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.


Lily Quartet: Lilies at the Bass of the Rockies

LILIES AT THE BASS OF THE ROCKIES – THE LILY STRING QUARTET with Susan Gould (Piano) and Matt Heller (Double Bass) Knox Presbyterian Church, Sunday November 17, 2013, 2pm  Lily Quartet

I like chamber music and I don’t just mean classical chamber music. I like chamber music of just about any pursuasion. Why? Mostly because it’s human scale and in the best settings it can be very intimate. Chamber music doesn’t require mammoth organization and infrastructure for its presentation. At a basic level it just requires a  Susan Gouldbunch of like minded musicians and a small venue with minimal or no sound  re-enforcement. In this instance the bunch of musicians were The Lily Quartet and guests Susan Gould (Piano) and Matt Heller (Double Bass) and the venue was the wonderful Knox Presbyterian Church  Matt Hellerin Cranbrook. Normally the Lily Quartet consists of Andrea Case (Cello), Diane Lane (Violin), Patricia Higgins (Viola) and Elisa Milner (Violin). Now “necessity is the mother of invention” so when Elisa Milner was sidelined by the birth of her daughter in early November the quartet was reduced to a trio and this presented the group with a unique opportunity to explore different options. With the help of special guests they are able to present music that is different from the standard string quartet repertoire. The opening piece was the Solo Quartet #1 in C Major composed by F.A. Hoffmeister (1754-1812) for Solo Double Bass, Violin, Viola and Cello. Now the Double Bass is a huge instrument that, in this particular piece of music, requires some Matt Heller athletic skill to play the upper register passages. The dexterity require in this piece somewhat approached what we normally associate with violin music. Hoffmeister’s music appeared to be solidly in the classic tradition of Haydn and Mozart. The piece consisted of four movements: Allegro moderato; Menuett; Andante; Rondo – Allegretto. Visually this was a pretty spectacular with Matt, who is a rather slim man, clambering all over this huge instrument to produce the wonderful deep throated voice that we rarely have an opportunity to hear or appreciate. As a trio (Violin, Viola and Cello) the group played the Serenade in C Major, Op.10  by E. von Dohnanyi (1877-1960). Even in classical music circles this composer is not a household name. He is best remember for his association with the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. The piece consisted of four movements Marcia- Allegro, Romanza – Adagio non troppo, quasi andante, Tema con variazoni – Andante con moto and Rondo – Allegro vivace. The trio only played three of the movements.  Susan Gould and Matt Heller  joined the trio on stage for the major performance of the evening – Piano Quintet in A Major, “Trout”, D 667 by Franz Peter Schubert (1797 -1828). Because I had pigeon holed Schubert as a Romantic Composer and, given my disinclination to listen to Romantic Music, over the years I had not paid too much attention to the piece but that may be about to change. Susan Gould’s introduction caught my attention and the music lived up to the expectations she created. I have put that composition on my list to add to my CD collection. All in all, as usual with the chamber music concerts in The Knox, is was a very satisfying evening of music. My only regret was the very small turn out for a concert that was well worth attending. The question I must ask is where were all the symphony patrons and symphony society members? Where were the music educators and their students? There were two piano teachers in the audience but where were the rest? The small turnout speaks volumes for the real level of support that classical music has in the area.  Here are some more images from the evening:

 Andrea Case  Matt Heller and Andrea Case   Patricia Higgins  Lily Quartet (Trio)   Andrea Case  008.   Lily Quartet   Susan Gould   Matt Heller  Andrea Case   Diane Lane - violin   Matt Heller   Diane Lane and Patricia Higgins  Andrea Case          Matt Heller   Andrea Case



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La Cafamore presents Celebrated Trios

La Cafamore presents Celebrated Trios at the Knox Presbyterian Church, Saturday October 5, 7:30 pm.

