Musically Speaking: Chris Hadfield is the Real McCoy
Chris Hadfield is Canada’s most authentic folk singer.
To some, this statement may feel as surprising as Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize. But like the latter, none could be more deserving.
In his sold-out performance at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University on Saturday night, he featured a lot of adventures and reflections with his adoring audience. But, most surprisingly for some, most reflections were conveyed through music.
Canada’s first space-walker, first astronaut to operate the ‘Canadaarm’ and first commander of the International Space Station is also mankind’s first person to record an album in space (Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can).
At the Bella, however, his feet were firmly planted on the ground. His geocentric approach to his storytelling included songs and stories of Canada’s prairie history, the Clifford Sifton’s campaign offering free land to European settlers in the early 1900s and a recent trip to the northernmost arctic tip of our country to explore the landscape, wildlife and effects of global warming. It was as if your favourite university professor pulled out a guitar to accompany his lectures.
In all ways, Chris Hadfield’s voice is absolutely authentic. It may not be the most melodious voice that has graced this concert hall, but it’s undeniably truthful.
The songs, which included a couple choice covers of east-coaster Stan Rogers tunes, were well chosen and very personal. He has a seasoned tone for folk tunes and a steady fingerpicking style that was well rehearsed before going to sleep almost every night on the International Space Station.
The original material offered thoughts on topics lightyears away from each other. From the heartfelt reaction to his pioneering family’s loss of an infant child (his great-uncle) to the joys of weightlessness in space, each experience was both emotional and real.
The notes he hit in his performance equalled those choice moments struck by some of the best folk singers heard in folk clubs or festivals proving that in all things he pursues, Hadfield finds a way to rise to the top.
For the countless who followed his five-month space residency online, there was no surprise that he was comfortable in front of any audience, but what the audience also learned about Hadfield is that he’s a bit of an entertainer. With several tunes penned by he and his brother Dave, he poked fun at our ‘Canadianness’. In particular, the one that brought down the house was his rollicking ‘love song’ about today’s modern man-cave, “Canadian Tire”.
As Canadians, we’re famous worldwide for being able to look at ourselves and laugh. Hadfield has looked at us in a way that few Canadians have, and showed us what he saw. Pioneers, explorers, storytellers are what motivate us.
The second half of the show focused more on his epic space achievements. With slides and stories of his, now legendary, spacewalks, he regaled the crowd with inspiring tales and stellar imagery. This is what his audience was waiting for.
When, like a veteran music act, he ramped up to singing the hit single, there were about fifty musicians that joined him onstage. Mount Royal’s Artio choir and members of the Academy, Conservatory and some professional ensembles including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra assembled to back him up for tunes like Is Somebody Singing, a co-composition with Hadfield and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. When it debuted, Hadfield sang from space while Robertson was simulcast with 70,000 school children across Canada. Though there were fewer participants, the resonance of the song and its meaning were well-represented.
In closing, he played the single. David Bowie’s Space Oddity as recorded and filmed on the International Space Station. At the insistence of his son Evan, he carved out precious time in his scientific work to release a video the day before he flew back to earth. It has been seen by over 33 million people on YouTube.
He commemorated the impact that the imagination the late David Bowie had when writing the song in his late teens, before anyone had been able to live in space, maintaining how moved he was to know that Bowie enjoyed his version. Though, unlike Bowie’s original, thanks to his new interpretation, the astronaut in the story survives.
Releasing his supporting musicians, Hadfield then spoke directly with the audience. With the mantra to change yourself into the person who can accomplish whatever your personal goal is, he truly connected with his onlookers to offer a role model to do just that, in all of the avenues he has traveled. He opened up the floor to a question period which was so expertly handled that if you missed the entire show beforehand and experienced only that, you would have left knowing you got your money’s worth.
His unparalleled resume thus far has boasted titles like fighter pilot, test pilot, engineer, astronaut and commander of the international space station. What those in attendance now realize is that he is also an artist, a poet, a guitarist and among the best folk storytellers on the planet.
He revealed that his dream since he was a child was to walk on the moon. If there’s any way to get there, trust that Colonel Hadfield will find it and when he does, that lunar jam session will be out of this world.
- by JLove
Hadfield: In Our Space
Colonel Chris Hadfield is landing in our space at the Bella Concert Hall.
The first Canadian astronaut to walk in space will be the first astronaut to set foot on the stage at the new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts… and he’s bringing his guitar.
Hadfield states his keynote address will be, “A mixture of some Canadian stories, some space flight stories and a personal interweaving between the two.”
The high-flying author of two best-selling books just released his third publication, “The Darkest Dark” a children’s volume on conquering fear. It’s just one of his creative passions he has pursued since landing back on his home planet.
