Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra ends season with final conductor

The Bay City Times, MI
March 18 2004

Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra ends season with final conductor

By Amy Jo Johnson

Geoffrey Moull likes Freddie Mercury, Sting and Eric Clapton, but
it’s the symphony that really makes his heart skip a beat.

Conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra in Canada, Moull will
be charged with keeping the beat Saturday when he serves as guest
conductor for the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra.

The 8 p.m. concert at First Presbyterian Church is the final concert
of the orchestra’s 2003-04 season and a tryout for Moull, who is
vying to become the orchestra’s permanent conductor.

Moull is the last of five conductor candidates to lead the orchestra
this year. Symphony leaders hope to select a new orchestra conductor
by the end of May.

Moull said he wants the job because, even though SBSO would have
fewer performances than his present orchestra, there would be more
musicians – allowing for a greater repertoire of music.

“I can perform a repertoire in Saginaw that I can’t perform in
Thunder Bay,” he said.

Moull says he’d also like to move from Thunder Bay’s remote
wilderness setting.

The orchestra will perform songs from Ravel, Tschaikovsky, Debussy
and Mendelssohn under Moull’s direction on Saturday.

“It’s a very nice program. Very eclectic,” he said. “It’s almost like
going on a field day as a kid – meeting a new orchestra and meeting
new people involved with the orchestra.”

Moull is in his glory when working with symphonic music, but he’s
open to other musical styles, too.

He likes some blues, and a Jeans in Classics program in Canada that
teams rock music with symphonic arrangements has struck his fancy. A
recent concert event focused on the music of Queen.

But there will be no Britney Spears or R. Kelly CD purchases in
Moull’s future.

“I don’t feel that has much to do with music anymore,” he said.
“That’s just pure commercialism. There’s no artistic depth to it.”

Moull said the general public has this view that symphonic music is
some elitist thing that they can’t understand and won’t enjoy.

That’s just not true, he said. There’s no education or training
required to enjoy the beauty of the symphony, Moull said.

“You just have to go in with an open mind and listen,” he said.

Moull holds a bachelor of music degree in conducting from McGill
University in Montreal. To his amazement, he graduated without ever
having stood in front of an orchestra.

He went on to further his education at the Staatliche Hochschule fur
Musik in Detmold, Germany, earning master’s degrees in conducting and

After he finished his formal studies, Moull stayed on in Germany for
17 years working his way up the conducting ladder.

“Conducting is a long process,” he said.

Moull returned to Canada in 2000, making Thunder Bay his home.

Today, he conducts the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, which employs
30 full-time musicians for 24 weeks of the year.

The orchestra takes its show on the road touring cities in northern
Ontario for two weeks each season – covering a geographical area the
size of France, Moull said.

“If we didn’t come to these towns, they would have no exposure to
symphonic music at all,” Moull said.

The Thunder Bay orchestra also is active with the schools, where many
of the music and sports programs have been cut, he said.

“We’re essentially the missing link to try to get kids interested in
music again,” Moull said.

The featured soloist for Saturday’s concert is cellist Suren
Bagratuni, of East Lansing.

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, Bagratuni began his musical education there
at age seven. He began performing at age 10 and appeared as a
concerto soloist by age 14.

Bagratuni has performed throughout the former Soviet Union, Europe
and the United States. He’s appeared with the Moscow Philharmonic,
the Boston Pops, the Armenian Philharmonic, the Philharmonic
Orchestra of Halle in Berlin, and the symphony orchestras of Chile,
Guatamala and the Dominican Republic.

Concert tickets for Saturday’s performance can be purchased by
calling the SBSO office in Saginaw at (989) 755-6471 or by calling A
& J Galleries in Bay City at 891-1400.

Season tickets for next year’s concert series aren’t yet available
but should be on sale early in June. Those interested in purchasing
season tickets should call 755-6471 to be put on the SBSO’s mailing

– Amy Jo Johnson covers features for The Times. She can be reached at

WHO: Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Geoffrey
Moull and guest cellist Suren Bagratuni

WHAT: Final concert of the ‘Pathway to the Future’ series
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: First Presbyterian Church, 805 Center Ave.
TICKETS: $30 in advance or at the door, $10 for students
INFO: (989) 755-6471