Cellist David Morrissey has been a familiar face onstage since he joined the Calgary Philharmonic in the 2008/2009 Season. Before moving to Calgary, all he knew about the city was its proximity to the mountains, the 1988 Winter Olympics, and one fellow musician, Matthew Heller (Bass). After over 12 years in Calgary, Morrissey has recently achieved a major milestone — receiving his Canadian citizenship!
The path to citizenship is neither easy nor short. When coming to Canada, Morrissey says “it wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking” to even apply. It was only later, after the frustration and hassle of applying for work permits and his Permanent Residency, that citizenship made its way into his mind. The other catalyst was America’s 2016 election and its consequences.
After meeting all the requirements and completing all the necessary paperwork, Morrissey submitted his application. It was then a two-year wait from applying to receiving citizenship, but once his application was accepted, all the final pieces fell into place very quickly.
Morrissey’s online citizenship ceremony coincided with a Calgary Phil rehearsal. Expecting a long introduction and waiting time before the ceremony began, Morrissey was caught off guard when it started immediately, just as the orchestra was in the middle of a piece! As soon as the piece ended, Morrissey raced out into the closest stairwell, where he was able to turn on his camera and participate. After barely making it online before the ceremony began, Morrissey says with a laugh that it makes it even more rewarding.
“As if the Jack Singer didn’t hold enough importance to me because of all the landmarks and milestones there,” Morrissey says, “now the stairwell near the conductor’s suite holds an extra special place.”
That same day, 10 September 2021, also marked the Calgary Phil’s first in-person performance since the start of the pandemic. When asked, Morrissey says being a Canadian citizen didn’t really feel any different. “It will sink in when I receive my passport,” he adds. For now, he appreciates each little milestone, like getting his citizenship certificate, and voting in his first Canadian federal election.
“That’s why I pushed to get in to an earlier [citizenship] ceremony,” says Morrissey. “To be able to vote, and to participate as a Canadian.” With a laugh, he admits that his first voting experience was not quite what he expected, since the Canadian election style is noticeably different than in the States. “I’m still in the learning process,” he says.
Morrissey explains that when he received his mail-in ballot, he was confused. The ballot was small, without any candidates listed — just a place to write a name. In the United States, ballots are typically in a scantron form and look more official. Thinking that it must be the municipal ballot, Morrissey filled it in for his municipal candidate, rather than federal. Thankfully, he was able to explain the situation at his polling station and to successfully vote in person.
Morrissey’s Canadian citizenship comes at the perfect time. After voting federally, he will soon have the chance to cast his municipal ballot — something he’s looking forward to. “Personally to me, municipally what happens really affects you more on a daily basis,” he says. But first, he’ll be researching the candidates, something which can be easily done through Elections Calgary.
Other recent Canadian citizens are the Calgary Phil’s new President + CEO, Marc Stevens, and his wife Claire. Stevens says he was excited to hear about Morrissey’s achievement. “This is close to my heart, as it’s almost exactly two years ago since Claire and I also became Canadian citizens, and also voted soon after. David and I are going to attend a public citizenship ceremony together when conditions allow, and to restate our Oaths together there as part of the audience.”
So what’s next for Morrissey? “With the pandemic, because ensembles have to be smaller, programming dives deeper,” he says. This is allowing for what he calls a “Haydn revival,” and for other, less frequently performed pieces and composers to be showcased again due to their smaller instrumentations. An example of this is Pierrot lunaire, a melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg, which Morrissey will perform with a small ensemble this November with fellow Calgary Phil musicians Donovan Seidle (Assistant Concertmaster) and Slavko Popovic (Principal Clarinet), at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts.
There is a lot of less commonly performed music to look forward to this Season, including Calgary Phil’s Haydn, Pärt + Chin concert on 15 October. “I’m a big fan of Arvo Pärt,” says Morrissey. “It’s the perfect background music, like a palate cleanser. It’s so special, it helps time to pass. I always enjoy his pieces.”
Another highlight is Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, which has a glorious moment for the cellos to shine. The Calgary Phil performs this symphony, paired with Joseph Bologne’s Symphony No. 2, and Vivan Fung’s Prayer on 12 + 13 November.
For now, Morrissey says, he is “just really excited to be back at work.” After recovering from a shoulder injury, then with the ongoing pandemic, it’s been two years since he could perform. Now he’s enjoying being onstage with his fellow musicians, which gives him “a sense of purpose again, being able to perform for my community.”