The Music To Your Ears Concert Season at MRU Conservatory, which has featured the likes of Ziggy Marley and Chantal Kreviazuk already this fall, celebrates the pursuit of musical excellence, and Hadfield is quite at home on a concert stage.
Fans wishing to hear the famed space cowboy strum a tune might just be in luck. As the first human to record an album of music while off-planet and cover David Bowie’s Space Oddity to the tune of 33 million views on YouTube, he knows how to attract an audience. Ticket holders on November 26th will likely hear something from the album, “Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can” which features original music by Hadfield and his brother David.
Due to these many passions, he’s excited to bring his experience to the concert hall environment. “My intent,” he says, “would be to tell some stories and use some music to help illuminate them.”
Although Colonel Hadfield’s performance is sold out, there are more stellar guests in this year’s line-up at mru.ca/enjoy.
- By JLove
True Patriot Love – Escaping with Chantal Kreviazuk
On the night of the American election, it was nice to celebrate being Canadian. Even before the polls closed, a capacity crowd shared an escapist evening with the healing power of Chantal Kreviazuk’s music.
When you get the chance to see Chantal Kreviazuk, you expect a blend of storytelling, songwriting and most of all, musical excellence. For the sold out audience at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ Bella Concert Hall, that’s exactly what they got… but it wasn’t just Chantal.
Kevin Fox is a talent.
Most of the sold out crowd likely sighed to learn there was an ‘opening act’ before the songstress was to take the stage, but once he put bow to strings on his solo cello, they took it back. His rhythmic looping created a veritable orchestra filling the room with recognizable cover tunes from the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams to Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes. An obviously gifted composer who, like Chantal herself, blended his classical training with a contemporary sensibilities. His charismatic ‘aw shucks’ style banter was an endearing note of gratitude to the title act and a love letter home to his wife and two young sons in Ontario, whom the opportunity of ‘the road’ has taken him away from.
His love song, commissioned by his wife of ten years, with its lilting feel of a nautical lullabye, was a highlight of the evening.
From the moment she took the stage, interestingly bagpiped in by MRU President Dr. David Docherty, she commanded the evening. With the warm glow of four light strings spaced across the stage as if waiting to deck the hall for Christmas, Kreviazuk, dressed angelically in white, took her place atop the tree.
Her connection with the audience was comfortable. She wove stories of her family with Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida while onscreen, she showed personal photos of their beloved family dog and a humanitarian trip to Peru. Her regaling of rough emotional experiences which music has helped her through and, mostly, self-deprecating humour on the benefits of the touring life as an antidote to parenthood captured the audience. She was a confident storyteller with the life experience to support it.
But when she sings, you can’t help but listen.
The vocal powerhouse shone in the Bella Concert Hall with heart-felt power ballads well into the evening. Playing a majority of new repertoire from her latest release Hard Sail, which perhaps ironically she ‘hard-sold’ in each of her intros, despite not having the new release at the merch table, she mesmerized with a soundscape of eight years worth of life in song.
A Conservatory-trained pianist, she’s a marvel on the Steinway. Her graceful and melodious descants harkening a classical motif were blended seamlessly with the power of a modern ‘three-verse with a bridge’ songwriting formula. It’s no wonder her hooks have been sung and recorded by the likes of Pink, Rhianna and Christina Agulera.
The listening audience (you could hear a pin drop) thoroughly enjoyed the hits…perhaps more than Kreviazuk herself. Where she took the time to set up each of her new compositions, it felt like she was moving through the previously enjoyed repertoire. The majestic power of “Feels Like Home” and “All I Can Do” were comfortable memories, but slightly heavy-handed on both voice and piano. The addition of Fox’s cello and vocals rounded the classics out nicely, often filling in for what might have been lost in the non-studio version.
As she set up her beloved cover “Leaving on a Jet Plane” which launched her to fame when it was prominently featured in 1998’s blockbuster “Armageddon”, she invited an audience member onstage to sit beside her. Her lucky victim, “Jason”, an electrician with a calm demeanour and untrained singing voice, enjoyed the best seat in the house, and was a great sport as Kreviazuk sang her showpiece to and for him.
At the end of the night, it was obvious that Kreviazuk continues to be the real deal. Stripped of studio production, what she was able to accomplish with keys and voice (with supporting cello) was a testament to the creative best of Canadian pop.
But the real star of the evening was the Bella Concert Hall. With such intimacy of space and acoustic prowess, both artists onstage resonated beautifully. In fact, they both proclaimed it. Fox, who’s all-too-short opening half hour was seasoned with genuine wishes to continue playing in the hall all evening, took the liberty of ‘testing’ the hall’s acoustics in his final rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River”, by pulling away from the microphone and singing upstage towards the lucky audience members in the choir loft, letting the reverberation of the room carry his voice effectively without amplification. It was magical.
