Friday, May 24, 2019

Canada's Only Renaissance Music Summer School has a concert in London this weekend

There is something about Renaissance music that soothes the soul yet at the same time feeding it, and for me at least, it conjures up images of choirs in large Gothic cathedrals with tremendous acoustics.

Recordings abound of music from the Renaissance period with some of the very best produced by The Tallis Scholars, many of which occupy a considerable amount of shelf space in my basement music room.

Canada has not exactly been at the forefront of the Renaissance movement, but we did have able purveyors of the musical form as far back as 1966 when The Huggett Family in Ottawa took their love of the music from that era to concert stages and the recording studio.  They produced a number of LPs, a couple of which I believe I still have in my personal collection, although none that I can see have ever made it to CD.  They for many years conducted workshops and classes for music students studying the musical era until they finally disbanded about 1982.

If you think Canada's contribution to the art form ended there you would be sadly - yet also happily - mistaken.  Enter the Canadian Renaissance Music Summer School (CRMSS), based in London, Ontario.  Now only in its second year, the school is the only Renaissance choral music workshop of its kind in the country.

Directed by internationally-acclaimed baritone and choral workshop leader Greg Skidmore, this year the school has been taking place all this week in London.  The school is aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at undergraduate students, graduates and of course young professional singers.  They are all dedicated to the study and performance of Renaissance polyphonic vocal music of the highest calibre.

Internationally-acknowledged tutors from the worlds of performance and academia are working with the students all this week, immersing themselves in the music the entire time.  There will be both rehearsals and performances all this week, culminating in performances this weekend at several venues, including the magnificent St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica.

Now while the weekday sessions are largely closed affairs, this weekend the public is invited to come out and attend a number of performances, all of which are free of charge.  A retiring collection will be shared between the summer school and St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica.

Throughout the week there have been daily evening services where the choir has sung Vespers, Compline or Evensong as a way of coming together and sharing their scholarly experiences during the day in performances of plainsong and a few simple motets.

Last evening, in fact, public performances began with Choral Evensong at 5:30 at All Saints Church on Hamilton Road in London, and this evening at 5:30 Choral Vespers will be presented at St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, St. Peter's Seminary.  This will be a rare treat to hear music appropriate to the space not normally open to the public.  The presentation will include a Catholic service entirely in Latin, following the pre-Vatican II rite many of us remember growing up with and found in the Liber Usualis.

The main performance of the weekend comes Saturday evening at 8 pm in the pristine acoustics of St. Peter's on Dufferin Avenue in London with a concert entitled "Musical Transalpina".  This final performance of the week will be a tour de force for choral music enthusiasts like myself to revel in the glory of the human voice in a magnificent and appropriate ecclesiastical setting.

Finally, on Sunday morning at 10 am the choir will perform a large scale a cappella polyphonic Latin mass setting along with accompanying motets at the Sunday morning Eucharist at St. Paul's Cathedral.  There might just be some Gregorian chant propers sung at this service as well.

So if you have no plans on the weekend and don't mind hitting the road for a short jaunt to the lovely city of London, Ontario, you will be richly rewarded with the fruits of the labours of many choral scholars both young and old.  What better way could there be to welcome in the wonderful feeling of spring that is finally in the air as well?

For more information on the school, workshop leaders and individual performances this weekend, go to www.crmss.org or call 1-519-574-4297.

Have a great weekend!


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Niagara Symphony covers two centuries this weekend

This may be the holiday weekend marking the beginning of summer, but for the Niagara Symphony this weekend marks the end of their current season, and they are going out with a musical bang.

Masterworks 7 is entitled A Wild Ride on the Opera Train and brings 19th century music into the 21st century with the help of modern technology.  Yes, the NSO is introducing subtitles for tomorrow afternoon's finale featuring assorted soloists and the combined forces of the NSO and Chorus Niagara.

I remember when subtitles were first introduced at the opera probably in the 80s, at The Met if I'm not mistaken.  Purists were aghast at the thought but people quickly warmed to the idea of having an entire opera translated for them right before their eyes.  Today, it would be almost unthinkable to attend an opera performance without them.

