If variety is the spice of life, then London’s 2015 music scene is off to a flavourful start, with something to appeal to every taste and budget.
Those lucky enough to make their own schedules should check out the free Fridays-at-noon concert series at Western University’s von Kuster Hall. Held weekly throughout the academic year, the series is a wonderful opportunity for Londoners to hear an eclectic mix of music performed by faculty, students, and renowned guest artists.
The January line-up includes an interactive recital by pianist Jason White on January 9, and a collaborative performance of baroque chamber music for violin, cello, and harpsichord featuring members of Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Western’s Early Music Studio Band on January 16.
A week later, on January 23, Montreal’s Shawn Mativetsky presents a program of traditional and new music for tabla.
Drawn to traditional Western percussion at the age of seven, Mativetsky became fascinated by the by the north Indian hand drums and continued studying tabla while pursuing his master’s degree in classical music at McGill University.
“As my career developed, tabla took over,” he says. Today, Mativetsky is a sought-after tabla performer and educator who gives lectures, workshops and performances internationally.
This January, his busy schedule brings him to Western University’s music faculty, where he’ll be running student workshops in addition to his Friday performance.
The solo recital includes a traditional tabla work as well as three original compositions commissioned by Mativetsky: Les arbres céleste (1998, rev. 2010) by Bruno Paquet, Ke-Te (2006) by Western Music faculty member Paul Frehner, and Something to Say (2014) by Tawnie Olson.
“I’ve been commissioning people to write for table since 1999, collaborating closely in creating this new repertoire, bridging Indian classical and Western classical genres,” Mativetsky says. www.music.uwo.ca
February begins on a high note, with UWOpera’s production of Puccini’s La Bohème taking to the Paul Davenport Theatre stage from January 30 to February 8.
Premiered in Turin, Italy in 1896, La Bohème is now one of the most performed operas of all time. “Audiences really love it,” says Western University voice professor and director of operatic studies, Theodore Baerg. “It’s wonderful music, and we have the students who can sing it.”
The story of love and loss among Paris bohemians is set in an artists’ garret, where the poet Rodolfo struggles to make ends meet while pursuing his craft — and the pretty seamstress next door. “It’s about the challenges that young artists have, and that hasn’t changed substantially from the 19th century to 2014,” notes Baerg.
Despite the difficulties facing young performers, Baerg says there are plenty of young people interested in pursuing careers in opera. In fact, he says interest in the art form has steadily grown across North America over the past 20 years.
“There are now young artist programs in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. And they all hire. There are significant opportunities to perform and study.”
Now in his 19th year with UWOpera, Baerg continues to enjoy mentoring the next generation while enjoying his own international singing career. “Working with young singers who have real potential is completely inspiring,” he says. Check www.music.uwo.ca for performance times.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra returns to London February 6 when they bring “A Baroque Fest” to Aeolian Hall. For this performance, Toronto’s world-famous early music ensemble will be lead by Romanian baroque violinist Mira Glodeanu. The program features virtuosic works from the late baroque era, including music by Bach, Vivaldi, and Telemann.
The Aeolian, with its wonderful acoustics, is the perfect place to showcase the group’s acclaimed sound. www.aeolianhall.ca
If you’ve ever wanted to hear someone play the bones, you’re in luck. Stratford Symphony Orchestra’s March 7 concert at Knox Presbyterian Church includes percussionist and composer Graham Hargrove performing a new work featuring the simple folk instrument.
The remainder of the “Hot Latin Nights” concert will present more traditional fare, with works by Piazzolla and Scarlatti.
Now in its 10th season, SSO has developed a loyal and growing audience. “The SSO fills a musical niche in our city,” says SSO manager and librarian, Liesel Deppe. “We offer art and entertainment during the months when the Stratford Festival is on hiatus.”
Many people move to Stratford to retire from big-city life, she notes. They are used to being exposed to the arts and appreciate being able to attend an orchestral concert without having to travel long distances. www.stratfordsymphonyorchestra.ca
At the time of writing, the future of Orchestra London was in doubt. It is with sadness that we report that the organization’s financial difficulties have forced the cancellation of the rest of its 2014/15 concert season.
Nicole Laidler is a musician-turned-writer and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. Visit her at spilledink.ca