The agitated start of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” leads into one of the most well-known songs in opera canon. Saturday night’s performance was full of a hidden collection of Valkyries hiding in the Choir loft who burst into a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, totally surprising Sir Andrew Davis, celebrating his 75th anniversary.
Members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir were invited by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to fill the choir loft. Looking like regular audience members, Sir Andrew was unaware as he took the stage ready to start the opening number, “Ride of the Valkyries.” Three bars in, the Choir stood erupting into a fully orchestrated rendition of “Happy Birthday” accompanied by the entire orchestra.
Sir Andrew quickly overcame his surprise to enjoy the moving show of love. Sir Andrew has a long history with both organizations, having conducted both countless times over many seasons across his 45-year history in Toronto.
Many members of the orchestra have a long history with Sir Andrew as well. David Kent, Principal Timpanist, was one of Sir Andrew’s early hires. He shared a very kind well-wish with Ludwig Van.
“Dear Sir Andrew, when you hired me almost 40 years ago, it was right around this time of year and we were both so young. How wonderful that I am able to continue to enjoy so many performances with you for my entire career! Best wishes from me for an auspicious birthday and many more concerts to come.”
After the Happy Birthday, CEO Matthew Loden then took to the stage to give remarks. Earlier, Loden shared thoughts about the surprise in store.
“Sir Andrew Davis is one of the most joyful and thoughtful musicians I have known, and the fact that he has been on the TSO podium every season for the last 45 years is a testament to his remarkable talent,” said Matthew Loden. “We count ourselves lucky to be able to celebrate his 75th birthday together and look forward to making music with him for many more seasons!”
As for Sir Andrew, he said, “Words are failing me. I”m rather moved. it was May 1974 when I first stood on the podium at Massey Hall. For me, every time I’m here, it’s like coming home.” With a big smile on his face, he concluded, “before I start sobbing, I better stop.”
Happy Birthday, Sir Andrew!
Read our review of TSO’s Die Walküre featuring Sir Andrew Davis, here.
[Editor’s Note: The author was singing with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for this surprise.]