SoWeCa 2014 Chamber Music Festival – behind the scenes

Soweca_festIt is unfortunate, in a way, that the idea of “Classical Music” is so entwined with Symphony Orchestras and Symphonic Music when in actual fact there is so much more to “Classical Music” than what we normally associate with the term. Symphonic music is fine but it does imply a certain largeness of magnitude in the music, the organization and the means to bring it to an audience. It has introduced a distortion that implies that only truly good music can be produced by a symphonic orchestra. Case in point is the recent angst and anguish caused by the possible demise of the EK Symphony Orchestra. The possible demise of that orchestra was equated with the end of local “high” culture. Yet in actual fact over the past 4-5 years some very successful small scale efforts by local chamber musicians has introduced some very exciting and adventurous music to local audiences. The La Cafamore String Quartet, Trio and  Quintet, and Calgary’s Lily Quartet have performed concerts at the Knox Presbyterian Church (a wonderful chamber music venue) that included the music of Brahms, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, Schubert and more importantly the modern works of Kodaly, Steve Reich (“Different Trains”) and George Crumb (“Black Angels”). These musicians have achieved a level of musical diversity and excellence without any significant financial or audience support from Symphony organizers. In the face of significant  adversity they should be commended. So, at the end of a very successful season the symphony orchestra is back on its feet and that is a good thing. And, with the expansion of the SoWeCa Chamber Music Festival  into the Kootenays,  things  are looking even better. SoWeCa has been around for a number years in Southern Alberta and this is the first year that Cranbrook has been added to the circuit. This week (Monday 19th to Friday 23rd) in May 2014 has marked a full schedule of rehearsals and performances in Cranbrook.

Act I – Cranbrook B.C

The Players: The musicians are from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations and are all major “players” in their own right.

  •  Deanna Oye – Piano. Deanna is the Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of Lethbridge. Over the years she has performed at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook a number of times.
  • Gerard Gibbs – Oboe.
    Gerard is a professional oboist  who has studied and performed throughout the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. He is currently the manager of the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook and is one of the principal organizers of the SoWeCa Chamber Music Festival
  • John Lowry – Violin
    John has been the Associate Concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra since 1987. He has also performed as a guest Concertmaster in many Canadian orchestras as well as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in Australia.

       Gerard Gibbs - oboe        John Lowry

  • Andrew Brown – Viola.  Andrew is the Associate Principal Violist of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and has been a member of the CBC Radio Orchestra for over 18 years. Apart from his heavy involvement in the Vancouver music scene he has performed widely throughout North America, China and Korea.
  • Noam Buchman – Flute
    Is a highly-acclaimed flautist from Israel. He has performed in concert and recordings most of the existing repertoire for flute.Along with his extensive performing career he teaches flute at the Jerusalem Academy of Music.
  • Michael Hampton – Piano. Michael performs regularly on major stages around the world, including Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall, and broadcasts frequently on radio. He works both as a soloist and chamber musician.

 Andrew Brown        Noam Buchman - flute      Michael Hampton

  • Tadasuke Lijima – Violin
    Tadasuke was born in Japan and studied under the guidance of Hitoshi Maezawa, Boris Kuschnir, Toshiya Eto, Zakhar  Bron  and Mayumi Fukijawa. He is currently studying under the direction of Rivka Golani at Trinity Laban  Conservatoire of Music and Dance. He ha won many prizes and has appeared with a number of major symphony orchestras.
  • Vanessa Lucas-Smith – Cello
    Vanessa is a “Brit” who began her studies at the Royal College of Music. She is also a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music. She has a passion for chamber music, has won many prizes and is a founding member of the Brodowski Quartet.
  • Rivka Golani – Viola
    Rivka is recognized as one of the great violists of modern times and she is the Musical Director of this festival . She plays with passion and fire and, in the vernacular, she is “a rock star”. Be prepared to be swept away by her performances during the festival. What more can one say?

 Tadasuke Lijima  Vanesa Lucas Smith - cello   Rivka Golani

  • Peter Knapp – Narrator
    Essentially he is a vocalist who has performed though out the world (Frankfurt, Zurich, Bulgaria, St. Louis, Hong Kong, Venice, Australia and South America) with many companies including his own. I believe he will be doing some vocal coaching and teaching during the festival.
  • Benjamin Ellin – Composer and Conductor
    Benjamin is an award winning and critically acclaimed British conductor and composer. He is currently the Musical Director of Thursford Productions, Principal Conductor of the Strathwaite Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director of Focus Opera and President of Pembroke Academy of Music, London. His composition for this Festival is entitled Baker Massacre and will be premiered at Heads Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Sunday May 25, 2014. Benjamin will be conducting the premier performance of David Jaeger’s Thunder and Raven.
  • David Jaeger – Composer (Thunder and Raven).
    On reading his extensive resume it is evident that David Jaeger has been in the fore front of modern music for many years. His composition Thunder and Raven for solo flute, viola and chamber ensemble is inspired by a Blackfoot legend and  will be premiered at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on Friday May 23, 2014.

