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IN MEMORIAM | Orval Ries, Former Conductor Of East York Symphony Orchestra, Has Died at Age 86

By Anya Wassenberg on April 2, 2024

L-R (clockwise): the late conductor Orval Rieu (Photo courtesy of the family); Oboe (Photo: Mic JohnsonLP/CC by 2.0 Deed); the York Symphony Orchestra today, with conductor Denis Mastromonaco (Photo courtesy of YSO)
L-R (clockwise): Orval Rieu (Photo courtesy of the Ries family); Oboe (Photo: Mic JohnsonLP/CC by 2.0 Deed); the York Symphony Orchestra today, with conductor Denis Mastromonaco (Photo courtesy of YSO)

Conductor and musician Orval Ries, formerly of Toronto, passed away on March 30, 2024. Ries was an oboist, vocalist, and teacher, and conductor.

After his retirement, Ries relocated to Ridgetown in Western Ontario.

Orval Ries, a life in music

Orval Ries was born in Toronto, and began his musical studies as a vocalist. He made the switch to the oboe, and was the recipient of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto Mary Osler Boyd Award for 1958/59. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s degree, and performed as a soloist and orchestral musician.

In 1959, straight after graduation, he went on to teach winds and percussion at North Toronto Collegiate Institute, from which he’d graduated just a few years prior. He led the senior and junior bands to Kiwanis Festival wins, and the school orchestra to other provincial wins during his tenure. In 1961, he left his teaching position for Europe, where he studied and performed in London and Paris.

On his return to Canada, he settled in Toronto, and began to explore conducting at the University of Toronto, as well as continuing to perform and teach. As a vocalist, he performed with the Canadian Opera Company and the Festival Singers of Canada.

Orval Ries served as resident conductor of the East York Symphony for several years during the 1970s. The East York Symphony Orchestra was first established as the Bennington Heights Community Orchestra in 1953. The name change to the East York Community Orchestra came about in 1965, the East York Symphony Orchestra in 1967.

Along with his own performing and teaching career, Orval was an enthusiastic collector of symphonic recordings.

May he rest in peace.

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