At a time when we’re celebrating our country’s athletic achievements on the podium in Rio, there’s some gold medal achievements worthy of celebration here on home turf. Eric Auerbach is the Canadian National Strings Champion.
Auerbach, who is 26 year old violinist, competed in the Calgary Performing Arts Festival at MRU in the spring, then went on to win at the Provincial level in Edmonton and just capped the triple-crown winning at the National level, also in Edmonton, this August.
“I played the Bach Partita no 2 in D minor, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto,” said the MRU Academy student. With a one-hour time limit on his performance, he describes his performace as, “very exhausting, both mentally and physically. My program was timed at a little under an hour, so I couldn’t take many breaks in between movements or pieces.”
As one of Bill van der Sloot’s string students, Auerback senses some thrilling progress in his playing, “The first time I played the program at the Calgary festival I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time I was done. By the time I reached Nationals, I was able to play the program without getting physically tired, which I am very happy about!”
Not just a solo artist, in the national chamber class, he was joined by Jenny Crane (cello) and Minja Mckenna (viola). Having been on a two-month hiatus before the competition meant that the trio had to make up for lost time. “We were only able to meet a week before Nationals. During that week we met every day, sometimes twice a day, to get our pieces back into shape.”
The hard work paid off as the trio, coached by John Thomson who was in the audience in Edmonton for support, was also awarded with first prize in the chamber music division.
As a gracious victor, Auerbach sites the work of van der Sloot and Thomson, along with previous instructors Ian Swensen and Kevork Mardirossian as the reasons he made the podium, “I would not be where I am without any of these teachers.”
Winning nationals earns the violinist a scholarship which Auerbach plans to use towards his studies. “ I am supporting myself to study here, and the winnings I have received will allow me to continue to do this.”
When asked what the key to his gold-medal success has been, he answers, “I would say having the curiosity to be constantly searching for what you want. I get pretty fascinated and obsessive over the music I am playing, and nurturing this trait lets me take the time and space I need to grow.”
– by JLove
“Even when I was living in London in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to be in Calgary in the long run,” says performing artist Raghav Mathur, known commercially as Raghav, one of the acclaimed international artists playing the Bella Concert Hall this fall.
Currently recording in Toronto, then touring overseas for the remainder of the summer, his biography is as impressive as his itinerary, “I’ve been very lucky that my career has seen hits in many different markets.”
As a pop star who is as comfortable performing in Hindi as he is in English, he’s accustomed to thinking globally. “My hits in the UK never really saw their way to Canada and my hits in Canada are relatively unknown in the UK and India where I’ve sold the most records.”
His departure from Canada gave him his global launch pad. With his debut album Storyteller (2004), his UK hits “So Confused” and “Angel Eyes” literally put him on the musical map. While rarely able to move about the UK without a paparazzi trail, back in his home and native land, Canadians didn’t catch the Raghav fever until 2011. Hearing just one chorus of the hooky single “Fire”, which charted on Canadian Billboard Hot 100, it’s clear why it won “Best Song” for the Canadian Radio Music Awards 2012 and became his most successful North American single to date.
Collaboration is a big part of his creative process and the growing list of artists and producers he has worked with is a testament to his global vision. Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman, who’s most recognizable for the score to Slumdog Millionaire (which won Best Picture in 2008), produced the song “Ishq Shava” from the 2012 Indian film Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Reggae legends Sly & Robbie produced half his debut album while artists like Redman, Kardinal Offishall and Nelly are just a few of the notable talents you’ll hear on Raghav’s three commercial releases Storyteller (2004), Identity (2009) and The Phoenix (2012).
Finding his sound has been a global journey. “Leaving to study in Liverpool was a huge moment for me.” Having a musical dual-citizenship was seemingly advantageous. With his Indian heritage and western upbringing he experimented with crossing borders. “In England, I realized how intertwined both British culture and Indian culture were,” he recalls, “I knew that musically that was my home because I was a hybrid of both Western and Eastern musical references.”
2015’s release “Until the Sun Comes Up” is a perfect example of that blend. Working with Indian screen star Abhishek Bachchan and American rapper Nelly, Raghav released the song with a video showcasing the trio’s work with Solar Aid to bring solar lights to developing communities in Tanzania. This project perhaps best represents the combination of his unique sound with a clear sense of purpose and heart, which is part of the reason this homecoming show is taking place. “I feel a deep responsibility to make the arts and music scene here more vibrant.” He adds, “I hope I can take my experiences and bring them back home to help create a long-term impact so that, unlike myself, kids don’t feel like they have to leave to make it.”