They are not perfect, of course, as they don't always literally convey the message envisioned by the composer in his or her native language.  There have also been cringeworthy moments when occasionally the subtitles try to convey the feelings behind the lyrics, not always to great effect.

That being said, they have come a long way over the years and helped unravel many a convoluted plot line along the way.  This modern technology will be on full display in Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre tomorrow afternoon.

Also on display will be some pretty high-powered soloists as well, including sopranos Claire de Sevigne and Aviva Fortunata, tenors Adam Luther and Matthew Dalen, and baritone Justin Welsh.  If you love the sound of the bass-baritone as I do, you'll want to hear the low notes of both Christopher Dunham and Domenico Sanfilippo.

Along with the 100-voice Chorus Niagara forces on stage to provide the big choral parts, they will be joined by the Chorus Niagara Children's Choir as well.  So by my estimate you'll have about a couple hundred voices and musicians doing their thing in unison on stage tomorrow, and that is worthy of our attention.

Most of the big opera arias and choruses will be featured, including no doubt Libiamo from Verdi's La Traviata.  The famous drinking song is known far and wide both within and outside opera circles.

Interested?  Tickets I'm told are selling fast, so you can purchase them online at www.firstontariopac.ca or by phone by calling 905-688-0722 or toll free, 1-855-515-0722.  The box office will be open this evening until 9 pm and tomorrow afternoon starting at 1:30, although I wouldn't advise waiting that long to get tickets if you have not already done so.

Incidentally, after tomorrow afternoon's concert the box office staff will be accepting in-person 2019-20 subscription renewals only.

So there you go.  Nicer weather is here, and great music tomorrow afternoon for you to hear.  What could be better than that?

Have a great Victoria Day holiday weekend!

May 18th, 2019.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Summer Music Festival season is fast approaching!

I was out Friday afternoon doing some errands and out of the corner of my eye at one shop I visited I found the brochure for the 2019 season for Music Niagara, one of the best local summer music festivals around.  It got me to thinking, the season is almost upon us already for summer music, so this weekend I thought I would touch on a couple of the more notable ones I've had the pleasure of attending in the past.  Music Niagara is one, of course, and the other is the Elora Festival.

But before summer we have the remainder of spring, and there are still two concerts remaining in the current Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts to enjoy.  Today being Mother's Day, what better way to celebrate with your Mom than a drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake and enjoy an afternoon recital at Stratus Vineyards?  I was at Stratus last month for a performance by the Cheng2 Duo I wrote about last month in this space and it really is a nice location for a concert.

This afternoon at 2, James Parker and the New Gen will be performing at Stratus, and I hope there might still be some space available should you wish to attend.  Parker is of course one of Canada's leading classical artists, a pianist of international renown.  The New Gen aspect involves Parker teaming up with two of Canada's rising classical musicians for a concert of solo and chamber works.

The final concert of the season for Bravo Niagara! is at St. Mark's Anglican Church in the heart of the Old Town for Piano Six:  Gala Concert.  Again the performance highlights next generation classical artists including Marika Bournaki, David Jalbert, Angela Park, Ian Parker, Anastasia Rizikov and Daniel Wnukowski.  The idea is modelled after the original "Piano Six" that included such luminaries as Angela Cheng and Angela Hewitt, among others.

That final concert is at 7:30 pm on May 25th.  Tickets and more information on either performance can be had by calling 289-868-9177 or logging on to www.bravoniagara.org.

After spring comes summer, of course, and with it two very established music festivals I have had the pleasure of attending for many years now:  Music Niagara and the Elora Festival.

Music Niagara celebrates their 21st season this year, the brainchild of longtime Artistic Director Atis Bankas.  It has in recent years produced a fruitful partnership with the Niagara TD Jazz Festival that broadens the musical spectrum somewhat to include more jazz performances along with humour and more traditional classical performances.  But there are concerts of choral, pop and country included as well, so just about anyone will find something of interest this year.

