Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians perform pop-up concerts

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Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians perform pop-up concerts
WATCH ABOVE: When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra closed amid the pandemic, two of its members decided the music needed to play on. The pair formed the "Sonority Sisters" and have been giving pop-up performances in Toronto neighbourhoods. Melanie Zettler has been following the sound of duo's music – May 26, 2021

There’s music in the air — live music — and and it’s coming to a Toronto neighbourhood near you. But with the stay-at-home order in place, there is no time or date advertised.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal floutist Kelly Zimba and violinist Clare Semes paired up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to offer virtual concerts during the colder months.

The duo called themselves “Sonority Sisters”, a play on sound and their complementary instruments: flute and violin. Since the pair really missed playing music together and engaging audiences, they decided to try a pop-up performance at Trinity Bellwoods last summer.

“We’re kind of bored and we figure everybody else is a bit bored, too, so it’s been really nice to provide some joy,” said Zimba.

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Over the last few weeks of warmer weather in Toronto, Semes and Zimba have set up in parks all around the city — from Roncesvalles and the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood to The Beaches. These spontaneous performances are meant to delight and engage Torontonians while being mindful of physical distancing.

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“In times like these when live music is scarce, we are grateful to have this outlet for musical expression and connection,” said Semes.

Music has played a big part of their lives since childhood. Semes started playing the violin at three years old and Zimba was inspired to start playing flute at nine.

The pair met in Miami Beach when they were both fellows at the New World Symphony and both won positions in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2017.

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Since Semes and Zimba also performed at micro-weddings this past year, they’ve had to work with the requests of brides and grooms, learning a new list of songs they otherwise would have never learned to play.

“Like Earth, Wind and Fire, for example, so it’s been fun and challenging but definitely out of our orchestra comfort zone,” said Semes.

While passersby might expect pieces by Mozart and Vivaldi, it’s the unexpected pop songs from more recent decades like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Leonard Cohn’s “Hallelujah” that Semes and Zimba will sneak into the park performances.

“Even these little, mini performances with maybe 10 people listening at once really just brings me a lot of joy,” said Semes.

The Sonority Sisters plan to play through the summer at small birthday or anniversary parties and micro-weddings in addition to the pop-up neighbourhood concerts.

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