              Narrator Peter Knapp - Thunder and Raven             Benjamin Ellin

  • Other players include Charles Heller – Composer Two Ravens (it will be premiered at Heads Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Sunday May 25, 2014); Fred Stenson (text for Baker Massacre); Jennifer Stirling Pierre – Narrator; Adam Mason – Percussion and Matthew Heller who must be playing  the largest Orchestral Bass on the planet.

Act I – Cranbrook Key City Theatre;

Scene I – Rehearsals in the foyer of the Key City Theatre

Here are some images from at least three days of rehearsals.

 Deanna Oye       John Lowry   Rivka Golani      Vanessa Lucas-Smith    Tadasuke Lijima  Michael Hampton      Deanna Oye     Rivka Golani   Vanessa Lucas-Smith   110. John Lowry  Tadasuke Lijima      Rivka Golani      John Lowry The Brahms Quartet  Deanna Oye and Gerard Gibbs    Deanna Oye and Gerard Gibbs Gerard Gibbs      Andrew Brown - viola    164. Noam Buchman - flute The Mozart Quartet

Scene 2 – Mozart at the Heid Out – A truly pleasant way to spend a lunch time.

At The Heid Out     At The Heid Out    At The Heid Out At The Heid Out   At The Heid Out

Scene 3 – Final Dress Rehearsal On Stage at the Key City Theatre.

First the piano technician: 

The Piano Tuner  The Piano Tuner  The Piano Tuner

Then the plot:

  • Mozart Quartet in D Major K285 for flute, violin, viola and cello –
    Allegro / Adagio / Rondo

Noam Buchman – Flute; Andrew Brown – Viola; Vanessa Lucas-Smith – Cello; John Lowry – Violin

208. Mozart Quartet

204. Mozart Quartet - Noam Buchman 210. Andrew Brown - Mozart Quartet   Vanessa Lucas-Smith - Mozart Quartet   John Lowry - Mozart Quartet Noam and John - Mozart QuartetMozart Quartet     Mozart Quartet Andrew and Vanessa

  • Robert Kahn (1856-1951) Serenade Op.73 for Oboe, Viola and Piano – Andante sostenuto / Vivace / Andante sosenuto

Gerard Gibbs – Oboe; Andrew Brown – Viola; Deanna Oye

314, Deanna , Andrew and Gerard - Robert Kahn's Serenade   Gerard Gibbs - Robert Kahn's Serenade  Gerard and Andrew - Robert Kahn's Serenade    Robert Kahn's Serenade

  • David Jaeger – Thunder and Raven for solo Flute, Viola, and String Quartet With Movement / Moderato / Interlude – Allegretto / Finale – Andante

Noam Buchman – Flute; Rivka Golani – Viola; Tadasuke Lijima – Violin; John Lowry – Violin; Andrew Brown – Viola; Vanessa Lucas-Smith – Cello; Peter Knapp – Narrator; Benjamin Ellin – Conductor

Peter Knapp - Thunder and Raven    Thunder and Raven Ensemble   Benjamin Ellin - Conductor - Thunder and Raven   Rivka Golani - Thunder and Raven   Benjamin Ellin - Thunder and Raven

  • Serge Rachmaninoff – Trio elegiaque No.1 Lento lugubre – piu vivo – Lento piu vivo – alla marci funebre

John Lowry – Violin; Vanessa Lucas-Smith – Cello; Deanna Oye – Piano

Trio elegiaque

  • Johannes BrahmsPiano Quartet Op. 25 in G minor Allegro / Intermezzo. Allegro /  Andante con Motto / Rondo alla Zingarese. Presto

Michael Hampton – Piano; Rivka Golani – Viola; Tadasuke Lijima – Violin; Vanessa Lucas-Smith – Cello.