 La CafamoreHow did she do it? In that day and age the idea of “career woman”, if it ever occurred at all,  would have been considered an oxymoron. But Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a single mother with 7 children and a busy concert career and she did manage to survive as a “working mother”. Of course, something had to go and in her case it was the demanding avocation of composer. Still, there are compositions of her’s out there. Case in point. La Cafamore (Carolyn Cameron – Violin, Nina Horvath – Piano and Alexis Moore – Viola) performed the Scherzo from the Piano Trio, Op.17 in concert at the Knox Presbyterian Church on Saturday. It is an interesting piece, somewhat jazzy in texture with rhythmic syncopations somewhat reminiscent of early ragtime. This is a composition that probably predates the compositions of the the flamboyant American pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk who started experimenting with indigenous American musical motives in the mid to late 19th century.

In classical chamber music the Piano Trio is usually piano, cello and violin. La Cafamore’s usual cello player (Jeff Faragher) was not available, so after arranging some suitable transcriptions of the cello part, Alexis Moore, on Viola, substituted for Jeff. The Viola and the Cello are an octave apart but are tuned the same way (CGDA) so the implementation of the substitution was possible. So with this configuration the group tackled Joseph Haydn’s Trio in G and Beethoven’s Trio in Bb (The Archduke). Alexis felt that the major challenge, surprisingly was not the Beethoven, but rather the Haydn trio. The music in this concert is what I call “music in the middle”. Joseph Haydn had left behind the the polyphonic complexities of the Baroque period to pursue a clearer compositional style. In what became known as the Classical era he was followed by Mozart and, to some extent, Beethoven. In the latter, elements of the gathering histrionic storm of the Romantics were on the horizon. The coming shift in music  finally matured into the complexity of the late romantics. There you have it – from complexity to clarity and onto further complexity, ie. “music in the middle”. So in keeping with “music in the middle” this was an enjoyable program of clear, precise compositions by masters of the Classical period, Haydn and Beethoven, with a little taste of the exotic in the music of Clara Schumann. Just my cup of tea.

 Stage   Alexis Moore  Nina Horvath   Alexis Moore   Carolyn Cameron Carolyn Cameron            Nina Horvath Nina Horvath           Alexis Moore Carolyn Cameron Nina Horvath Carolyn Cameron Alexis Moore     Carolyn Cameron  La Cafamore

This particular concert was part of La Cafamore’s fall tour that included performances in Silverton, Rossland, Fernie, Invermere, Cranbrook, Crawford Bay and Nelson and was supported by the Columbia Basin Trust and The Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance. Dr. R.J. Cameron and Drs. Jane and Rob Gray must also be thanked for their sponsorship of the tour and Pastor Ron for making this exceptional venue once again available to La Cafamore. This is undoubtedly the finest chamber music venue in the area.

Symphonic music performances are the major marque events that attract the most significant amounts of sponsorship support and money. I think Carolyn Cameron and her colleagues in La Cafarmore, The Selkirk Trio and The Kootenay Brass Quintet should be more than commended for their unflagging efforts, without major corporate sponsorship, to get quality music out in front of local audiences. Over the past few years we have been treated to some stellar performance of music that are somewhat off the beaten track. It is extraordinary that we have managed to hear live performances of George Crumb’s Black Angels, and Steve Reich’s Different Trains, just to mention two, here in the small communities of the Kootenays. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.


