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Regina Symphony Orchestra receives $200,000 emergency fund to stay afloat

A staple of Regina’s arts community is receiving a much-needed boost, after being on life support for the last year.

On Thursday, a one-time, $200,000 investment was made to the Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO) from the Government of Saskatchewan.

“The RSO has entertained and educated us for over a century, but now their future is at risk,” an emotional parks, culture and sport minister Laura Ross said Thursday.

The investment comes at a time the orchestra said they were barely getting by, and likely wouldn’t make it past the next few months.

“We’ve been hanging on with just cash flow (from ticket sales) this particular year, and things were getting extremely tight,” Ian Yeates, RSO board chair said.

“This is not unusual in the business, but it isn’t comfortable. When anything goes sideways, we have very little financial depth and I don’t need to tell you that the COVID-19 period from 2020-22 pushed us to the brink.”

And while audiences have returned over the last year, the orchestra is not seeing anywhere near same level of attendance it once was.

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For orchestral non-profits such as the RSO, ticket prices cover only about 25-30 per cent of operating expenses.

Yeates said the money will be primarily used to pay the musicians and rent spaces to perform.

RSO director and conductor Gordon Gerrard is one of those impacted by the emergency funding, allowing him to continue in his position he has held for the last eight years.

He said the opportunity to continue performing isn’t something he is taking for granted.

“What we do would be meaningless without an audience,” Gerrard said. “It means the world to us to see each one of those people that comes out to our concerts.”

The RSO has been in the community since 1908, marking 116 years since its inception.

Gerrard says there certainly has been some rough patches along the way, but it’s nothing they haven’t bounced back from before.

“You imagine what southern Saskatchewan must have looked like in 1908… I’m sure they had a lot more pressing concerns at the time than, ‘Hey, let’s start an orchestra.’  But they did, and they’ve kept it going,” Gerrard said.

“I think that’s just incredible and it’s a testament to who the people of Saskatchewan are.”

As for what’s next, the RSO will be performing Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone live in concert at the Conexus Arts Centre this weekend, before getting ready for their 2024 -2025 season.

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