Laurie Matiation, instructor with MRU and Horn player with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, is ready. She announces, “Our guest artist is Dr. Ashley Cumming who’s originally from this area (Alberta). She studied with Jeff Nelson.”
Nelsen, who’s also hails from Alberta, is the horn player in the Canadian Brass.
At the risk of seeming like we’re blowing our own horn, it seems like Alberta’s got talent when it comes to this instrument.
Cumming, who studied at Indiana State and now works at Murray State University, contacted Matiation to see if there was an opportunity to work with the students of the MRU Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth. Matiation saw an opportunity, “I had hired her for the Academy Program, and it was right around Hornfest, so we put it together.”
Hornfest, which runs the weekend of March 4-5, 2017, is a celebration of horn playing with a particular emphasis on playing together.
“We’re going to be working on a lot of ensemble stuff,” Matiation explains, “Every person who comes is going to be put in a small ensemble… a duo, trio, quartet or sextet.”
Clinicians and coaches are established horn players like Matiation, Heather Wootton, Douglas Umana and Jennifer Frank-Umana all of whom occupy seats in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
For those contemplating joining, you’re more than welcome.
“It’s open to anyone from beginners to adult horn players in the community.” Matiation explains, “It’ll be a nice community weekend of horn playing.”
Along with repertoire that includes some movie music, “like some John Williams or (the theme to) Rocky,” Matiation alludes to a special commission that a lucky octet could play, “We have a new piece we might feature this year. It was used at Joan Watson’s memorial service.” Watson was the Principal horn player of the Canadian Opera Company who passed a couple years ago.
Matiation is hoping this new work will pay tribute to an inspiring player and teacher who had worked as a clinician at MRU Conservatory.
Hornfest continues to enrich the education of local brass players by bringing them together with great instructors and guest artists. Matiation notes the support of the Margaret Stephens Memorial Fund, a fund established after a passionate adult horn player who played in the Westwinds Society Band in Calgary, which allows Hornfest to invite guest artists to come to MRU.
As highlights go, whether it’s the master classes, guest artists or mass horn choir finale, Matiation says, “It’s hard to pinpoint one particular thing.” But she knows her favourite part of the gig, “It’s watching the students have that ‘lightbulb’ experience. You know, I can do this! I’m a part of that sound.”
It’s this excitement and inspiration that ensures Hornfest will continue to produce and support the upper brass of Canadian horn playing for decades to come.
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
Like many on staff at MRU Conservatory, Jaijai Li is both a gifted teacher as well as an accomplished performer.
She grew up playing both Chinese and Western classical flute, which has significantly shaped her playing. With the help of Program Administrator Jean-Louis Bleau, she is part of the new Chinese Classical Music program, teaching an instrument called the Dizi, a Chinese flute. Li says, “I’m excited and grateful that the conservatory is promoting Chinese music and it is just the beginning of this exciting program.”
In addition to the Dizi, students of Chinese Classical music can study the Erhu, Guzheng and voice. Jaijai grew up studying with dizi masters Dai Ya and Hou Chang-qing, but “Nowadays,” she notes, “besides classical music, I play lots of contemporary and experimental music which requires exploring new ways and techniques to play the flute.” Some of that innovation takes place with her colleagues in the Timepoint Ensemble, who are appearing at the TransAlta Pavilion in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, September 24th.
The Timepoint Ensemble is, “a New Music ensemble and we are also new. So we should be a new new music ensemble.” She jests. But the diversity of music they perform is no joke. “A whole lot of different styles: Minimalism, post-genre, fusion, and music for experimental cartoons. You’ll hear different sounds coming from a grand piano, watch a video game, and discover the players interacting with each other and improvising on stage.”
The show is called, Bridging Divides: Cascades, Layers, and Nightmares. Their program is as eclectic as their line-up featuring contemporary works by Marcus Fjellstrom, Ted Hearne, Bethany Younge and Terry Riley.
These are not household names by any stretch, but Li and her Timepoint counterparts are here to push the boundaries. “I think the society doesn’t fully recognize the value of musicians and artists when compared to some other places like Europe.” Having lived in Germany for three years prior to landing in Calgary, and also calling cities like Toronto and Bejing home, she has a worldly view on culture, “Every show is a another story, a unique experience, and a different angle to the society, to the art and music.
In another effort to bring the music to ‘the people,’ Timepoint is rarely confined to a concert hall setting. With venues ranging from coffee shops like Café Koi to the ContainR Art Park by Sunnyside, they’re bound to open some eyes and ears of new new music audiences.
Li likes the challenge of the new frontier and challenges audiences to see this ensemble live, “Timepoint will inevitably do something different from any possible expectations. But that’s part of the game – come to experience something new!”
Experience the Timepoint Ensemble, the first of the MRU Conservatory’s Salon Series at the TransAlta Pavilion at 8pm Saturday, September 24th. You might be the new new audience they’ve been looking for.
– by JLove
“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
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
The Conservatory is feeling full of Polish pride as two of our own are taking to the stage this week.
Polish concert pianist Krzysztof Jablonski is performing with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Friday and Saturday. And our own Edmond Agopian – music director of our Calgary Youth Orchestra — is conducting the concerts.
