Sound Bites

Written by Nicole Laidler


The Karen Schuessler Singers, on the banks of the Thames River


With its wonderful acoustics, intimate atmosphere and great in-house grand piano, it’s no wonder that Aeolian Hall is a popular venue for classical music in London. Hot on the heels of February’s sold-out evening with Tafelmusik come recitals by two of Canada’s leading concert pianists.

Widely regarded as one of the great romantic virtuosos, Montreal’s André Laplante comes to London March 20 for a solo recital of music by Schubert, Beethoven and Liszt.

Sarah Buechner

Pianist Sara Davis Buechner

Two days later, Vancouver-based Sara Davis Buechner makes a stop at the Aeolian (between performances in New York City and Puerto Rico) to present an afternoon lecture on piano pedagogy, followed by an evening recital. At the time of writing, Buechner’s program had yet to be announced, but with more than 100 piano concertos at her fingertips she has plenty to pull out of her hat!

Another west coast performer rolls into London for what promises to be a toe-tapping evening with the Karen Schuessler Singers, March 28 at Wesley-Knox United Church. Celtic fiddler Jennie Bice (daughter of London visual artist Kevin Bice) joins the choir for Come to the Ceilidh: A Celtic Celebration, a crowd pleasing round-up of music from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

“Jenny has the kind of magnetic personality that just pulls you in. It feels like she is playing right to you,” comments choir director Karen Schuessler. Bice will be joined by her husband Joe Samorodin on acoustic bass, Greig Carins on guitar and Rob Larose on percussion.

Schuessler says you don’t have to have Celtic roots to be moved by the music of the British Isles. “There’s something about Celtic music that really touches your soul in a direct way. It can transport you away from the world’s problems,” she says. “I think that’s part of the thrill.”

Fanshawe Chorus London and the Concert Players Orchestra present their annual Good Friday concert April 3 at First-St. Andrew’s United Church. This year the ensemble will perform Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem Op. 9 and J.S. Bach’s Cantata # 4 — Christ lag in todesbanden.

David Holler, Fanshawe Chorus London artistic director

David Holler, Fanshawe Chorus London artistic director

“The Duruflé Requiem is very special to me,” says Fanshawe Chorus London artistic director, David Holler. “It’s one of the first requiems I conducted as a student. It’s understated, but very holy in a way. The music will move you whether you believe in the sacred aspect or not.”

The choir will be joined by two soloists — mezzo soprano Margorie Maltais, who is completing her Master of Music at Western University, and baritone James Baldwin, a member of the Canadian Opera Company chorus.

The Fanshawe Chorus season wraps up May 2 with A Night at the Opera — a concert showcasing the winners of the organization’s second Western University Vocal Competition. The bi-annual contest is a great way to introduce audiences to the next generation of singers, says Holler. “And it’s a great experience for the singers to learn how to perform with a choir.”


Stratford Symphony Orchestra also shines the spotlight on a contest-winner, April 11 at Knox Presbyterian Church. The Out of This World concert includes a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concert featuring the 2014 SSO Emerging Artist Competition winner Adam Despinic.

“Anyone who can get to Stratford is welcome to apply [for the competition], but we only advertise at universities in Ontario,” explains SSO manager, Liesel Deppe.

Despinic, a Hamilton native, is no stranger to competition having previously won the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Young Artists Competition and the Symphony on the Bay Young Artists Concerto Competition. He is currently completing his Master of Music in Violin Performance at the University of Toronto.

Billed as a ‘blockbuster orchestra concert’ the program also includes selections from The Planets by Gustav Holst and the Star Wars Suite by John Williams.

Soprano soloist, Sonja Gustafson

Soprano soloist, Sonja Gustafson

Music at First-St. Andrew’s wraps up its concert season April 19 with the London premiere of Will Todd’s jazz-styled Mass in Blue. This upbeat setting of the Latin mass has been performed around the word since its debut in 2003, says First-St. Andrew’s music director Paul Merritt. “It seems to have had very few Canadian performances. I know of only two others in Ontario, both in Ottawa.”

After listening to the recording, Merritt decided it was time to take on the challenge. “This is by far the most difficult piece we’ve ever done. It’s a different idiom than what we’re used to, but everyone is enjoying working on it,” he says.

Merritt says it’s the perfect work to highlight the talents of the choir’s soprano soloist, Sonja Gustafson, who grew up in the church and now attends with her two young sons.

John Rutter’s cycle of spirituals, Feel the Spirit, is also on the program.


Londoners have the rare opportunity to hear classical music on a grand scale when the London Youth Symphony and London Community Orchestra join forces to perform Gustav Mahler’s Totenfeier (Symphony No.2, First movement) and Antonin Dvorak’s The Wood Dove, May 3 at Dundas Street Centre United Church.

Len Ingrao conducts both ensembles and says they try to team up every three years. “We’ll have about 70 or 80 musicians on stage for this concert,” he says, including 30 wind and brass players and two harpists.

The sheer scale of both works puts them beyond the realm of possibility for most symphony orchestras these days, largely due to the cost of hiring added musicians and the challenge of finding a suitable stage. “We’ll definitely be using every inch of the performance space,” says Ingrao with a laugh.

Nicole Laidler is a former member of both the London Youth Symphony and London Community Orchestra. Today she can be found at the (computer) keyboard as the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing.


About the author

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