Things get underway this season on July 14th at 4 pm with the opening gala at St. Mark's Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake featuring Countermeasure.  This will be a concert of a cappella singing featuring some of Canada's top young vocal talent.

Other performances through the three week festival include such artists as soprano Inga Filipova, the "Jeru" Quartet, the Odin String Quartet, The Retro Ramblers, pianist Janina Fialkowska, the Elmer Iseler Singers and so many others.  There is even a Last Night of the Proms concert scheduled for St. Mark's Church on July 22nd!

One of the nice features is the Young Virtuosos series, featuring emerging musicians ages 8 to 18 and students of the 2019 Music Niagara Performance Academy.  There are Young Virtuosos recitals scheduled for July 22nd, 26th, and 28th, all afternoon performances.

If you, like me, are a fan of CBC Radio you'll be interested in performances featuring Tom Allen on July 28th and Julie Nesrallah on August 3rd.

The season finale is an all Beethoven programme at St. Mark's on Saturday evening, August 10th at 7 pm, a celebration in anticipation of Beethoven's 250th anniversary next year.

If all this sounds tempting, you can find out more by calling Music Niagara at 905-468-2172 or 1-800-511-7429, which is the Shaw Festival box office, or by going online at www.musicniagara.org.

Finally the 40 Anniversary Elora Festival is set to get underway July 12th in the picturesque village of Elora, just northwest of Guelph.  It's an easy hour-and-a-half drive from Niagara and worth the trip any time of the year.

The Opening Night Gala on July 12th will be in the Gambrel Barn and feature soloists with the Elora Singers in a performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, among other works.

The Singers will also collaborate with many of the guest artists during the two-week festival including Natalie MacMaster, the State Choir LATVIJA, Festival of the Sound Ensemble and Unforgettable:  Nat King Cole Story.

As always, the Elora Singers also perform Evensong and the usual Sunday services at St. John's Church which I try to attend every year if time permits.  With all those performances and music to study I honestly don't know how these talented singers manage to pull it all off, but they do!

There are a host of performances by solo artists and ensembles as well, including Canadian superstars Daniel Taylor on July 21st and Measha Brueggergosman on July 27th.

You'll also find a number of performances by young and up-and-coming artists at Elora as well, including the Cheng2 Duo on July 20th at St. John's Church.  So we've come full circle from my first visit to Brava Niagara! last month in Niagara-on-the-Lake!

For tickets and more information on the Elora Festival, call the box office at 519-846-0331 or online at www.elorafestival.com.

Have a great weekend and Happy Mother's Day!

May 12th, 2019.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bravo to Bravo Niagara!

Last weekend I received an invitation out of the blue to Friday evening's recital with the Cheng2 Duo, part of the current Bravo Niagara! concert season.  The invitation came from Bravo Co-founder & Artistic Director Christine Mori, who along with her daughter Alexis Spieldenner started the Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts back in 2014.

I was aware of the concert series in the ensuing years but somehow we never seemed to cross paths.  So I was especially pleased to accept the invitation and see and hear what the festival is all about.  In a word, I am impressed!

The concert season ranges from classical to jazz, with performance venues all around the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, with some of the locations being described politely as "non-traditional".  So it was on Friday evening patrons filed into the high-ceilinged and decidedly industrial "concert-hall" set up inside the sleek and modern Stratus Vineyards on Niagara Stone Road, generally known by locals as Highway 55.

The room was an unlikely space for music-making, what with vats and other larger-than-all-of-us winemaking paraphernalia occupying much of the space.  But there, nestled in the open space just inside the entranceway was a stage not much larger than the proverbial postage stamp that would hold the two performers for the evening, the Cheng2 Duo.  As they remarked at the start of the concert, they were surprised as anyone else the acoustics in such a locale would be so conducive to fine music making, but indeed it was.

Tables were arranged, patrons circled them sipping wine from Stratus and awaited the performance, the imbibing no doubt contributing to the conviviality of the occasion.