Brahms Quartet   Brahms Quartet - Rivka Golani      Brahms Quartet - Michael Hampton    Brahms Quartet - Vanessa Lucas-Smith  Brahms Quartet - Tadsuke Lijima

024. Curtain





The remaining acts in the Festival

  • Fernie Knox United Church, Saturday – May 24, 2014, 3pm
  • Head Smashed in Buffalo, Fort MacLeod, Sunday – May 25th, 2014 7:30pm
  • University of Lethbridge Recital Hall, Lethbridge – May 26, 2014 8pm


It was unfortunate that prior commitments prevented me from taking in the actual concerts but what I saw and heard was enough to convince me that this had all the ingredients of a very successful event and one hopes that it will happen annually. It was a big deal and it could become even bigger. My favourite performances were Thunder and Raven and the Brahms Quartet. The first was so thoroughly modern that I could not help but enjoy it (I like all the “weird” sounds). As for the Brahms piano quartet, well normally I don’t care for the music of Brahms but this was a real “blood and guts” performance. So much so that later  I went through my CD collection and came up with performance by Murray Perahia and the Amadeus Quartet. I have played it almost continuously for the past week.


Is the Era of the Screaming Electric Guitar over?

If the popular press is any indicator then maybe so. Mind you the press is not usually in the fore front of news, views and cultural phenomenon. Usually they are behind in their reporting of movements etc.

The first article of note by Jenny Lee in the Vancouver Sun March 8, 2014 – “A real acoustic revival is going on now ………. guitars, mandolins banjos and ukeleles are making a comeback. The sales of high-end and custom acoustic guitars have risen by 39 percent since 2009 while electric guitar sales have plummeted, according to the National Association of Music Merchants. More than half of the guitar sales are now acoustic  as trends in popular music shift from rock to more acoustic-focused country, according to the Music Business Journal”. 

The second article, by Francois Marchand in the Vancouver Sun this past weekend in the Arts and Life Section (Saturday May 10, 2014) had a two page spread “PLANET BANJO – From Bela Fleck to Mumford and Sons and Steve Martin , five strings rule the world.”  That certainly seemed to re-enforce the notion that electric guitars no longer rule the music scene.  Maybe it is about time. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the whole British Invasion thing virtually invented the rock and roll quartet (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, electric bass and drums). Admittedly they took elements of popular American roots music and invented or re-invented a whole genre of music that has now held sway for around fifty years. In the process the normally quiet guitar was electrified and “amped” up to volumes that surpassed even the largest of conventional orchestras. In normal circumstances you would be hard pressed to hear an acoustic guitar across a normal sized room. The electric guitar changed all that. In the evolving popular music scene the electric guitar stepped out of the sonic shadows to dominate the landscape. The standard rock quartet or “power trio” (guitar, bass and drums) ended up featuring the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. In the 60s, 70’s and beyond a whole slew of virtuosic guitar Gods became the idols of just about every teenage boy on the planet. The electric guitar became an instant “chick magnet” and what teenage boy would not want to be part of that? Time marches on and things do change. Classic Rock still rules the air waves and yet, if you look around, maybe the younger generation of musicians are looking in a different direction.  And, if you take another look you will notice that the average age of most local rock musicians is now probably over forty and even, possibly, over fifty. The rock touring circuit seems to be dominated by musicians well past their best out date. There is a reliance on nostalgia rather than musicality and innovation.That should tell us something. In most of the social musical gatherings I have participated in over recent years the scene has been dominated by acoustic instruments. The music has returned to human scale and stepped away from the magnitudes of a rock-arena. At a recent square dance (yes, they are still happening) the dominant instruments in the hands of the under twenty five crowd was actually mandolins and banjos. In the young bands around town an electric guitar is a pretty rare sight. A young fiddle player of my acquaintance, in commenting on rock music, succinctly put it that “there are too many guitar players”. Maybe he is right and the music scene is returning to one of sonic diversity. I welcome that.


SHEVA at the Heid Out

SHEVA – Van and Shelagh Redecopp  (Van on guitar and vocals, Shelagh on fiddle and vocals and guest Rod Wilson on cittern and percussion) at the Heid Out in Cranbrook, May 9, 2014 7:30-11:30pm.

This is not an impartial review of the night’s performance. I am completely biased. I admit it that SHEVA is one of my favorite musical groups and THE HEID OUT is one of my favorite hangouts. So put the two together and the combination is unbeatable. Great food, great beer and great ambience plus an opportunity to play back up percussion for SHEVA. What more could I want? It definitely was a great night with lots of joy and great tunes. The cream on the jellied donut or the drizzle on the Cheesecake was when ‘Gus’ MacDonald stepped out of the audience and borrowed Shelagh’s Fiddle to rip through some Cape Breton styled fiddle tunes. I was ecstatic about the evening, Hedi Romich (the owner) on looking over the full house and the appreciative audience was grinning from ear to ear. Days later the staff were quizzing me about “who was that  fantastic young fiddle player”  and when was SHEVA returning for a repeat engagement? – very soon I hope. Here are just a couple of images from the night. I was too busy trying to keep up with the band and Gus MacDonald to spend much time taking photos.

