Saturday, November 23, 2019

Gallery Players of Niagara kick off their 25th Anniversary season this weekend

We've looked at a number of fall concerts and events coming up in and around Niagara the last couple of months, but not one of our local treasures that somehow often seems to run underneath the radar a little bit.  So this weekend, as they prepare to kick off their 25th Anniversary season, let's look at the new season for Gallery Players of Niagara.

Artistic Director Margaret Gay can hardly believe it is 25 years ago this chamber music enterprise launched in Niagara.  From humble beginnings grew a group of chamber musicians comfortable enough in their own collective musical skins to bring in numerous guest artists and entire guest ensembles to share music with their audience.

The audiences for their part have been just as welcoming as the artists themselves, willing to try new things and follow new paths, sure in the knowledge the players and Artistic Director Margaret Gay know the way and won't steer them wrong.

And they never have.

That brings us to this first concert of their 25th Anniversary season, another new endeavour and brimming with new ideas ready to explore.  Tomorrow afternoon at 2 in the Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Gallery Players present the World Premiere of Borodin's Muse - An Animated Concert.

Borodin's Muse brings music and drama together to illuminate the life of 19th century Russian chemist and composer Aleksandr Borodin through music both by Borodin and his contemporaries, and with words by way of a play by St. Catharines playwright Anthony Magro, starring actor Colin Bruce Anthes as Borodin along with Genevieve Jones.  The production is directed by local theatre veteran Barbara Worthy.

Music to be performed include Borodin's String Quartet #2 as well as Arensky's Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, Op. 35, Glinka's Quartet #2 and Liszt's Liebestraum #3 in A Major.

Brock University's Walker String Quartet will be the instrumental performers.  The Quartet, made up of Niagara Symphony Principal Cellist Gordon Cleland and violinist Vera Alekseeva along with violinist Faith Laura and violist Roman Kosarev will be joined by pianist Erika Reiman.  The Walker String Quartet was founded at Brock University not that many seasons ago and has quickly established itself as a chamber musical force not to be missed.

The rest of the season's concerts are just as interesting, beginning of course with their annual Christmas concert, entitled The Heart of Christmas Past.  The concert features Glissandi and Shaw Festival alumnus Guy Bannerman in words and music of familiar yuletide favourites.  The stories are derived from festive remembrances shared by Gallery Players audience members last season, which is a nice twist.

Glissandi is made up of Douglas Miller on flute, Deborah Braun on harp and David Braun on violin.  Their popularity has grown exponentially over the years with popular holiday recordings and concerts  such as this season's Christmas production.

There are two performances, December 19th at 4pm at Silver Spire United Church in downtown St. Catharines and December 20th at 7:30 pm at Grace United Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The first concert of the new year will feature Niagara native Kristin Hoff, mezzo-soprano along with violist Caitlin Boyle, guitarist Timothy Phelan and pianist Antoine Joubert in a performance entitled From Home and Afar - A Journey of Enchantment.

The musical journey goes from Germany to Canada with a side trip to Argentina.  Compositions include Brahms' Two Songs for mezzo, viola and piano, Op. 91, Three Songs for mezzo, viola and piano by Frank Bridge, the Canciones sefardies for guitar and mezzo by Sid Rabinovitch, Penelope for piano and voice by Cecilia Livingston and Astor Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango, arranged by Timothy Phelan for viola and guitar.

The concert comes up at 2 pm on February 9th of next year at Silver Spire United Church in downtown St. Catharines.

Next up is Songs of Life, Year 2 and Bach on Turtle's Back - Death.  An intriguing title, right?  Songs of Life explores creation destruction and transformation through performances by solo violinist Julia Wedman of Tafelmusik and dancer Brian Solomon along with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Solomon is also the director and choreographer for the production and in addition to Wedman is accompanied by soprano Sinead White, tenor Asitha Tennekoon, mezzo-soprano Jessica Wright, baritone Keith Lam, Alison Melville, flute, Michelle Odorico, violin, Patrick Jordan, viola, Maho Sone on keyboard and Margaret Gay on cello.

Incidentally the Year 2 in the title refers to the fact this is year two of a three-year project, all supported by the Pluralism Fund.  The concert comes up at 2pm on March 8th in the Recital Hall of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

The annual Movie Night comes up April 4th in the Film House at the PAC with a screening of Charlie Chaplin's classic 1931 film City Lights.  The film, considered one of Chaplin's best, follows the misadventures of Chaplin's iconic tramp as he falls in love with a blind girl and develops a complex relationship with an alcoholic millionaire.

The improvised score will be performed by Douglas Miller on flute, Eric Mahar on guitar, and Penner Mackay on percussion.  Local film historian Joan Nicks will be speaking about the film's significance in the pre-screen talk, which begins at 6:45pm, followed by the screening with musical accompaniment at 7.

The May 10th concert features a new venture for Gallery Players, Inside the Music, in which musicians draw the audience deep into a selected piece of music, guiding their musical listening experience.  The renowned Eybler Quartet will be joined by Suzannah Clark, Professor of Music at Harvard University as together they perform as well as discuss things such as harmony, phrase structure and the social significance of an important work by Haydn.

Performers include violinist Aisslinn Nosky, Julia Wedman on violin, Patrick Jordan on viola and Margaret Gay on cello.  Music will include Haydn's String Quartet Op. 54 No. 1, Franz Asplmayr's String Quartet Op. 2 No. 6 and Cris Derksen's White Man's Cattle.

The concert takes place at 2pm on May 10th at Silver Spire United Church in downtown St. Catharines.

Finally, the Vesuvius Ensemble visits St. Catharines on June 14th at 2pm for a performance entitled Tarantella:  Viva Napoli!  The group performs on a host of rustic instruments, few of which I can pronounce, presenting instrumental and vocal music that paints a musical portrait of Naples and the surrounding area.

The members of the Vesuvius Ensemble include Francesco Pellegrino, Marco Era, Lucas Harris, Romina Di Gasbarro and Ben Grossman.

The sunny finale to the Gallery Players' 25th Anniversary season takes place at Silver Spire United Church in downtown St. Catharines.

Intrigued?  Gallery Players are worth your time and you can purchase tickets either as a subscription or individually by calling them at 905-468-1525 or go online to  I know they had phone problems earlier this week but hopefully things are all sorted out by now.  If all else fails, you can call the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office at 905-688-0722.

Have a great weekend!

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