It should come as no surprise more and more wineries are giving up their space for concerts and such.  It is a natural pairing of cultural pursuits in the heart of wine country and besides, both sides benefit nicely from the arrangement.

I sampled a Stratus red, incidentally, which was not too heavy and quite smooth, nicely pairing with the programme the Cheng2 Duo presented.

Bryan Cheng and his sister Silvie hail from Ottawa originally, although now he lives in Berlin much of the time and she is in New York City.  In the old days that distance would be hard to bridge economically but in today's technological world with these two young, tech-savvy individuals, I am sure texting and FaceTime do much of the bridging for them.

Bryan, all of 21 years of age, plays a Stradivarius cello on loan from the Canada Council.  He has it on loan for 3 years and says he can extend that to up to nine.  One has to wonder what he'll do once he finally has to return that precious instrument at the end of the tenure.  Will anything else measure up?  It was no coincidence Friday evening the cello accompanied him everywhere he went.  With something like that, you don't leave it unattended - ever.

As an aside, I would like to offer up a thank you to the Canada Council for their ability to furnish worthy musicians with instruments of this caliber they might not otherwise be able to perform with.  It seems like a better investment of time and money to do things like this than here in Ontario where the government is more intent on providing cheap beer and longer drinking hours, but I digress...

The programme included Tchaikovsky's Pezzo Capriccioso and Shostakovich's Sonata for Cello & Piano in the first half, and the second half a little bit lighter with Poulenc's Sonata for Cello & Piano and Sarasate's fiery and brief Zigeunerweisen.  All the pieces were challenging in their own way and beautifully played by the pair, with the Poulenc especially being the undiscovered gem of the evening.

Beyond the music itself, the Cheng2 Duo are engaging and exceptionally forthcoming in their conversations with the audience during the concert.  At one point Bryan describes the discovery of the Poulenc Sonata somewhat akin to finding a toonie "in the crotch of the sofa", a comment that elicited laughter from the audience and a genuine reaction from sister Silvie, who slapped her knee and laughed as hard as we did, obviously not hearing something she had heard countless times before.

This is the charm of this pair, and I hope that never changes.  They are young and accomplished but still in the stage where they can't assume audiences will know who they are and automatically come out to hear them.  They are still fighting to claim their small piece of the classical music turf in this country, but they are winning the battle in the trenches as well as on the concert stage.  After the recital they were both readily accessible to one and all, appearing as genuine friends with like-minded music lovers, sharing a glass of wine and talking about the music like everyone else.

This is clearly endearing to the concert-going public as well it should be.  Gone are the days of concert performers never actually appearing to actively interact with the audience.  Today's performers and indeed audiences can interact live in person or through social media, for example, so there is more of a connection than ever before.

I remember years ago the one-time conductor of the Niagara Symphony, Ermanno Florio, rarely if ever spoke to the audience from the stage and you never really saw him off the stage either.  No knock against either Florio nor the Niagara Symphony; that was just how it was done in years past.  But I met Maestro Florio backstage in Toronto at a National Ballet performance and he was as engaging as you could imagine.  But it just didn't transfer to the audience from the stage.

Today's performers and audiences know things are different now, and they have to be.  There are so many forces competing for patron's attention and disposable income both within the classical realm and beyond, you cannot afford to be disconnected from the public.  The new reality dictates you have to do more to win them over and on that score, Cheng2 Duo perform as admirably offstage as they do on.

This brings me to the situation I have often discussed in the past in this space:  how do concert presenters deal with the reality of an aging population and how to lower the demographic of your clientele.  As I looked around at the audience surrounding the tables on Friday evening, I realized Bravo Niagara! is doing something right.  Sure, people my own age and beyond were well represented but also a much younger demographic and admittedly, a decidedly well-off demographic was very much in attendance as well.

Is it the venue and the lure of sampling local wine?  The young performers who appear not only accomplished but also a little edgy at the same time?  Is it a savvy concert promoter finding a clever way to market their product that pushes the boundaries of what a classical music concert should and could be?  It appears clearly to be a combination of all of these.

