As the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s first only female associate conductor, Melanie Leonard made CPO history in 2012.
Now, Leonard is back to lead the orchestra in its latest concert, Women Rock.
“I think it certainly makes sense that a woman conductor would conduct a program that honours women in music,” Leonard said during a rehearsal at the Jack Singer Concert Hall this week. “Certainly I’m happy to be here and to be performing this music.”
Women Rock features the work of several female artists who are credited with changing rock and roll forever.
“It’s a program that highlights the talents of singers and songwriters that were all women,” explained Leonard. “So singers like Tina Turner, for example.”
Vocalists Tamika Lawrence, Katrina Rose and Cassidy Catanzaro sing a variety of popular hits accompanied by a small rock band and a much larger orchestra.
“You have to stay grounded,” Lawrence said, “because otherwise the music can become overwhelming and you get caught up in the rapture so you have to stay that much more grounded.”
The performance is likely to take a few concert-goers by surprise — Lawrence, who is new to the show, just asks that people keep open minds.
“I think it’s really awesome when something that is considered heightened and classical can come together with something that is more contemporary,” she said.
Katrina Rose has been with the production since it’s inception in 2017 and said she loves how audiences respond to it.
“A lot of these symphony audiences that we’re going into have no idea what they’re in for,” Rose said with a laugh. “I sort of joke during the show that you think you’re going to have a classy night at the symphony and then we’re screaming rock and roll songs at you.”
Rose said the orchestra provides an “amazing energy” to the songs.
Cassidy Catanzaro has also been with Women Rock since the beginning.
“It’s so beautiful and it’s so powerful and it’s such a huge responsibility,” she added. “I mean all these songs mean so much to so many people. People grew up listening to these songs and they were done by the best artists in our business.”
Women Rock plays at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.