As for what to expect onstage, it’s going to be a unique homecoming. ”I’ve never had the opportunity to do a full live show that shows the true diversity of my career. To showcase both the pop aspects people in Canada may be aware of, but also the world and Bollywood sessions.”
In a live performance, as with a global trip, there’s a phrase musicians use to encapsulate the journey, “Bring it home.” That’s the plan for Raghav. He admits that a homecoming show at the Bella Concert Hall is, indeed, a happy landing.
To some fans, this will be a reflective engagement, but to others, this event will be an introduction to Raghav’s world. “It’s a chance to see all of me as an artist and songwriter, in both Hindi and English, to experience the journey of the last decade.”
Raghav will be playing the Bella Concert Hall on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 as the premiere show in MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears Concert Season.
Watch & Listen:
- by JLove
Sophie Serafino is a proud Academy graduate whose continued success onstage mirrors the education she received from instructors like Bill van der Sloot at MRU Conservatory. These formative musical memories are powerful motivators to propel careers, strive for excellence and, in many cases, to give back.
With the help of the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown, she is creating a partnership to pay it forward. This last month, the TransAlta Pavilion at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in MRU Conservatory was filled with world-class talent and world-class Rotarians. Serafino sings their prasies, “The Rotary Club of Calgary downtown, is a huge provider of scholarships. They strongly support education right from basic literacy to adult education.”
This particular event, however, has a philanthropic twist. The funds, to the tune of $7000 in its inaugural presentation, are to go towards the students’ tuition costs at the renowned post-secondary music institutions they’re destined to study at.
“On a practical level,” Serafino explains, “giving a student the freedom from financial concerns to concentrate on the study of their instrument can make all the difference in a busy year of study.” The levels of need are varying, but the cost of Julliard is ever increasing. Serafino recognizes that, “If a very promising student cannot access the tuition they require, it might prevent that player from continuing their study at all.”
And she would know. Since her time in the Academy, she has successfully transitioned her violin studies into a thriving career. She has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and appeared with artists including Josh Groban, Amy Sky, Pavlo and one of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears 2016-17 Season stars, Chantal Kreviazuk. The passion with which she plays onstage is echoed in the passion she has to give another generation of performers a leg-up. “Supporting music education, and those talented students who may go on to professional careers with assistance is extremely important, not only for those students, but for our city, for the future art and culture in our city.”
The doors opened into the enchanting TransAlta Pavilion and each eligible student played to a rapt Rotarian audience and to a panel of esteemed adjudicators from the Calgary community. Joining Bill van der Sloot on the panel were Paul Dornian, President of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, John Kadz, Artistic Advisor and Coordinator for the Academy Program and Rolf Bertsch, conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony.
With the array of talent taking the stage, their work was definitely cut out for them.
In Serafino’s words, “The standard of performance was absolutely fabulous. Very competitive, and impressive.” In the end, the adjudicators agreed that the inaugural scholarship funds were to be given to pianist Kevin Chen (12 and under), violinist Isabella Perron (13-16 years) and violinist Angela Ryu (17 and over).
MRU Conservatory is grateful to forge this insightful partnership and Serafino and her fellow Rotarians couldn’t be happier. “I am grateful that it came together, and that the funds went towards tuition of an amazing group of students. I would love to add a few 0s to the scholarship amount! I will work towards this scholarship increasing in the amount to a point where we could potentially send students to study at world-renowned institutions around the globe, and I want to help make that happen.
- by JLove
The MRU Conservatory is broadening their offering in a few different directions by adding new cultural music genres, digital music and dance to their already extensive repertoire.
Bleau states his reasons for the scope expansion, “When we first moved into this building and it’s called the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. We do Music and Speech Arts very well, but we don’t do Theatre and Dance.” He continues, “Noting that we have dance theatres at our disposal and venues that are capable of holding more than music, it seemed like a good time.”
The introduction of dance seems like a logical step. “This grows from our Music with Your Baby class, where they use music and movement,” Bleau states, “now the students will be able to continue in both directions.” With Creative Dance courses offered by Jennifer Mahood for ages 4-5 yrs and 5-6 yrs, students can take their next ‘step-touches’ to grow as dancers. The Creative Dance Youth and Adults programs are poised to be a fitting continuation for the successfully trained younger dancers.
