The Arts

Spring Strings

Nicole Laidler
Written by Nicole Laidler

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The Jeffery Concerts begin the busy spring season when the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Chamber Soloists perform a program of French music on March 19.

Comprised of the TSO’s principal musicians — Jonathan Crow, violin; Teng Li, viola; Joseph Johnson, cello; Nora Schulman, flute; and Heidi Van Hoese Gorton, harp — the combination of winds, strings and harp give the ensemble the flexibility to present a wide range of rarely performed repertoire, along with some of the best loved works in the chamber music literature.

Highlights of the Saturday night concert include Debussy’s popular Sonata for Flute, Violin and Harp, as well as the lesser-known Fantasie for Violin and Harp by Saint-Saëns. “I think our audience will enjoy the diversity of this program, as well as being able to hear the harp both solo and as an accompanying instrument,” says Jeffery Concerts board member Ingrid Crozman.

On April 8, the chamber music series marks the half-way point in its presentation of the complete Beethoven string quartets. “We are pleased to have the Pacifica Quartet back to perform,” says Crozman, adding that the final three all-Beethoven concerts will take place next season. “The concept has been very well received. We’ve created a good buzz about it,” she adds. “The quartets were written during different creative periods of his life, so even though it’s a whole concert of Beethoven it remains interesting because you hear his development as a composer.”

Performing Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared are, clockwise from the left, soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and pianist Arthur Rowe

Performing Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared are, clockwise from the left, soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and pianist Arthur Rowe

Music by a less-familiar composer rounds out the month, when soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and pianist Arthur Rowe join forces April 30 for Janácek’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared. The rarely-performed song cycle, written between 1917 and 1919, tells the story of a love affair between a young peasant boy and a gypsy. Szabó, Butterfield and Rowe performed the work together in Dallas in 2014 to rave reviews, and Crozman says The Jeffery Concerts are delighted to bring them together again for a repeat performance in London.

All concerts take place at Wolf Performance Hall. www.jefferyconcerts.com

The Karen Schuessler Singers shine the spotlight on some home-grown talent with London Composers Exposed!, April 2 at Wesley-Knox United Church.

KSS director Karen Schuessler says audiences are often fearful of instrumental music written by living composers. “But in the choral world — especially in Canada — living composers are honoured and enjoyed. We wanted to showcase the composers who live among us, who can describe their creative process and thereby celebrate our concert theme of creativity,” she continues.

The program includes music by Bert Van Der Hoek, Stephen Holowitz, Kevin White, Matthew Emery, Donald Cook, Jeff Christmas, Jeff Smallman, Steven Hardy, and Brian Ratcliffe, and includes several compositions commissioned by KSS.

“We know that London is a Canadian hot bed for choirs and theatre groups,” Schuessler says. “And we would like to get the idea going that London is a true creative city.” www.kssingers.com

London’s own The Light of East Ensemble celebrates ten years of music-making, April 16 at Aeolian Hall.

The Light of the East Ensemble

The Light of the East Ensemble performs on April 16 at Aeolian Hall

The group, founded by Panayiotis Giannarapis in 2006, performs an extensive repertoire that encompasses traditional, folk, classical Arabic, Sephardic, and Greek rembetika, as well as 20th century urban music from the Near and Middle East.

“Londoners have embraced our music from day one because it’s very nostalgic,” says Giannarapis. Expanding into other musical cultures over the past decade has kept the group’s repertoire fresh and helped to attract new audiences, he adds.

The concert also marks the official launch of LOEE’s second CD Live at the Aeolian, released by Sunfest and funded through the London Arts Council.

“I am surprised at how quickly 10 years have passed,” Giannarapis says. “I didn’t expect such longevity or popular success.” www.lightofeastensemble.com

Annette-Barbara Vogel

Annette-Barbara Vogel

Music lovers have the chance to hear London’s newest classical ensemble on April 30, when Magisterra Solosits make their local debut at Windermere on the Mount Chapel.

The 12-member ensemble is the creation of acclaimed violinist and Western University professor Annette-Barbara Vogel. “For years now I have been dreaming of a professional group that would bridge a gap in the musical landscape of Canada,” says Vogel. “I wanted to form something that would provide a musical launching pad for talented graduates of Canadian universities and conservatories. Something flexible in size and instrumentation, championing an eclectic and exciting repertoire, old and new.”

The current roster includes musicians from Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Ottawa and Toronto’s Glenn Gould School. “Everyone is based around London and the GTA, which makes it feasible to gather in one place for rehearsal,” explains Magisterra Solosits administrative coordinator Mikela Witjes.

A second concert will take place in Guelph on May 8, while a tour of Brazil and local outreach and education concerts are also in the works. www.magisterra.co

About the author

Nicole Laidler

Nicole Laidler

Nicole Laidler is a former classical musician who has been writing about London's cultural scene for more than a decade. To see what else she's been up to, visit www.spilledink.ca.