The CPO’s Polish Week features Jablonski performing two of Chopin’s piano concertos.
Pairing Jablonski and Agopian is a significant event for both our Conservatory faculty members.
Says Jablonski: “So far it feels so good, natural. have a feeling that we’ll have no trouble finding common music language, to express through music in ways that will give us both big satisfaction. I very much liked his own interpretation of Chopin’s concertos, where he is finding space to create his own music his own way, enriching it in a sensitive way and still managing to make it work together.”
Violinst and conductor Agopian, who hails from Romania, has been on the Conservatory faculty since 1991. He studied at the Julliard School, University of Toronto and in Switzerland. His violin students are national and international award-winners and perform as soloists with professional orchestras.
We caught up with Edmond Agopian and asked him to share some thoughts about this week’s concerts.
Question: Tell us what it’s like working with Kryzsztof Jablonski.
Edmond Agopian: Working with Krzysztof is a real treat. He is the consummate artist. He has dazzling technique but his virtuosity in the Chopin concertos is unobtrusive; instead, it is poetic and lyrical, which makes the music sound sublime and entrancing. He is a gripping soloist who will enthrall and captivate the audience from the beginning to the end.
Question: Besides Chopin, what can you tell us about the program you’re conducting?
Edmond Agopian: The program will also include orchestral works by other major Polish composers, composers who are rarely heard in Calgary: Gorecki, Szymanowski and Noskowski. These are exciting works that cover a broad range of styles and expression, and I am really looking forward to introducing these works to the CPO and to the Calgary audiences.
In 2005, Agopian was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal in recognition of outstanding achievements and service to the people and province of Alberta. The University of Calgary awarded him with the J. P. L. Roberts Distinguished Professorship in Fine Arts.
The chamber coach is Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy chamber music program coordinator and conductor for our Conservatory strings.
But during Morningside Music Bridge, he coaches chamber and conducts the MMB Orchestra, this year leading them through Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.
“Being of English heritage, it’s one of my favourite pieces from England. I love the piece, I’m happy to work on it,” said Thompson on the eve of the performance.
Question: What’s it like coaching top students from around the world?
John Thompson: The students do play at a very high level, they have a lot of skills to begin with. Most of them are pretty well technically equipped. You can spend more time on musical elements and colour and moods of music rather than just trying to teach them how to shift.
Question: As the conductor, you don’t have much time to rehearse. What has that been like?
John Thompson: Some have less orchestral experience than others, and so there are elements of counting and listening. They have to develop those skills. But when you put them all together it’s a wonderful combination of talent.
Question: What’s the best part of a program like Mornginside Music Bridge?
John Thompson: I think that because there are different countries, they’re exposed to a lot of different kids of music. They get great teaching from a variety of instructors. They do a lot of performing and there’s a lot expected of them. They’re all very motivated. And they make very good friendships and they learn a lot from each other.
An 11-year-old Mount Royal Conservatory violinist is preparing to play solo at Carnegie Hall in New York City this month.
Read story in Metro here.
Young violinist Amilia Hildahl won an honourable mention in this year’s American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition.
The talent competition sees young musicians ages six to 18 from across North America, Europe, China, Korea, Mongolia, Poland, and Russia vying for top spots.
Amilia is taking to the famed concert hall’s stage May 26.
“It doesn’t feel real when I stop and think about it,” said Amilia, who has been a Conservatory student since she was six years old.
“I really do think I was suprised at the outcome. I didn’t think I didn’t have the potential, but I didn’t think I was there quite yet. But it’s something new and different to try out and it paid off,” she said.
Amilia studies violin under Conservatory faculty member Elisabeth Szojka.
She also plays second violin in the Conservatory’s Junior Orchestra under Benn Neumann.
One of the great advantages of studying at the Conservatory is the extensive array of musical activities that provide a complement to private instruction.
“For our string students, an important adjunct to private lessons is our orchestra program – a series of six string ensembles that progress from a child’s first ensemble experience, culminating in the Calgary Youth Orchestra, a full symphonic orchestra that plays professional repertoire,” says Sheldon Nadler, the Conservatory’s Manager of General and Orchestral Programs.
Amilia’s mother, Violetta, submitted an audition recording of Amilia performing Oskar Rieding’s Concertino in G op. 24, Sonata 4 in D minor variation 1 by Johann Christoph Pepusch and Hornpipe by George Coutts.
“I recorded her playing and thought whatever would happen would happen. I was just looking to see what her potential is,” said Violetta.
“She’s been really happy playing the violin and performing, so we’re just very happy she’d been able to reap the rewards. What she does later is up to her. It’s her choice entirely.”
Music runs in the family for three generations: not only is Amilia’s mother Violetta a piano teacher, but her grandmother Isabella is also a violinist and teacher.
“She’s always been around music,” said Violetta. “We’re very happy she’s been exposed to all this her entire life.”
For Amilia, the experience is worth the hard work and is sure to make a lifelong memory.
“I work hard, that’s typically my goal. I work hard and get something done and get my breaks, do whatever else I need to do,” she said.
“I think the violin will always stay as part of my life regardless if I take it on professionally.”
by Sherri Zickefoose, May 12, 2014