Classical music has been famously described by some as stuff by long-dead composers performed by people who are not far off themselves, and that might have been a valid argument at one point.  But listening to and watching the Cheng2 Duo on Friday night, the dynamics are clearly changing for the better, at least as far as Bravo Niagara! is concerned.  There is a new breed of concert performer out there and this performance was a clear indication of the future of classical music not only here but elsewhere as well.

Looking at the remainder of the the current concert season for Bravo, last evening at the same venue there was a centennial tribute to Nat King Cole, with Paul Marinaro and the Ben Paterson Trio, providing another side entirely to what Bravo Niagara! is all about.  The three remaining concerts this spring, all coming up in May, are equally as varied.  Stratus will be the venue for two of them, Alfredo Rodriguez & Pedro Martinez will perform May 11th in the evening and James Parker and the New Gen will perform May 12th in the afternoon.

The final concert of the current season, a Gala Concert featuring Piano Six, takes place at the more traditional yet perfectly-suited St. Mark's Anglican Church in the heart of the old town.  That comes up May 25th at 7:30 pm and will feature appropriately enough the next generation of piano virtuosos following the path of the original Piano Six that included the likes of prominent Canadians Angela Hewitt and Jon Kimura Parker among others.

Interested in checking out what Bravo Niagara! is all about?  Go to www.bravoniagara.org or call 289-868-9177.

Have a great weekend!

April 14th, 2019.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

News & Notes on the Arts in Niagara and beyond this week

It's been another busy week keeping up with all that's happening in the local arts community, as well as significant happenings elsewhere in the province as spring has sprung.  So this weekend a short roundup of news & notes that have crossed my desk and computer screen I thought would be of interest to you...

First off, the renowned Elora Singers present J.S. Bach's glorious St. John Passion, conducted by new Artistic Director Mark Vuorinen tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm.  The concert, designed to usher in the second half of the Easter season will take place at the acoustically wonderful Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate on Norfolk Street in the heart of downtown Guelph.

The St. John Passion was first presented in Bach's Leipzig in 1724 as part of a Good Friday liturgy that was to last several hours.  And as was Bach's custom in Leipzig, the Elora Singers will conclude the singing of the Passion with Jacob Handl's unaccompanied motet, Ecce quomodo moritur.

Tickets to the performance of St. John's Passion are available by calling 519-846-0331, or pick them up at the door prior to the performance tomorrow afternoon.

Meantime the Elora Festival, of which the Elora Singers are very much a part, recently announced the lineup for their 40th anniversary season.  We'll look more closely at the season in a later post, but to whet your appetite in the meantime I'll let you know the Opening Night Gala comes up July 12th at 7:30 pm in the Gambrel Barn.  The concert, to conclude with the requisite fireworks, will highlight the always-popular Carmina Burana by Carl Orff along with a variety of other choral favourites.  Performances at the Gala include of course the Elora Singers as well as the State Choir LATVIJA, members of the Grand Philharmonic Children's and Youth Choirs as well as soloists and the duo Piano Six.  Once again Artistic Director Mark Vuorinen will conduct along with Maris Sirmais.

Both Piano Six and the State Choir LATVIJA are featured later in the first weekend of the Elora Festival.  Tickets are now on sale to the general public by calling 519-846-0331.

Locally, the Brock String and Wind orchestras will hold their final concerts of the season with popular repertoire and world-premiere performances in two upcoming recitals.

Presented by Brock University's Department of Music, the Wind Ensemble under the direction of Zoltan Kalman will present their spring recital, A Touch of Latin, this Tuesday evening in Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.  The Orchestra's spring recital, entitled A Spring Serenade, takes place the following evening, Wednesday April 3rd in the PAC's Recital Hall conducted by George Cleland.

Both of these concerts demonstrate the connections between the community and the breadth of talent and creativity at Brock's Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts.