Bleau beams. “We’re expanding beyond just music as a performing art with a course called ‘Imagination in Motion’. It’s being taught by 2015 Enbridge Emerging Artist Recipient Mark Ikeda.” Students will range in their artisitic diciplines. It’s being described as an ‘Arts Incubation’ where, “a collection of artists will come together as an ensemble to create an art piece that could involve music, theatre and dance.”
Culturally, the new horizon is facing east. With Chinese classical musical offerings like Erhu (Chinese fiddle), Dizi (Chinese flute) and Guzhen (Chinese zither) along with (Chinese) voice classes under the direction of Shana Yang, who also directs the Calgary Zhi-Yin Choir.
Students can also be exposed to different sonic scales in the Indian musical traditions of Raga music. The East Indian tradition of Kathak Dance will be introduced, alongside the Indigenous Dance classes whose roots are from right here in the Canadian prairies.
Finally, MRU Conservatory explores the art of digital performance recording and production with courses in Garage Band, the Fundamentals of Sound, Introduction to Film Music and Podcasting. These courses aim to give instrumentalists the tools they need to compose, record and produce material to further their careers and potentially earn a Sound and Technology Certificate of Completion.
“It’s about all performing arts.” Jean Louis Bleau summarizes. “Canada is a multicultural place. Calgary is a multicultural place. For me, it’s a passion to listen to different types of music and to be inspired by that. There’s such a great variety of music and if we focus on one, we don’t actually get to enjoy and benefit from the others.
Bleau concludes, “We are recognized as one of the top institutions for training western classical music. We’re the place that should be known for doing that for all types of music.”
Interested in any of these styles of music?
Contact the MRU Conservatory.
- by JLove
Elan has a wish.
This sixteen year old percussionist wants a vibraphone. Not just any vibraphone… a customized Musser Mallet vibraphone.
What he and his family didn’t wish for was for his recent medical diagnosis which, for privacy’s sake, won’t be identified. Suffice to say, it’s that diagnosis that put him in touch with the good folks at Make-a-Wish Southern Alberta. In addition, this diagnosis sidelined Elan’s desire to play percussion in the Calgary Youth Orchestra (CYO), an MRU Conservatory-based ensemble directed by Edmond Agopian.
Surrounded by his parents Cindy and Yossi and his brother Noam, he received that wish in the TransAlta Pavilion of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. There were presentations from Kim Anthony (CEO of Make-a-Wish), Vickie Sauve (Make-a-Wish Wish Granting Coordinator), Elaine Danelesko (Director of the Mount Royal University Conservatory) and a special presentation by George Fenwick (Manager, Calgary Youth Orchestra) declaring Elan as an honorary member of the CYO and welcoming him to join in the ensemble’s next season. After some heartfelt words by his parents, Elan took the stage to debut his new dream instrument, donated by the Musser Mallet Company, alongside his high school bandmates, the Ernest Manning Jazz Combo
The TransAlta Pavilion never sounded more alive. The artistry the combo showcased of jazz standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “Take the A-Train” were both impressive and therapeutic for everyone there. “I can’t believe just yesterday he was lying in a hospital bed with tubes in both lungs,” said Yossi, his beaming father.
Mike Schuett is Elan’s percussion teacher at MRU Conservatory. Listening intently as the vibraphone rang during the entire event, his prideful smile said it all.
This vibraphone was meant for Elan and his playing displayed that. Ever gracious, Elan traded solos with his instrumentalist partners in an improvised set of collective talent beyond their years. Between songs, he was able to greet his fans made up of fellow schoolmates, family, friends and musical colleagues from the Calgary Stampede Show Band.
MRU was pleased to be able to play a small part in presenting Elan’s wish, and are grateful to the staff and volunteers at Make-a-Wish Southern Alberta for all they do for this community, and our community of which Elan has been an active part for many years.
Though the following day, Elan is scheduled for chemotherapy… tonight, the show goes on.
- by JLove
It’s the Year of Music in Calgary.
We have this brand new Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. Its award-winning design and already renowned acoustics are freshly ringing in the ears of all who have been there. Like any proud parent, MRU Conservatory wants to show its baby off.
