features three concerts at three historic locations in Brantford where guest can enjoy beautiful performances while exploring the unique concert sites.
Tickets to attend a BSO concert are: Adult $30 or $40, students $20, children and elementary children are free of charge. Subscribers who purchase tickets to all three main concerts in the series get a 15% discount.
The BSO collaborates with many local performance groups such as the Brant Men of Song, Brant County Singers, Guitar Society of Brantford and various quartets at their Fall Music. They also partner with the Brant Music Festival (formerly the Kiwanis Music Festival) to bring young soloists on stage to perform next to their professional musicians.
There are a variety of ways to be involved with the BSO events and projects. Most notably is to attend a performance, but also, one can volunteer as an usher at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts during a performance, or as a member of their Board of Directors. The BSO also holds auditions for local musicians to perform with the orchestra.
A major community event that the BSO is involved in is the Brantford Symphony Book Fair organized by the Brantford Symphony Orchestra Women’s Committee. The book fair started 54 years ago when the wives of the orchestra members started an auxiliary fundraising group to pay for the symphony performance expenses. It can have up to 30,000 books for sale that brings in almost $60,000 to go towards the operation of the orchestra. It has grown into an event the community looks forward to every year.
The Brantford Symphony Orchestra is a member of the Brant Performing Arts (BPA).
They believe it is important to work with other performance groups and help one another to make an impact in the community, as well as support future performers.
The Brant Performing Arts (BPA) formed in 2010 as a collective for the mutual benefit of Brantford and the County of Brant’s local non-profit performing arts organizations to share resources, network, and pursue shared marketing opportunities.  The group includes choirs, bands, presenters, theatre groups, storytellers, teachers, and even a symphony orchestra! For more information about the BPA or how to join the group, contact


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