Selkirk Trio at the Knox

The Selkirk Trio at the Knox – A Reprise,Tuesday July 30th, 7:30 pm at the Knox Presbyterian Church in Cranbrook. The stage is set, let the music begin…………………. 50. stageThe Selkirk Trio members are Jeff Faragher from Nelson on Cello, Nicola Evererton from Rossland  on Clarinet and Susan Gould from Golden on Piano. “Nothing beats a good tune”. Beethoven may not have said that but it is evident that he must have thought about it. For instance in the Piano trio in Bb032. major, Opus 11, he used a popular melody of the day as a basis for the composition. Along with the decision to replace the violin with clarinet in the traditional piano trio maybe it was, as we say these days ‘a marketing strategy ‘. As the opening performance piece in the Selkirk Trio’s concert  this lively third movement, with its nine variations, was a winner. For this concert it established the trio’s classical credentials . This concert is somewhat a reprise of the previous year’s program that was designed to display the trio’s classical and Jazz “chops”. Classical credentials are in order, what about Jazz? For this the audience was called upon to test Jeff Faragher the warm turbulent Cuban waters of Paquito D’Rivera’s Afro. Paquito is a master Cuban clarinettist and Alto Sax player who has, at one time or another, dominated Cuban Jazz and Classical music. The rhythmic nature of the composition was re-enforced by the Jeff doing double duty on cello and Djembe (West African drum). The rhythmic possibilities of Cuban music were merely a taste test for  the exotic Serbian Dance compositions of Croatian composer Marko Tajcevic. For the uninitiated this Serbian music should have been a complete revelation. Eighth rhythms (7/8, 11/8, 13/8 etc) are well known features of Balkan music and are prominent in these dances. Arthur Rubenstein was known to have played transcriptions of these compositions and his influence was very evident in Sue Gould’s lively accompaniment to Nicola Everton’s absolutely liquid clarinet playing. Once again Nicola bounced and oozed her way through the exotic odd meter eighth rhythms of this music that sounded like it came straight off the streets of Zagreb. Oscar Peterson is a classically trained Canadian pianist who is better known for his post-Art Tatum dominance of the jazz piano world. One of his famous pieces is Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia on My Mind. Although written for his sister, the US State of Georgia has appropriated the piece as their state anthem. Now that would be a composers dream. Just think of the royalty checks. Sue Gould played a transcription of this famous Oscar Peterson performance piece. The modern composer Nino Roto is better known to audiences through his orchestral scores for The Godfather I & II. It is not his only claim to fame. He is a prolific composer  who at his peak was producing 10 scores a year. The trio presented some selections from his chamber works. Mark Summer, is the Turtle Island Quartet‘s cellist; he is a founding member and has performed with Turtle Island (a.k.a. Turtle Island String Quartet) since its founding in 1985. Prior to that he was a resident of Winnipeg and performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. In this piece Jeff Faragher gave full range to his aggressive percussive nature on a solo piece by Mark Summer entitled Julie-O. Back in the jazz bag with the trio with Nicola exploring the jazz standard I Got Rhythm.  The trio returned to the streets of Cuba with Paquito D’Rivera’s Danzon. The evening concluded with Sue Gould and Nicola Everton  giving full rein to their jazz inclinations on Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”.  Jeff provided some  wonderful percussive brushes on snare drum and hi-hat to give the tune the required propulsive jazz feel.The concert was a reprise of last year’s program but the trio put “live’ back into classical performances with their lively program of an interesting mix of new repertoire and re-interpretations. One can look forward, hopefully, to their next tour through the area.

 Drum Kit  Jeff Faragher Sue Gold Nicola Everton   Nicola Everton and Sue Gold   Jeff Faragher   Nicola Everton and Sue Gold  Jeff Farragher  Sue Gold  034.


Here are some selections from YouTube that will give some sense of the Paquito D’Rivera’s compositions. AFRO   DANZON  