Now that we’ve brought the Bella into the world, it’s time to bring the world to the Bella! It’s with that mission that we introduce Music to Your Ears our 2016-17 Concert Season.
Tonight, we announce the artists in 7 Concert Series. They represent the quality of music you expect from an institution like MRU Conservatory, but also reflect the diversity of our musical reach and mandate moving forward. Most in our hometown have turned to MRU Conservatory for exceptional education and programming, and this season promises to offer more musical styles from the world’s best artists who will resonate with all Calgarians.
Chantal Kreviazuk – Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Jan Lisiecki – Friday, January 20, 2017
Wu Man & Friends – Friday, March 3, 2017
Journey, Live! – Saturday, May 6, 2017
Land’s End Ensemble: 20th Anniversary – Friday, May 26, 2017
Ziggy Marley – Thursday, October 13, 2016
Brian Blade & The Fellowship – Sunday, January 29, 2017
Antigona – Friday, March 10, 2017
Avital meets Avital – Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Pedrito Martinez – Saturday, April 22, 2017
Northern Lights Series
Chris Hadfield – Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Raghav – Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Canadian Guitar Quartet – Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
Wild West New Music Ensemble – Saturday, October 15, 2016
Instrumental Society of Calgary with Neil Cockburn – Sunday, April 2, 2017
Zukerman Trio – Friday, February 17, 2017
Kronos Quartet – Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Andres Cardenes with the Calgary Youth Orchestra – Sunday, May 14, 2017
Family Portrait Series
Secret Lives of Suitcases – November 2 – 6, 2016
The Queen, the Bear and the Bumblebee – Sunday, April 23, 2017
We’re proud of our MRU Conservatory instructors. So, we’ve created a series that allows them to shine. The final line-up to be announced in Fall ’16.
FOUR spectacular evening shows in the style of the salons of France in the 1920s and 30s. It’s the perfect occasion to get a table of friends together, raise a glass and enjoy some tunes. The final line-up to be announced in Fall ’16.
While not a series itself, we’ll still be offering many concert events featuring our amazing music and speech arts programs at MRU Conservatory. Our festive favourites continue with Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season (with guest hosts: the Heebee-jeebees). These events feature performances from our choral, orchestra and speech arts programs that are sure to get Calgarians into the spirit of the season.
Welcome to the new sound of MRU Conservatory. Tickets are available on June 1, 2016! The early birds get… the best seats.
With a 25% discount when you purchase tickets for a whole series (Soundscape, Travelers, Northern Lights or Wyatt) that’s certainly Music to Your Ears!
The excitement is electric.
The sound-check’s done and… we’re about to take centre stage.
In 2015, we completed construction and opened the Award-winning Bella Concert Hall and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. While it still has that ‘new theatre smell’ we’d like to amplify its acoustics by showcasing the finest local, national and international talent to play it.
We would like to announce the debut of SEVEN CONCERT SERIES taking place at the versatile venues in the Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in 2016-17. These concert events will showcase some of the most innovative contemporary artists to bring music to your ears. We want our MRU Insiders to be the first to know what’s up.
Join us on May 13th, 2016 as we announce the line-up.
This will take place at the James Ehnes concert, our final Wyatt Series event for this season.
Our follow us online for up-to-the-moment social media releases. (Follow @MRUConservatory or mtroyal.ca/enjoy)
The Bella Concert Hall was built on sound.
The Soundscape Series showcases the amplification of these artistic vibrations in their acoustic glory.
* 5 concerts from local, national and international influential artists and ensembles.
Importing world-class musicians from around the globe. Let’s give them a true Calgarian white-hatted welcome.
* 5 concerts will take audiences on musical adventures in many musical genres.
Northern Lights Series
2016 is the Year of Music in Calgary. 2017 is Canada’s 150th Birthday.
What better way to celebrate our home and native land than to feature some of its finest artists.
*5 concerts will define our country’s energy, diversity and talent.
Our celebrated Wyatt Series continues to feature contemporary masters of classical works in performance and mentorship of our music students. This series honours the late Hal and Marnie Wyatt, longtime supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory.
* 3 concerts from modern masters.
Family Portrait Series
Music, Speech Arts and Theatre are for all-ages. To ensure that the younger family members, and those who are young at heart, get to experience amazing music and storytelling, we have the Family Portrait Series.
* 2 narrative shows that will inspire imaginations, whether it’s your first or ‘bazillionth’ time at a performance.