Kreviazuk herself noted, especially on the historical American election night, that the fact that we had this exquisite hall made her “proud to be Canadian.”
- by JLove
Centre for All
The City of Calgary has been celebrating hometown achievements and innovative contributions by Calgarians with The Calgary Awards since 1994. In it’s first year of operation, MRU Conservatory was presented with the Award for Accessibility for the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.
“We’re honoured.” Says Elaine Danelesko, Director of the MRU Conservatory. “It’s a marvellous design and we’re pleased to have the facility contributing to the arts culture in Calgary.”
The 95,000 square foot building, which broke ground in 2011, features many soundproofed studio spaces and classrooms along with performance venues like the versatile TransAlta Pavilion and the acoustically pristine Bella Concert Hall. It is home to the MRU Conservatory and it’s 10,000 registrants in the student programs, performances and ensembles.
Danelesko simply states, “It feels like a fitting honour as our goal is to be an inclusive space for all Calgarians to practice, perform and enjoy the arts.”
The categories assessed by the panel are Accessible Entry, Accessible Parking, Accessible Seating and more. With special attention to audience experience, there are seats with removable armrests for those attending in a wheelchair, and restrooms and water fountains on all levels of the building. The space, which is already making waves in audio circles about its amazing acoustic design, wants a totally inclusive audio experience. So, it has Infrared assistive listening devices available for all to enjoy the music and spoken word performances in either performance space.
This comes at a great time for the institution as programs are already underway for the Fall semester’s music and speech arts studies. In addition, the MRU Conservatory is about to launch the Music To Your Ears concert season, which features over 25 events from performers ranging from Ziggy Marley (Oct. 13) and Chris Hadfield (Nov. 26th) to Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band (Jan. 29, 2017) to Land’s End Ensemble (May 26. 2017).
Award-winning accessibility seems to be part of the new mandate at the MRU Conservatory.
“We want to invite everyone to experience the Taylor Centre,” says Artistic Program Coordinator Mark DeJong. “With a diverse offering from reggae to classical, jazz to opera, there’s accessible performances for everyone.”
It turns out the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts is in good company with several prominent fellow community builders. The Calgary Awards are given in 16 categories including Community Achievement Awards, Signature Award, presented to philanthropist Richard F. Haskayne and the Citizen of the Year Award, which went to Big Brothers Big Sisters board member David Pickersgill.
With the design of being ‘barrier-free’ to all, there’s no doubt that countless will enjoy accessing all that the Taylor Centre has to offer as a cultural hub for all in the Heart of the New West.
– by JLove
Island Culture Amplified
The technicians at the Bella Concert Hall are ‘geeking out’.
Al Williams and Owen Day are the audio and lighting gurus preparing for the advent of a new sound in the concert hall. “For the first time in the Bella, we’ll be bringing in a bunch of sub-woofers,” Williams says, practically rubbing his hands with glee.
The reason is the upcoming appearance of reggae legend Ziggy Marley and his band on October 13, 2016. Marley and crew will kick off the inaugural concert season at MRU Conservatory called Music to Your Ears 2016-17. From an auditory perspective, there’s certainly a lot of diversity in the season, which features such varied guests as Wu Man (Chinese pippa player), the Pedrito Martinez Group (Afro-cuban drummers) and Chantal Kreviazuk (Canadian pop singer/songwriter).
This will mark the first occasion that reggae music will resonate in this concert hall.
For a brand new space, it certainly isn’t missing anything. Williams notes, “We have subwoofers in the building, but they’re primarily designed for the acoustical space. With Ziggy’s band and their type of music, there’s a tremendous amount of low frequency energy that’s involved in the show. So, we’re bringing in seven Meyer 700 HP double 18 Sub-woofers.”
For those unfamiliar with the audio brand, the best explanation Williams can offer is, “It will rattle the rafters.“
Lighting technician Owen Day echoes the excitement, “It’s definitely exciting to be doing bigger events. We have more technology and more toys to play with to provide a better show.”
What’s expected in an event like Marley’s is a rock concert event, which is a far cry from the technical demands of a solo violinist in recital or a keynote speaker. To illuminate Marley’s stage, Day says, “We’re adding more lights featuring lots of colour in the LED world.” LED meaning ‘light-emitting diode’, a technology that is making stage lights, as well as indoor Christmas lights, more energy efficient, easier to manipulate and brighter.
Day admits to the scope of this reggae event, “That’ll be the full use of sound system and the lights. I’ve seen his (Ziggy’s) rider and we’ll test the limits of the space.”
Brighter and louder will describe the Bella Concert Hall’s contributions to the Calgary music scene.
For those lucky enough to get tickets to the event, it’ll be spectacular. Day has been listening to exiting audience members from his booth at the back of the hall, “Everybody loves it. At least one person comes by and says ‘the space is amazing.’” Having that reaction motivates the positivity of the tremendous work required to make each show look and sound good. Day is in his zone, “It’s the dream. The kind of job you love coming into every day.”