The Wind Ensemble will present works ranging from George Gershwin's Cuban Overture to the high-energy Redline Tango and the grandiose Music for a Festival.  The Orchestra, meantime, will present Tchaikovsky's Serenade For Strings as well as Vaughan Williams' gorgeous Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Tickets to either concert are available through the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office by calling 905-688-0722 or at the door on the night of the performance.

Over in Stratford the big news this week was the announcement The Stratford Festival's 2018 was both an artistic and financial success.  The longest season on record, 2018 produced a $1.9-million surplus, with an increase in attendance of 10% to over half a million visitors.  Total revenue for the 2018 season was $65.8 million, up 8% from the previous season.

Ticket sales were the highest in a decade, resulting in revenue of $33 million, the third-highest in the Festival's history.

The surplus will go toward the TPT campaign to build the new Tom Patterson Theatre and the Artistic Excellence Fund.

It was also announced by the Festival Board that Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino's term has been extended a further two years, meaning he will be at the helm of the Festival through 2014.  Cimolino became Artistic Director six seasons ago and has been very successful in broadening the appeal of the Festival as well as spearheading the construction of the new theatre centre.  He's been at the Festival for 32 years now, beginning as an actor in 1988 and rising through the ranks as administrator, General Manager, Executive Director and General Director.  He has also continued to direct numerous productions over the years as well.

The 2019 Stratford Festival runs from April through November and includes Othello, Billy Elliot the Musical, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Private Lives month other performances.  Tickets are available through the Festival box office by calling toll free, 1-800-567-1600.

Finally, next Sunday afternoon the Juno Award-winning Gryphon Trio, celebrating 25 years of music making, will perform in the Recital Hall of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.  The Trio, made up of performers James Parker on piano, Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin and Roman Borys on cello have made 20 CDs and have performed more than 2,000 times world wide.

The Gryphon Trio will return to St. Catharines a week from tomorrow to perform Haydn's lively Trio No. 33 in G minor, Love Triangle by Canadian composer Dinuk Wijeratne and Brahms' Trio No. 1, Op. 8.

The concert is the latest presentation by the Gallery Players of Niagara and tickets are available at the door on the day of the performance or in advance through the FirstOntario PAC box office by calling 905-688-0722.

Have a great weekend!

March 30th, 2019.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

News from the Guelph Chamber Choir this weekend

It's been awhile since I've written in this space, and even longer since I wrote about my almost adopted city of Guelph, so let's remedy both this weekend with some news out of the Royal City regarding the ever-talented Guelph Chamber Choir.

The Choir and I go back a fairly long way, truth be told.  I remember driving to Guelph many a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon for one of their regular concerts at one of the area churches before the River Run Centre opened its doors in the fall of 1997.  Most often it would be at the nearby St. George's Church which featured a wonderful atmosphere and acoustic.  On a couple of occasions I recall attending a concert at the large Church of Our Lady on the hill as you enter the downtown core on Gordon Street.

On one of those occasions, I attended a spectacular performance of the Bach B-Minor Mass, which was especially moving for me as it came shortly after the untimely passing of my mother in February of 2000, and this was the first major outing I had undertaken following a difficult mourning period.  The concert, timed to coincide with the coming Easter season, was held on a rather cold Sunday afternoon at the Church of Our Lady; if I am not mistaken it was March 31st or thereabouts.

It was about a year or so prior to that I attended the second of two performances of Handel's oratorio Messiah in a single Sunday one Christmas season.  I still can't believe I actually did this:  I attended the Chorus Niagara matinee performance here in St. Catharines, and then hopped in the car and after stopping for a quick dinner enroute, I attended the Guelph Chamber Choir performance that evening at the River Run Centre.  It might have been their first Messiah at the River Run, but it was a memorable evening following an equally memorable afternoon.  Those were the days I would do such things...ah, the spirit of the youth!

About 15 years ago when I spent many a Saturday helping out my good friend Paul at his music shop Twelfth Night Music on Carden Street, in walked the choir's founding conductor Dr. Gerald Neufeld and his wife, Patricia Eton-Neufeld.  Gerry had no idea who I was at that moment, but Patricia did.  She had often reached out to me to invite me to the next performance of the Guelph Chamber Choir, which in those days I gratefully accepted.  I drove a lot more and further distances in those days, so it was nothing for me to drive up to Guelph to catch a performance and then return home that same night.