and also Mark Summer  JULIE-O



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George Crumb’s BLACK ANGELS

  La Cafamore String Quartet at the Knox Presbyterian Church,

April 20, 2013, 7:30pm

La Cafamore posterCollectively musicians and their dedicated audiences are a conservative lot. It seems that the music we are introduced to between the ages of fifteen and thirty years becomes the sound track of our lives. If you are a baby boomer then the chances are that Classic Rock is your sound track. For those born a little later probably it will be Heavy Metal. Likewise musicians reflect what they have been exposed to either as a listener or as a journeyman while they are learning their craft. Jazz musician usually rattle around in the cage of be-bop or the immediate post bop schools of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Classical musicians are completely embedded in the Romantic and post Romantic schools of music. So, I guess, it explains the popularity of Tribute Bands, the never ending revivals of the same La Cafamore String Quartetpopular  musicals and the stagnation of the Classical Symphony Orchestra Repertoire. So it is like a breathe of fresh air when the local ensemble La Cafamore String Quartet (Carolyn Cameron, Angele Synde, Jeff Faragher, & Alexis Moore) attempts to blow the wax out of our ears with some pretty adventurous programming. They tour through the Kootenays every spring and fall and during each tour they bring to audiences music that is fresh and challenging. For me the high light of their program last spring was Steve Reich’s Different Trains. This spring they have tried to out do themselves with George Crumb’s  “Black Angels” and Schubert’s String Quartet in D Minor – “Death and the Maiden”.  On the surface this would seem to be sombre fare for an evening’s entertainment. And yet, by no stretch of the imagination was this program a “snoozer”. The stage with its black backdrop and the Black Angel motif set the atmosphere for the processional entrance of Gabriel’s Message (a Basque Christmas Carol). I am not sure how a cello player manages to master the art of holding and bowing his instrument while marching but, whatever the technique required, it did not appear to be a  Tuned Crystal Glassesgreat challenge for Jeff Faragher. The stage props of crystal glasses, cymbals, gongs, metal thimbles and a displayed score that looked like a work of art were an intriguing teaser for what was to come. Make no mistake Black Angels is a very modern piece of music. The opener for the composition was entitled Threnody I: Night of the Electric Insects and it would have been right at home on the sound track of John Cronenberg’s The Naked Lunch. This was not tuneful music, and as Jeff mentioned in his introduction, it wasn’t meant to be. The composer’s intention was to make us feel uncomfortable. The full title for George Crumb’s Black Angels is “Thirteen Images from the Dark Land”. Here is a quote from the CD liner notes of the famous recording of BLACK ANGELS by THE KRONOS QUARTET: “BLACK ANGELS is probably the only quartet to have been inspired by the Vietnam War. The work draws from an arsenal of sounds including shouting, chanting, whistling, whispering, gongs, maracas and crystal glasses. The score bears two inscriptions: in tempore belli (in time of war) and Finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March 1970. BLACK ANGELS was conceived as a kind of parable on our  Jeff and the Scoretroubled contemporary world. The work portrays a voyage of the soul. The three stages of the voyage are Departure (fall from grace), Absence (spiritual annihilation) and Return (redemption)”. George Crumb is an American who composed this piece at the height of the war in Vietnam so the darkness of the music is understandable. During the intermission the quartet’s cellist Jeff Faragher  walked the audience through some aspects of the composer’s score. It was a fascinating document that looked more like a piece of art than a musical score. In the second half of the program and  Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” the quartet returned to the readily recognizable musical vocabulary of the Romantic Era. The second movement of the quartet uses the theme from one of Schubert’s songs of the same name. Overall the mood of the evening may have been dark but the execution of the music was full of interesting musical techniques, sounds and explorations. The music was a far cry from polite string quartet wedding music and a planet away from your standard FM Classic Rock radio music. This was an evening of truly adventurous music.

The Stage Setting             Tuned Crystal Glasses  Tuned Crystal Glasses and score     The Score   Carolyn Cameron     Jeff Faragher     Carolyn Cameron  Death and the Maiden Score                                 Stage Setting   Angela Synde     Jeff Faragher and some unorthodox bowing     Carolyn Cameron bowing the crystal glasses       Jeff Faragher     Alexis Moore     Jeff Faragher   Alexis Moore              Carolyn Cameron

La Cafamore String Quartet - Angela Synde, Carolyn Cameron, Jeff Faragher, Alexis Moore La Cafamore String QuartetLa Cafamore String Quartet La Cafamore String Quartet La Cafamore String Quartet Black Angel Header@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Classical Season just ended….


It was a classical music season of ups and down and I guess the outdoor concert “Music in the Mountains” was a convenient end to a somewhat rocky season. But first a disclaimer. I didn’t get to all the performances during the season. I missed the Symphony Christmas concert and I didn’t attend any of the Arts Festival performances so I guess I missed a significant chunk of what was going on. However, of the concerts that I did get to attend I think the following are worth noting.

The Diva and the Maestro – Natalie Choquette and the Symphony of the Kootenays, Key City Theatre, Saturday, October 29th, 2011, 7:30 pm

Classically trained sopranos are not necessarily my cup of tea. More often than not for me they are shrill and hard on the ear. However, Natalie Choquette proved to be the exception. She managed to take the standard diva repertoire to another level of entertainment. The premise of the concert was “A Maestro is trying to come to terms with eccentric internationally renowned divas such as “la Fettucini”, “Fraulein Wienerschnitzel”, “Nadia Camenitchaïkovskyaya”, “Mrs Osolemio” and many more…!” In an array of an extravagant costumes and interactions with members of the audience and “the maestro” Natalie played the role of all the divas in this contest of wills with the conductor Bruce Dunn.  With humour and panache she managed to work her way though the popular operatic repertoire. Of the symphony concerts I have attended over the years this was by far the most entertaining. It was unfortunate that the audience numbers were less than optimum. Of course one wonders why that was the case and possibly part of the reason for low attendance was the lack of adequate publicity. I for one had no idea what to expect from the concert and as a result I was more than pleasantly surprised by the wonderful performance. Normally I am not a fan of concerts that place a high reliance on show biz glitz to pull off a performance but for Natalie Choquette the entertainment trappings were definitely an added value.