Topping his colleague’s excitement, Williams quips, “I love the reggae, mon!”
Ziggy Marley @ the Bella Concert Hall
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Wild West Bella Debut
“Beethoven is pretty cool, but there have been a few guys and girls composing after him,” says true musical maverick Melanie Leonard.
Leonard is founder and Music Director of the Wild West New Music Ensemble and the newly appointed Music Director, Sudbury Symphony Orchestra. Calgarians remember her well from her four years as Associate Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, but she promises to bring something new to the stage in the Fall, “I have a passion for new music and bringing people to beautiful music they don’t get to hear very often.”
The concert, titled Baroque Minimalism is a part of the MRU Conservatory “Music To Your Ears 2016-17” Concert Season in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ Bella Concert Hall. The program features works by minimalist composers Phillip Glass, Marjan Mozetich and Steve Reich who are all considered major influences on minimalist music.
Glass is perhaps the best known to audiences due to his scoring of award-winning films including “The Truman Show” and “The Hours”. Leonard has invited renowned organist Neil Cockburn to join the ensemble for his Harpsichord Concerto, a time-traveling sonic experiment. Both composer and performer are,“using an ancient instrument in a modern way,” Leonard describes, “extending it into another era.”
The ensemble will be composed of up to twelve instrumentalists, depending on the requirements of the piece and, in one case, will feature some pre-recorded vocal interviews. In1990, Steve Reich won a Grammy for Different Trains based on the train journeys he made in America during WWII. Had he been in Europe at the time, the train ride might have been destined for Auschwitz. In the piece, Reich uses the cadence of the human voice from the recorded interviews to dictate the musical melody of the strings. “You’ll hear a conversation onstage between the voices and the instruments,” Leonard promises. It has been described by The New York Times as, “a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description… an absolutely harrowing emotional impact.”
Rounding out the program is one of the most broadcast classical composers in Canada. Marjan Mozetich’s Baroque Diversions, featuring Marcin Swoboda on viola, will resonate in the hall and with audiences alike. Leonard is pleased to be shining the spotlight on, “masterworks of the 20 & 21st Century with this work by a living Canadian composer.” Her motivation is simple, “I want people to appreciate the music that every century has to offer.”
Whether it’s a new audience for classical instrumentation or new works for a classically trained audience, Leonard is sure of one thing, “Beethoven would be all for it.”
MRU Conservatory is pleased to welcome the Melanie Leonard and the Wild West New Music Ensemble at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 7:30pm. For tickets or more information, go to mru.ca/enjoy or call 403-440-7770.
- by JLove
What is a Rastagarian?
Leo Cripps knows. He’s one of the original six Calgarian reggae fans who, in 2003, created the Calgary Reggae Festival Society and have since entertained other Rastagarians with the best that reggae has to offer at Reggae Fest each August since.
When Cripps found out Ziggy Marley was playing the Bella Concert Hall, his vibe went from laid back to up tempo. “It’s gonna be a great show. Ziggy’s always been an amazing performer.”
Admitting it was quite a coup for a brand new concert venue to attract one of reggae’s top names, he says, “Ziggy’s one of the premiere performers in today’s day and age.” Having experienced Marley in concert before, Cripps adds, “You know you’re gonna have a well–rehearsed solid performance. He’s gonna deliver a great show for you.”
The Marley Family is, according to Cripps, “A dynasty. Bob (Marley) laid the foundation. It’s amazing to see the family that have taken it on. You have the third generation of Marleys still performing and producing some of the best reggae products in the world.”
Talking about Ziggy’s famous father, Cripps states, “Bob was such a dominant force.” By comparison, he identifies another world-renowned Jamaican, “Usane Bolt is the sports icon that carries the torch. Bob carried that for reggae music.”
With his new self-titled release just out, featuring the single “Weekend’s Long”, Ziggy promises to deliver hits from all six of his studio releases that will be the first reggae jams heard in the new acoustically tremendous concert hall.
Cripps is keen to hear the legend in an intimate space, “I’ve heard great things about the (Bella) hall from the audience perspective on how good the sound is in there.” According to this Rastagarian, he’ll be among friends, “There’s a huge reggae following in this city.” I’m anticipating that it’ll be a good crowd going out to see it.”
For all Rastagarians, Ziggy Marley will be appearing at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at MRU Conservatory on October 13, 2016 at 7:30pm. Tickets at mru.ca/enjoy
- by JLove (Rastagarian)
Seven Series Centre Stage
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.
For tickets, go to tickets.mru.ca or call 403-440-7770.
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
Passed with Honours
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
Team Player – James Ehnes
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.