Anyway, Gerry and his wife were doing what many other enlightened Guelph residents did on a sunny Saturday afternoon:  browse the latest releases in classical recordings at the shop.  It was a slice of musical heaven in downtown Guelph in those days.

So yes, there is a history between the choir and your humble scribe and I hope it continues for many years to come.  Mind you, Dr. Neufeld has moved on to other challenges and it was announced just today the new Artistic Director and conductor of the Guelph Chamber Choir will be Dr. Charlene Pauls.

The search was an extensive one, but Dr. Pauls brings impressive credentials to her new post.  Her extensive background in choral conducting is paired with her experience as a recognized international soprano soloist.  She also holds degrees in Early Music and Vocal Performance, and just last fall Dr. Pauls was awarded the 2018 Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting by the Ontario Arts Council.

Dr. Pauls will take the podium of the Guelph Chamber Choir for the 2019-2020 season.

In the meantime, the annual spring concert will feature not one but two choirs, the Guelph Chamber Choir and the Elora Singers.  Christopher Dawes will be the organist and founding Artistic Director Gerald Neufeld will return to conducted a programme of choral masterpieces for two choirs and organ at St. George's Anglican Church.

On the programme April 6th will be Parry's I was Glad and Durufle's Requiem along with Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir and selections from Rachmaninoff's divine choral work, Vespers.  The concert begins at 7:30 pm April 6th and tickets should be available in advance at the River Run box office or at the door the evening of the performance.

There was also some sad news this month, as it was announced Dr. Dominic Gregorio passed away on March 3rd in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Dr. Dominic was born and raised in Guelph, completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music at the University of Guelph, before moving on to Temple University in Philadelphia where he completed a triple major Master of Music degree (voice, choral conducting and music history).  As if that's not enough, he also completed a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, earning as well the prestigious The Order of Arete medal in 2012 for his brilliant work as a doctoral student.

A proud Filipino-Canadian, Dr. Gregorio made his mark not only in his hometown of Guelph but also his adopted city of Regina, where he was both Director of Choral Activities and an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Regina.

The memorial service in Guelph for Dr. Gregorio was held earlier today at Dublin Street United Church.

I would not be surprised if mention of his untimely passing will be made at the Guelph Chamber Choir's upcoming spring concert, a concert I imagine he would have loved to attend if he were back home in Guelph.  It would be a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much to the world of choral music, both in his home city and beyond.

I really have to get to Guelph again soon and rediscover a city with such a vibrant arts community.  On April 6th, it would be even nicer to rekindle those great memories of concerts past conducted by Dr. Gerald Neufeld too.

Hmmm....

Have a great weekend!

March 16th, 2019.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The weather outside may be frightful, but the music is so delightful!

I am looking out my home office window this afternoon thinking I am glad this is the weekend and I don't have to go out in this weather unless I want to.  Which I don't frankly.  I get enough of that during the week with my very early morning starts for work, leaving the house most mornings before 5 am.  If there is snow on the ground I usually try to clear it before I leave for work.

But today in a rare move, I decided since it was Saturday I deserved a snow day.  Oh I did go out this morning, but not until after I would normally be finished work during the week, and not to go far.  I shovelled the snow for what will likely be the umpteenth time this weekend, and then walked downtown to the Market, which goes Saturday mornings no matter what.

Not as many people nor vendors for that matter, but I didn't care.  It is my Saturday morning ritual and it will have to be worse weather than this to prevent me from going.  I also managed a side trip to Beechwood Doughnuts on St. Paul Street as well...hey, it may be snowing but I won't suffer this weekend!

Nor should you.

What's all this leading to, you ask?  Well, I thought with the colder weather these days and finally a good dumping of snow expected throughout the weekend, it would be a good time to open the arts calendar and see what's on over the coming week should you wish to escape the weather for some musical enrichment.

