“Kerry Stratton is an extroverted conductor and all the music followed his lead towards drama, contrast and clarity.” – Stanley Fefferman, Showtimemagazine.com
Orchestral conductor Kerry Stratton brings a new world dynamism to old world music. His performances are featured on some of the world’s top labels. He regularly visits Europe and Asia, performing and touring with many of its orchestras, and bringing some of the best of them to Canada on tour. He is music director for the Huntsville Festival of the Arts, a well-established summer arts festival, and founded and tours an orchestra, the Grand Salon, which is winning fans with the sophisticated and sensual salon music of the 1920s and ’30s. These are only some of the many sides of Kerry Stratton the musician.
In the course of his international career, Kerry Stratton has conducted orchestras in Europe, North America and Asia. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia alone, he has appeared with many orchestras, including the Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic and Slovak State Philharmonic. He served also as Principal Guest Conductor with the Karlsbad Symphony of the Czech Republic. Added to these are the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic, the Budapest Concert Orchestra, the Concert-Verein Orchestra of the famed Vienna Symphony, and more. In January 2001, he became the first Canadian to conduct the St. Petersburg Camerata in the Hermitage Theatre at the Winter Palace. Asian audiences have enjoyed his performances with the Prime Philharmonic in Seoul, Korea, the Beijing Symphony in the Forbidden City, and the National Symphony in Taiwan. His North American engagements have taken him to the Mexican State Symphony Orchestra, across the U.S.A., and to a number of Canada’s orchestras.
In his Toronto home base, since 1988 Kerry Stratton has been Conductor and Music Director of the Toronto Philharmonia, the orchestra-in-residence at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. During his tenure, Maestro Stratton has developed the orchestra from an amateur ensemble to a fully professional ensemble, with a season of main series concerts, educational programs, fundraisers and a province-wide touring schedule. The orchestra has introduced audiences to exciting young singers and instrumentalists, as well as such notable guest conductors as Italian film composer and conductor Alessio Vlad, and Leos Svarovsky of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra also commissions and premieres works by Canadian composers. Three are coming up in 2007-08 alone — Awakening, a concerto for erhu and orchestra by Lee Pui Ming; Requiem for Cecilia Zhang for children’s choirs and orchestra by Kousitsky; and Concerto for Orchestra by Serge Arcuri.
In June 2007, the Czech Republic honoured Maestro Stratton in Prague with its prestigious Gratias Agit Award. The prize is given to exceptional persons who have made a significant contribution to promoting Czech culture. Among the previous recipients are former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Czech film director Milos Forman (Amadeus); Czech-Canadian industrialist Tomas Bata; and Olympic Gold Medalist, cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova. A devotee of Eastern-European music and orchestras, with a particular fondness for Czech music, Maestro Stratton explains his affinity for things Czech: “There is something about the peculiar Czech melancholy which I find distinctly Irish,” adding, “Somehow, in Prague, I feel as if they know me. I am at home.” Even before his 2007 Award, his service to both Czech and Slovak culture earned him the Jan Masaryk Award in 2000 from the Czechoslovak Association of Canada. Music and musicians from Eastern Europe figure prominently in his recorded repertoire. Slavonic Serenades, on Dorian Records – which the Washington Post called “a delight” – features him conducting the Moscow Symphony in music by Czech and Russian composers. Also on Dorian is Alan Hovhaness’ Celestial Fantasy, in which Maestro Stratton conducts the Slovak Radio Orchestra. For ARS Produktion in Europe and Universal in North America, he leads the Prague Radio Orchestra in an all-Dvorak program. Committed to broadening the repertoire of both concert and recorded orchestral music, he also conducted the world premiere recording of Franz Liszt’s De Profundis with the Hungarian State Symphony on the Hungaroton label. Sony Korea is soon to release his all-Brahms CD with the Grammy Award-winning Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra.
Not content to confine himself to the standard repertoire, in 2006 Maestro Stratton founded the 21-piece Grand Salon, Canada’s Palm Court Orchestra. It recreates the elegant salon era of the early 20th century, with irresistible music by the likes of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. A hit wherever it performs, the orchestra has even inspired audience members to leap up and dance to the infectious rhythms.
The Huntsville Festival of the Arts also enjoys the talents of Maestro Stratton, who has been its Music Director since 1992. Held in July in Ontario’s cottage country, the Festival features a professional orchestra-in-residence, accompanying acclaimed soloists. Maestro Stratton will conduct a Last Night at the Proms concert on July 22, 2007. He will also conduct a program called La belle époque at the Cedar Ridge Festival on August 11, 2007.
Kerry Stratton is on a lifelong mission to share his knowledge and passion with as wide an audience as possible. Through his company, International Touring Productions, he has created Canadian tours for such renowned orchestras as the Georg Solti Orchestra of Budapest; the Vienna Konzert-Verein and, in October 2007, the Czech Philharmonic. Arrangements are being finalized to bring over the Orchestra Internationale d’Italia in 2008. To help develop audiences and expand their appreciation of music, Maestro Stratton created a highly successful adult education course called A Little Night Music. Its innovative format offers lectures, discussions and live performances, in an intimate and non-intimidating atmosphere. Since launching in 1998, it has attracted more than 1,000 participants. Maestro Stratton grew up in rural Ontario, where his grandfather would redirect the television antenna –- in those days before cable TV –- across Lake Ontario at northern New York State, so that he could watch Leonard Bernstein’s famed orchestral concerts. His first instrument was the violin, but conducting was always his goal. After earning his degree in conducting from McGill University in Montreal, he went on to complete graduate studies at the Vienna Conservatory under Sir Charles Mackerras, the Academia Chigiana in Siena, Italy with Franco Ferrara, and L’École Pierre Monteux in Maine with Charles Bruck. Kerry Stratton sums up the joy of his life in music: “Irish poet Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy wrote, ‘We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.’ How fortunate to be able to work in this field and in a position to help other people dream their dreams.”