This Saturday, March 12th, 2022 at 7:30pm at the Centennial Concert Hall the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra will be presenting a concert that will feature the music of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov. The Orchestra will be joined by renowned violinist Vadim Gluzman in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s breathtaking violin concerto, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s exotic and very lush work Scheherazade.

Rimsky-Korsakov was a master of orchestration, and his score for Scheherazade is one of the most the most colorful orchestral scores in the literature. For most of us hearing this work is a real feast for the ears, but imagine if when you heard the music you also saw very clear colors, that consisted of a whole color palette all the possible hues and shades possible…it would be incredible!

People who posses this capability have what is known as synesthesia. Synesthesia is defined as a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses.

If we took this capability of seeing color when we hear music and combined it with the talents of a great artist; then had a visual artist create paintings based on the colors that a synesthete saw while listening to music what would that look like?

Canadian Mennonite University Student Anna Schwartz has synesthesia and has collaborated with her piano teacher Shirley Elias to create a project inspired by Scheherazade that is truly special.

Elias, aside from being a brilliant pianist, is also a great artist, who has had works shown in exhibits across the country. Together, Schwartz and Elias have created “Spectrum-The Color of Music, Precision and Impression,” inspired by Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

The resulting 14 paintings that Elias created will be on display at the Centennial Concert Hall’s Piano Nobile as part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performance of Scheherazade this weekend.

Armed with many Benjamin Moore color palettes, Anna went through the musical score to the work and identified what colors she hears as she listened to the music. She notated the six digit Benjamin Moore color code directly on the score to identify the specific color she sees.

Elias then took Anna’s color choices and used these to create four, lined canvases that make up the “precision” part of the project. Each one of the four canvases represents the four movements of Scheherazade. “Within each canvas…I started right from the beginning…they flow from left to right just as the music starts…each stripe was mathematically calculated to the amount of time that Anna experiences each color…so what you see on these stripes it’s kind of like a musical score,” states Elias.

Elias Painting

These four canvases will be shown projected on a screen behind the WSO as the perform this amazing score of Rimsky-Korsakov. Audience members will be able to experience the music alongside the visual colors as seen through the eyes of a synesthete.

For the other 10 paintings in the series, Elias took Anna’s colors and used these to create paintings that are heavily inspired by the musical aspects of the score. These 10 paintings are the “impression” element to the project.

“Spectrum-The Color of Music, Precision and Impression,” makes use of 269 colors, and for the four striped precision canvases, there are 527 stripes. The paintings that Shirley Elias has created are amazing and you can see the paintings this weekend at the WSO’s concert “Vadim Gluzman, Tchaikovsky, and Scheherazade."