The Spotlight Series showcases our diverse and talented instructors in performance. We’re so proud of our instructors, we want to bring their talents to centre stage. This monthly feature is as varied and exciting as the programs we offer.
Historically, the Salon was a favourite meeting place for musicians of all styles to play, listen and collaborate. We’re bringing it back. Throughout the season, we’ll be offering these opportunities for folks to mix, mingle and enjoy a variety of musical entertainment.
Of course, we’ll still be presenting concert events featuring all of our incredible performance ensembles and programs, including festive favourites Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season.
Connect with us on social media for your chance to win tickets to each of the series, or the grand prize, seasons tickets to ALL concert events in our 2016-17 Season!
Like, follow and spread the message to your friends and family. It’s going to be an inspiring season of sound at the Mount Royal University Conservatory!
– by JLove
This past week, the Bella Concert Hall was examined by some lifelong masters of assessment… retired teachers.
Forty-five former teachers met with MRU Conservatory Director Elaine Danelesko for a private tour of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, with a special focus on the Bella herself. By all accounts, she passed with flying colours.
The Calgary Board of Education Retired Employees Association (CBEREA) provides members with various experiences and activities. Regular bowling and golf tournaments, bridge groups and luncheons are among the featured offerings. There is also a walkers and hikers division of the group who chose to end their trek in the lobby of the Bella.
Elaine Danelesko, who radiates with pride as she introduces all guests to the MRU Conservatory facilities, effortlessly spoke about the programs offered, the private studios’ acoustic treatment and the merits of the state-of-the-art practice rooms capable of accommodating worldwide private lessons through Skype to a responsive audience.
The reactions to the facilities, the programming and the design all made the grade.
Having just opened in the fall, it was a new experience for most, “Today I realized that there is a wonderful opportunity not far from home that has not been on my radar.”says Sharon Terray, retired Social Studies teacher who last taught at Lord Beaverbrook High School. Terray, who helped arrange the tour for the group, continues, “Because of what I saw today, I hope to be aware of programming and upcoming events, and thanks to free Sunday parking, take advantage of what the Conservatory has to offer the public.”
Seeing how it might directly affect the group’s demographic, Terray’s friend and co-walker Barbara Hongisto chimes in, “The facilities provide super opportunities for parents and grandparents to offer musical programs to young ones!”
Terray assess the Bella. “All the attention to detail both from an aesthetic and an acoustic point of view means that there is always more to take in; you have to sit there for a while to really appreciate it all.”
Sharon’s husband Dr. John Terray, who is the retired chairman of Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering, MRU, has an eye for quality, “I was very impressed with the architecture and design of the building. “ Of the Bella herself, he claims, “The concert hall conveyed a sense of quality with warmth.”
The offering that seemed to achieve bonus marks from this gathering is the outreach that MRU Conservatory is building within the education community in our Calgary school boards.
In discussion at the back of the class while the group hiked through the Music with Your Baby area and the Atelier Room, Dr. Terray sums up, “The tour informed me of the many opportunities the MRU Conservatory provides to the citizens of Calgary.”
Congrats to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on an inspiring spring report card.
- by JLove
The New York Times reported that, “superb violinist Christian Tetzlaff pulled out of an important concert at Carnegie Hall.” It was for an arguably more important occasion as he flew home to Germany to welcome a new addition to his family. The remaining trio of Leif Ove Andsnes (piano), Tabea Zimmermann (viola) and Clemens Hagen (cello) were left without a premiere violinist to play Brahms’ three piano quartets on the famed stage.
Enter Canadian violinist James Ehnes.
Ehnes, who will be appearing at the Bella Concert Hall as a part of the Wyatt Concert Series on May 13th, 2016 describes his last minute substitution as “quick, crazy and fun.” The Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini thoroughly praised the fill-in’s contribution, “Mr. Ehnes’s velvety sound and sensitivity fit well with the vibrant playing of his colleagues on this night.” There’s no doubt his notable contribution was appreciated by his esteemed collaborators and the audience alike.
Now back home with his family in Florida, Ehnes takes a breath to reflect on the quartet’s shows which included performances at Chapel Hill, North Carolina and at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. He also has a moment to acknowledge his recent Juno win for Classical Album of the Year which was announced here in Calgary. “We work so hard on these albums, it’s nice to be recognized.” A humble comment for an artist who has now won eleven of the coveted prizes.
