Musically Speaking: Chris Hadfield is the Real McCoy

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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.

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


-by JLove


The Bella Concert Hall

Another Gold for Canada

Eric Auerbach


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.”

Auerbach with Crane (cello) and Mckenna (viola)


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

Passed with Honours

Some of the CBEREA visiting the Bella

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.

Teachers are always ‘classy’

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.

These teachers gave the Bella an exemplary 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.”CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2

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


Mount Royal Conservatory speech arts hits golden jackpot

calgary speech arts, mount royal university conservatory, mount royal conservatory, jennifer orr
Mount Royal University Conservatory Speech Arts and Drama coordinator Jennifer Orr with six of her seven students who won gold medals for top marks through the Royal Conservatory of Music convocation last week.

Sunday was a golden day for Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Speech Arts students.

Seven young students earned medals from the Royal Conservatory of Music for receiving the highest mark in their grade in the province.

The awards were presented Sunday at the RCM convocation in Calgary.cons_img_fac_orr

Of the 16 provincial speech medals awarded in Alberta, 10 were students from Mount Royal Conservatory.

Mount Royal University Conservatory Speech Arts and Drama coordinator Jennifer Orr, who was a member of the team that produced the 2000 edition of RCM Examinations Speech and Drama syllabus and works as an adjudicator and specialist consultant, said she is proud of her students.

“Only piano had more medalists in Alberta than speech, which speaks to the size of the program here and to our support and leadership. Of the 16 provincial speech medals in Alberta, 10 were taught at MRU.  I’ve had lots of medalists over the years, but seven is quite the jackpot,” said Orr.

Mount Royal instructor Jilliane Yawney had two speech medalists (preparatory and Grade 3), Jim Dobbin taught the Grade 10 medalist, and Susan Duska taught student Heather Macnab, the national gold medalist for ARCT Speech and Drama Performance.

A partnership between RCM Examinations and Mount Royal Conservatory’s speech program has yielded the RCM Examinations’Speech Arts and Drama Syllabus, 2011 edition. The Conservatory speech program and faculty continue to provide leadership in curriculum and teaching as speech teachers throughout Canada meet the challenge of this new syllabus.

Speech arts and drama training truly exemplifies the benefits of arts education. It is both a remarkable artistic endeavor and a fundamental, empowering life skill. It is founded on two main areas of study: training the speaking voice, and performance and presentation in such forms as verse-speaking, acting, storytelling and public speaking. Students gain a deep appreciation of literature and the power of language, and develop clear thinking and speaking abilities that they will carry into every aspect of their lives.

Speech arts and drama is for everyone; it is a boost for shy children, a haven for children that love literature, and a magical outlet for children that are driven to perform. it gives students the confidence to speak, to communicate, and to be heard. The confidence and ability it offers its learners is a gift they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.

The Speech Arts & Drama program at Mount Royal Conservatory is the largest in Canada, with faculty and programs recognized as the finest in the nation. Our teachers are professional speech instructors with backgrounds in speech, voice, literature and drama.

Sherri Zickefoose, Nov. 4, 2014

Conservatory director, students earn awards


Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian (right) and award-winning cellist Mari Coetzee earned top prizes from the Royal Conservatory of Music Nov. 2.
Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian (right) and award-winning cellist Mari Coetzee earned top prizes from the Royal Conservatory of Music Nov. 2.

Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian is now a Fellow of The Royal Conservatory of Music in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the arts and achievements in the field of music education.

And teenage cello sensation Mari Coetzee has won the RCM’s national gold medal for cello performance, thanks to earning the highest exam marks in Canada.

The awards were presented in Calgary Sunday, Nov. 2 during the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Convocation ceremony at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre.

Dornian, who has served as Conservatory director for 22 years, is a well-respected arts leader and has served on the boards of many local institutions, including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Calgary Arts Development Authority and within Mount Royal University.

He is responsible for implementing many pioneering programs that have elevated the Conservatory to international status. Projects include the expansion of the Academy for Gifted Youth, Feast of Sound & Song, Morningside Music Bridge international summer training school and festival, and, of course, the Bella Concert Hall and new Conservatory building opening next fall.

“In Canada, we’ve all grown up with musical roots in the RCM examination system,” said Dornian. “When I was a child the exam system remained but the performance training aspect of the RCM had lost some of its luster. Over the past 30 years it has been exciting to watch the RCM, under the visionary direction of their President, Peter Simon, recover their status as a great music performance school. I am touched and honored to be receiving an award from this important cultural organization that is such a part of our cultural identity.”

In his speech to Calgary and southern Alberta music students gathered Sunday, Dornian said studying music demands great commitment, but returns much more.

“Music makes you a better person and makes the world a better place,” he said.

Past recipients of this award include Oscar Peterson, Robertson Davies, Adrienne Clarkson, Teresa Stratas, Michael and Sonja Koerner, and Leon Fleisher.

