A party just isn’t a party without some great tunes. And with Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in full swing, music groups across our region are pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion.
Stratford Symphony Orchestra
Stratford Symphony Orchestra celebrates Canada’s 150th on May 13 with a concert that showcases Canadian composers and shines a spotlight on local talent. The program is a mix of light Canadian classics and Canadian folk, and features special guest artists from nearby St. Marys performing together as Trent Severn.
This acclaimed trio, comprised of singers-songwriters Dayna Manning, Emm Gryner and Lindsay Schindler, performs original, contemporary folk songs with a distinctly Canadian flavour. “This is the first time Trent Severn has performed with an orchestra,” says SSO’s David Murray. In addition to debuting orchestrations of current hits and new songs, the three will step out on their own to present a set of new songs from their latest recording, Portage.
SSO’s final event of the season will be the annual Cows and Classics concert, to be held June 25 at a farm just west of Stratford. A hayshed, lawn chairs, refreshments, and music. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.
The London Concert Band
The London Concert Band wants to pack the house at the historic Beal Auditorium, June 18, for a free musical birthday bash. CBC news anchor Heather Hiscox will act as emcee.
“Expanding the availability of music to young and old alike is very important to us,” says LCB conductor, Robert Kennedy. “So we embarked on developing a concert that would be available to all — equally — and then set out to find a venue that could hold many people.”
“With Glowing Hearts: Canada 150 features a program that celebrates our country’s music and diversity,” says Kennedy.
“Highlights for me would be the performances of our many guests. The riveting clarity and fun provided by the Percussion Trio, the colour of our visiting Bhutanese dancers, the poignant honesty of the folk-singing couple The Married, and the historical significance of Ojibway Storyteller, Aaron Bell, speaking on the history of the drums in their Nation.”
The matinee concert also features The London Concert Band’s premier of a medley of music by Guy and Carmen Lombardo and their Royal Canadians.
London’s Amabile choirs also ends the season on a Canadian note. True North is a joint presentation by the Junior Amabile Singers and Amabile Da Capo Choir, June 3 at New St. James Presbyterian Church, while Strong and Free features the Amabile Youth Singers and Prima: Amabile Women’s Choir, June 11 at St. John the Divine Parish.
Bach Festival of Canada
Exeter’s bi-annual Bach Festival of Canada is back for its fourth installment, with a slightly new format and a decidedly Canadian focus. This year’s festival will be held over two long weekends, explains festival manager Jean Jacobe, with concerts offered July 6–9 and July 14–16. “We wanted to make it easier for people from out of town to attend,” says Jacobe, adding that she’s already fielding inquiries from as far away as Toronto.
The line-up includes local talent like Marlene Fagan and John Avery (July 6), cellist Cameron Crozman (July 8) and fiddlers Shane Cook and Gerry Smith (July 14), as well as international stars like Spanish pianist Leopoldo Erice (July 7) and London-born, New York-based violinist Lara St. John (July 9).
This year’s festival wraps up July 16 with a traditional gala performance. To honour Canada’s birthday, the 170 choristers, orchestral players, and soloists, will be performing an all-Canadian program that includes the debuts of four new works commissioned especially for the occasion.
On a completely different note, The Jeffery Concerts wrap up a two-year cycle of presenting the complete Beethoven String Quartets with a performance by Pacifica Quartet, May 13 at Wolf Performance Hall.
“It’s a great privilege to hear any Beethoven quartets well-played at any time, but a particular privilege to hear them played in a series, so I felt very lucky to have been able to hear them here in London,” comments audience member Ernest Redekop. “One live performance is not enough for anyone who loves Beethoven’s music,” he adds, “but it is one significant step to a deeper emotional and intellectual understanding of some of the greatest works of music ever written.”