“The genesis for each (album) is different,” he explains. “Andrew Armstrong and I have pieces we’ve played a lot over the years. When you work with a collaborator, at some point, you get to where you feel like everything is clicking. If you have the opportunity to record at that point… that’s when you want to. We were having our moment,” he continues, siting his accompanist Andrew Armstrong who he has collaborated with since 2001 and will be joining him onstage at the Bella, “There was no P.R. plan. It was just the two of us saying we like these pieces… let’s record them.”
Calgarians will rejoice to see the pair tackle works by Brahms, Handel, Beethoven and Canadian composer Bramwell Tovey, but that’s not the only partnership they’ll witness. Ehnes’ oldest collaborator is The Marsick, the Stradivarius violin crafted in 1715 and named after a Belgian violinist of the late 1800s. “It’s been like a family member,” Ehnes says. He first saw and heard the instrument in 1996 at age 20. He imagines the life of the instrument in context, “It’s incredible to think that you’re only a custodian for a short period,” his respect for the Stradivarius is unwavering, “I’d love to think when it leaves my hands it’s no worse off than when it came in my hands.”
His whole family will be joining him for this leg of his 40th birthday tour. For his children, whom are Canadian but live in the U.S., this drive from Vancouver to Winnipeg with concert stops along the way is a great way for them to experience their homeland. “I wanted them to see all these places across Canada that have been good to me.” Ehnes reflects with both patriotic and paternal pride. “I want them to see the scale.”
Their family tour will be documented by filmmaker and close friend Nate Bauer who will be shooting footage from the road and backstage. As to what the collected documentary clips are used for, time will tell. Until then, it’s a marvellous family video.
Expect to see the cameras rolling as Ehnes and Armstrong take the stage at the Bella on May 13th, 2016. It will be their debut at this venue and Ehnes is excited. “I’ve been hearing wonderful things about it,” he admits, “lots of people have said it’s a great sounding hall.”
As he prepares to return to Calgary to team up with Armstrong and The Marsick at the Bella, there’s no doubt he’s glad he got to play Carnegie Hall to warm up for it.
In fact, I know one. Ralph Maier… and if I knew many more, he’d likely still be my favourite vihuela player. The instrument, he explains to me, “is the Spanish equivalent of a lute…except it’s shaped like a guitar.” A gifted guitarist, he touts, “Over the last ten years, I’ve gotten into doing things on period instruments.”
Maier is not only an expert to those who have the privilege of hearing him, he’s backed it up with the academic research, he finished a Musicology PhD in Spanish Renaissance Music in vihuela. So, for those who are interested in hearing a master at work, check out his upcoming recital Ralph Maier & Friends on Sunday, May 1st, 2016 from 2-3pm in the TransAlta Pavilion of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.
Not only will he be strumming a vihuela, Maier’s program includes some pieces on the Baroque guitar, which is a five-course instrument meaning it has five pairings of strings to strum. The strumming, traditionally, was meant to accompany dancing, so there are a series of universal chord progressions known to many players of the time; much like a Blues progression today. The progression, Maier says,“became a staple. Then, composers would write a variation on it.” Among those composers, he lists Bach, who added his own touch to the Spanish plucking tradition. Maier’s study of the form has led him to complete his latest CD, aptly titled “Variations” which is available on both iTunes and CD Baby.
Musically speaking, he gets history. My personal history, having known Ralph for nearly two decades, is that there’s nothing he can’t play on a guitar. Tim Brady is a contemporary composer who wrote a piece for 20 electric guitars. Maier was one of the twenty. He was so inspired by this composition that he recorded it for his latest CD, playing all twenty parts multi-tracked. After recording it, he sent his interpretation to the composer. His reaction, according to Maier, was, “he liked it and that was very reassuring.”
Recently, in addition to his teaching at MRU Conservatory he has been teaching university classes like The History of Led Zepplin, Progressive Rock Music and The History of Heavy Metal. “I’m all over the place, musically.”
Maier will be reuniting with the Oberon Guitar Trio (Brad Mahon & Murray Visscher) as well as teaming up with flutist Tim Janz for this program. As to what era their contributions might represent, it’s anybody’s guess.
When I asked directly what we could expect in this Spotlight Series Concert, his answer was confidently nebulous. “I’m not absolutely sure.”
Such is the secret of a true modern Renaissance man.