LA CAFAMORE STRING QUARTET, Knox Presbyterian Church, Friday September 30th, 2011, 7:30

From one extreme to the other; From the entertainment values of the operatic world to the modern, super cool, amplified music of the La Cafamore String Quartet is quite a leap and it was a leap well worth taking. The featured work on the program was Steve Reich’s minimalist masterpiece “Different Trains”. This piece may have required a significant intellectual and emotional leap for audiences unfamiliar with truly modern music. Steve Reich is a modern American minimalist composer who relies on short phrases that evolve, loop and interlock in complex melodic and rhythmic patterns. It is steps away from the increasing harmonic complexity of most modern music. The piece is a programmatic rumination by the composer on train journeys in the United States and in Europe in 1939 on through to about 1950. It is a reflection of the composer’s personal recollections and war time Jewish experiences. Now here is the super cool part. As usual the publisher sends along the  manuscript for the string quartet but also includes a CD of pre-recorded train sounds, snatches of speech and another string quartet playing the loops of music that are the core of the composition. In simplistic terms “Different Trains” is an interactive karaoke experience of a pre-recorded CD performance and the amplified La Cafamore String Quartet on stage.  The overhead display of the text and the sequence of the music certainly helped keep the audience on track. “Different Trains” is a three movement work; “I: America – before the War”, “II: Europe – During the War”, “III: After the War”. The piece was featured on a landmark 1988 recording by the Kronos Quartet but to actually see and hear the piece in live performance was a some what mind blowing experience. Also on the program were pieces by those  other well known revolutionaries Beethoven, Debussy and Puccini. This was a remarkable concert.

The Selkirk Trio, Knox Presbyterian Church, Cranbrook, Wednesday April 11th, 2012, 7:30 pm.

This unusual chamber music concert of piano (Sue Gould), clarinet (Nicola Everton) and cello (Jeff Faragher) was well attended. The trio featured the music of Beethoven, the Cuban Jazz world of Paquito D’Rivera’s “Afro”; The “lively and cheeky” music of Nino Roto (of The Godfather I & II film scores); some minor pieces by the German Jewish composer Max Bruch and the exotic Serbian dances by Marko Tajcevic. The Serbian music was a complete revelation. Arthur Rubenstein was known to have played transcriptions of these compositions and his influence was very evident in Sue Gould’s lively accompaniment to Nicola Everton’s absolutely liquid clarinet playing. Nicola bounced and oozed her way through the exotic odd metre eighth rhythms of music that sounded like it came straight off the streets of Zagreb. The program was rounded out with Paquito D’Rivera’s “Danzon” and Sue Gould and Nicola Porter giving full rein to their jazz inclinations with a wonderful rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”.

So those are my top picks of the season. That does not mean there were not other performances of merit out there. The concerts by the Bisset Singers was full of surprises and gorgeous choral arrangements.  The La Cafamore String Quartet came back to Cranbrook with Nina Horvath for another wonderful performance at the Knox. The unusual combination of Carolyn Cameron on violin and Aurora Dokken on piano and organ were also featured at the Knox in February. The talented amateur vocalists had their day in the sun at the Knox performing in “Sonatina Sunday”  (see the tab PERFORMANCES / MUSIC / SONATINA SUNDAY 2012 ). The JOE TRIO gave an entertaining performance at the Key City that was billed as a Symphony of the Kootenays concert but there was no orchestra in sight. I found that a bit puzzling. And of course there was the grand finale concert “Music In the Mountains” outdoors at the St Eugene Mission Golf resort.


So despite some organizational miss-steps by the Symphony it was a season full of wonderful music. The most notable feature of the season was the significant amount interesting and varied chamber music performed at the Knox Presbyterian Church.