Long before Regina had gained its status as a city, the cultural arts were beginning to flourish. As good fortune would have it, many of Regina’s early settlers, including members of the North West Mounted Police, were talented musicians and vocalists. However, that talent needed the stimulation provided by Scottish immigrant Franklin L. Laubach.
Upon realizing that farming was not for him, Franklin Laubach moved with his family to Regina, where he turned his attention back to his original career in music. By 1904 he had organized the Regina Philharmonic Society, and in 1906 conducted Haydn’s Creation at Knox Metropolitan United Church with a chorus of 67 voices and an orchestra of 13 musicians. By 1908 the Orchestral Society was formed, and its inaugural concert was presented in the City Hall Auditorium on December 3 of that year. Laubach continued to work tirelessly, organizing many music events until 1915 when, at the age of 59, he joined the Canadian army. He returned to Regina after WWI and resumed his former role of conductor with the Philharmonic and Orchestral Society which, by 1919, had been reorganized into the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society. The evolution of the orchestra continued when in 1923 the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society became the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the Regina Choral Society and the Regina Male Voice Choir. However, the orchestra’s concert programs continued to read “Regina Orchestral Society” until 1970, when it changed to “Regina Symphony” and finally in 1976, 52 years after the motion was made to change the name, it became the “Regina Symphony Orchestra”. Darke Hall, on College Avenue, was formally opened in 1929, giving the orchestra its first home after years of playing in various buildings in the city. The orchestra continued to perform through the 1930’s - the toughest years on the prairies - and throughout WWII with musicians performing primarily as volunteers, receiving honorariums only when there was a financial surplus.
The period between 1959 and 1981 was that of steady growth for the orchestra. This was due to several significant changes during that time. The first was to the status of the Regina College to that of University. The University expanded its Music Department and hired first-rate musicians as instructors. This allowed the orchestra to start building its professional group. As well, public funding increased during the late 1960s to the early 1980s and the orchestra’s home moved to the Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts (now Conexus Arts Centre) in 1970, which allowed the audience to grow from 750 people per concert to over 2,000.
Today the Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is a full scale, fully professional orchestra that, in a 39 week season, presents a pre-season outdoor concert, eight Masterworks concerts, five Pops concerts, two kids concerts, six double chamber music concerts, and occasional special concerts including perennial favourite Handel’s Messiah. As well, the Regina Symphony Chamber Players put on dozens of school concerts each season; present concerts in South Saskatchewan communities; and offer free concerts in venues throughout the City of Regina. They also take part in educational activities aimed at students and First Nations youth.
The RSO plays an important role in the cultural fabric of southern Saskatchewan. By continuing to strive for excellence in performance and by remaining relevant to its audiences, the orchestra will continue to grow and to enrich life in southern Saskatchewan. The RSO organization will persist through the dedication, and determination provided by the RSO Music Director, Executive Director, Board of Governors, Musicians and Administration Staff. With the support of the orchestra’s audiences, sponsors, government and corporate partners the RSO will be performing long into the future.