Let's begin tonight and tomorrow with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, getting an early start on celebrating the birthday of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Everyone's favourite precocious child wunderkid who turned into an even more precocious adult musical genius was born January 27th, 1756.  We're well past the big anniversaries of Mozart's birthday for awhile now, but any clever music programmer would never miss a chance to celebrate Mozart in January.  It's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for curing the winter doldrums.

The NSO will be presenting an all-Mozart programme tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 in the Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.  Tomorrow afternoon is, as I understand it, pretty well sold out now, but if you choose to venture out tonight there should still be some good seats still available.

Maestro Thachuk conducts Masterworks 4 this weekend and NSO Principal Flute Doug Miller is the featured soloist on Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 in G-major.  Also on the programme is Mozart's popular Symphony No. 35 in D major, known as the "Haffner", and one of my personal favourites, his Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major.

There might be a little less sheen on the Mozart crown after all these years, but for most music lovers he offers more musical bang for the buck than just about anyone else out there, so why not go with a winner?  Besides, he will certainly cure the January Blues at least for a little while.

Tickets are available by calling the FirstOntario PAC box office at 905-688-0722 or go online to FirstOntarioPAC.ca.  You can also visit the box office personally if you care to venture out earlier today.

Speaking of the PAC, this coming Wednesday evening January 23rd the Canadian Jazz All-Stars take to the stage at Partridge Hall at 7:30 pm for a concert featuring such artists as Robi Botos, Dave Young, Davide Di Renzo, Heather Bambrick, Mike Murley and Guido Basso.  Mike Zettel of Niagara  This Week writing in the current PAC programme guide, points out the collective years of all musicians on stage for that concert totals about two centuries worth of musicianship.

Many of those names will be readily recognizable to many jazz fans, especially the legendary Guido Basso on trumpet and flugelhorn.  Heather Bambrick, too, has a high profile due to her many concerts in and around the GTA and her regular appearances on 99.1 Jazz FM as a programme host.

Should be a swinging affair this coming Wednesday evening, and tickets should still be available through the PAC box office by calling 905-688-0722 or going to FirstOntarioPAC.ca.

Still in Partridge Hall at the PAC but for an entirely different sound, the Encore! Professional Concert Series presents the TORQ Percussion Quartet this Friday night at 7:30 pm.  The four extraordinary percussionists of TORQ will likely be making plenty of noise in the most musical of ways possible, and it promises to be a most interesting concert.

The Encore! Professional Concert Series is part of the Department of Music at the adjacent Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts at Brock University, and is always a very affordable way to get into some interesting and sometimes more challenging music right in the heart of the city.

Tickets are general admission and available by calling the FirstOntario PAC box office at 905-688-0722 or by going to FirstOntarioPAC.ca.

Finally, it has been awhile since I wrote about a wonderful classic music series held up in the Waterloo region for many years now.  The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society programmes an ambitious season of recitals year-round, and the next concert is this coming Wednesday evening in the Music Room in Waterloo.

Recognized Bach expert Peter Vinograde will perform most of the seven toccatas of J.S. Bach, dating from his early period, especially Weimar from 1708 to 1717.  The music is described by the Chamber Music Society as "freely constructed works, all quite different, alternating virtuoso display, slow expressive interludes and contrapuntal dance forms".  Bach, of course, was a recognized master of them all.

In addition to the Bach keyboard works, also on the programme is probably the most popular trio in the Russian chamber music literature, Arensky's Trio in d-minor, a work dating from 1894.  Joining Vinograde for this late-romantic work are violinist Adam Diderrich and cellist Miriam Stewart-Kroeker.

Tickets are only $35 or $20 for students, and available through WordsWorth, directly from the Chamber Music Society, or at the University of Waterloo box office.  The website for the society is k-wcms.com, and the Music Room is located at 57 Young Street West in Waterloo.

That should give you plenty of choice for the coming week for some great music.  Have a great weekend in spite of the weather!

January 19th, 2019.