 Van Redecopp                    200. Shelagh Redecopp Shelagh Redecopp          Sheva Van Redecopp  210. Shelagh Redecopp ShevaShelagh Redecopp@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

LJO at the Heid Out

The Little Jazz Orchestra at the Heid Out in Cranbrook, Thursday May 2, 2014 7-9pm.

LJO at Heidi'sI’m happy. Why wouldn’t I be happy? Thursday was the first Thursday of the month and that meant the The Little Jazz Orchestra (Janice Nicli on bass, Graham Knipfel on drums, Jim Cameron on guitar and Dave Ward on trumpet and fluegelhorn), were playing their regular gig at the Heid Out in Cranbrook, and, even better, they played a couple of my favorite tunes (Bernie’s Tune and Manha de Carnival). Good food, good beer, great ambience and my favorite tunes LIVE!!! What more could I ask?

Dave Ward   Janice Nicli  Dave Ward Jim Cameron                               Graham Knipfel Jim Cameron Dave Ward   Jim CameronJanice Nicli                    Graham Knipfel

So, remember the first Thursday of the month 7-9pm – LIVE JAZZ WITH THE LJO AT THE HEID OUT IN CRANBROOK. Over the summer months the band is planning some “themed nights”. On the drawing board at the moment is a Blues Night, a New Orlean’s Night, Show Tune night and a Latin Night.


Elena Yeung and the Kootenay Express

Elena Yeung and the Kootenay Express with special guests Michael and Anie Hepher at the Marysville Pub, Sunday May 27, 2014 3pm.

Mike and AnieFor some of us it was a little slice of Bluegrass heaven. Elena Yeung (banjo and vocals), her great original songs supported by Steve Jones solid bass playing;  some choice counter melodies from Karl Sommerfeldt; Keith Larsen’s  classy rhythm and flat picking guitar, plus the added bonus of the old-timey sounds of Mike and Anie Hepher on mandolin and clawhammer banjo. Yeah, for the aficionados a little slice of heaven is an apt description. For anybody else maybe it was just a relaxing Sunday afternoon of good music  – either way “just another rotten day in paradise”. Although the usual fetish of a single condenser microphone was center stage the musicians broke with tradition and “plugged in” the fiddle, bass and guitar. That suited me – I always find the dancing around a single microphone distracting and, beside you never really hear the guitar and the guitar of Keith Larsen is always worth hearing. Although Lena has recorded a lot of her material it was good to hear live versions of Dandelion, Wake Wake up Little Sparrow, Fire on the Mountain and the wonderfully dreary The Grave Diggers Daughter. One of the joys of traditional music is the sound of great melodies. Karl and Lena did not disappoint with their great banjo and fiddle duets on Dance Around Molly, and Cindy,Cindy. Mike and Anie stepped up to the plate with Steve and Keith on Lazy John. Most people don’t realize that the late rock guitarist Gerry Garcia had some pretty solid Bluegrass credentials and, to prove the point, Keith Larsen played a version of the Grateful Dead’s Friend of the Devil. He also dipped his hat to Mike Jagger and Keith Richards with his rendition of their hit song Wild Horses. There are some songs and tunes that should no longer be performed. For instance, Scottish Bagpipers should refuse to play Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace. They have been done to death. And, normally, I would put Dueling Banjos and the Orange Blossom Special in the same category. However, this fine group of musicians breathed new life and humor into these old war horses and I have to retract my condemnation – Well done guys!!

Elena Yeung                           Karl Sommerfeldt    Karl and ElenaElena Yeung        Karl Sommerfeldt  Karl and Elena       Steve Jones                        Anie Hepher Keith Larsen                        Karl Sommerfeldt

Check the review of her last show at the Marysville Pub  Elena Yeung doing the Clinch Mountain Back Step . Elena Yeung and the Kootenay Express (Steve, Karl and Keith) will be touring around over the summer. Catch them if you can because we are going to lose Elena to Ottawa. She is relocating in the fall. Sigh!!!!! Elena Yeung @@@@@@@@@@@@