After completing two degrees in Clarinet Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Dornian began teaching clarinet at Mount Royal Conservatory and eventually became manager of general programs and finally director.

After several successful years at the helm of Western Canada’s largest performing arts education institution, Dornian returned to university to complete his Master of Business Administration degree. His skills and results in fundraising have come to the fore, affording the Conservatory continued financial stability at a time when many arts organizations have struggled.

Award-winning Mount Royal Conservatory student Mari Coetzee, 16, is the recipient of the RCM 2014 National Gold Medal for Violoncello Performance. She recently completed an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) Diploma with first-class honours with distinction. She earned the gold medal for the highest national mark for all cello ARCT exams across Canada.

“I am thrilled to receive this award. I have been doing Royal Conservatory of Music cello, piano, theory, harmony, and music history exams since I was eight years old,” said Coetzee, who has been playing cello since age five.

“For me, this is a great way to graduate from the RCM. I’ve learned so much about music through the preparation and completion of these exams. This year I am in Mount Royal’s Advanced Performance Program and finishing grade 12. I am looking forward to studying for my music degree at the university level next year.”

Coetzee has been studying with Mount Royal Conservatory’s renowned cello instructor John Kadz.

“In all my many years of teaching I have seldom had a student like Mari whom I have now taught for seven years,” said Kadz. “Her determination, dedication, intelligence, discipline and pure hard work stand out and are the reasons she is the fine young cellist she has become.”

Sherri Zickefoose, Nov. 3, 2014


MRU carillon making campus unique

Ding dong, it's the carillon: Mount Royal University is among the few Canadian campuses to feature a bell tower that chimes on the hour and plays music. A live concert is planned Oct. 27 at noon.
Ding dong, it’s the carillon: Mount Royal University is among the few Canadian campuses to feature a bell tower that chimes on the hour and plays music. A live concert is planned Oct. 27 at noon.

When you’re running late to class or to a meeting on campus, Mount Royal University’s carillon always lets you know.

Mount Royal is among the country’s only campuses with a digital carillon (with its 51-bell Soldier’s Tower, the University of Toronto is the only Canadian university with a true, bells-only carillon).

And you can bet Mount Royal may be the only Canuck campus carillon that plays the theme from Star Wars.

The 60-foot high Kerby Memorial Tower and digital carillon chimes hourly between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. It plays four songs daily: two at noon and two at 6 p.m. With 50 songs in its repertoire, which shuffle and play at random, it takes two weeks to run through them. The repertoire is largely classical, but a keen ear will pick up familiar tunes including The Entertainer, Cabaret, New York, New York and Send in the Clowns.

Mount Royal Conservatory head of organ studies Neil Cockburn is the university’s offical carillonneur.
Mount Royal Conservatory head of organ studies Neil Cockburn is the university’s offical carillonneur.

“I always find it quite relaxing, it brings something special to campus,” said carillonneur Neil Cockburn, Mount Royal University Conservatory’s head of organ studies.

Cockburn helped the carillon find its voice again – after falling into silence over the years, the digital bells returned in the mid 2000s. MRU’s 2010 centennial marked the start of daily chimes and tunes, thanks to Cockburn, who programs it to play. He performs live during convocation. Cockburn also hosts a free live Carthy organ concert in Wyatt Recital Hall on the second Thursday of every month.

Cockburn is performing a free, live outdoor carillon concert Monday, Oct. 27 at 12:10 p.m. as part of the Calgary Organ Festival.

The open air event is audible around campus but the best seats in the house will be listening from the TransCanada Amphitheatre at MRU’s Charlton (82)

The carillon can either be played live using a keyboard in the programming booth of Wyatt Recital Hall or automated using a memory card.

Kerby Memorial Tower and its carillon was officially unveiled in 1972 — when the Lincoln Park campus opened — to honour founder Dr. George W. Kerby.

Reportedly, the carillon can be heard over a four-mile radius, making its broadcast the true voice of the university and part of Mount Royal’s architectural identity.


  • The same company salesman that sold Mount Royal the original carillon — Schulmerich Bells’ John Nelson in 1969 — also provided the centennial upgrade to digital. Now that’s service!
  • Last Christmas, @MountRoyal4U used twitter to encourage the student body to tweet carol suggestions. Carillonneur Neil Cockburn played Up on the Rooftop during the Conservatory’s Treble and Truss roof raising of its new building.
  • The bell tower was designed to age quickly so it looks like it’s been around forever: the speaker boxes are made out of weathering steel that rusts in the rain, washing down and staining the concrete.carilon
  • The bell tower’s peak inspired the design of Mount Royal University’s current logo, which takes its cues from the triangulated, diagonal shapes seen in campus architecture, including the East Gate, the West Gate, and the peak of the carillon.
  • The carillon plays eight different chimes, including the famed Westminster Peal from Big Ben, Winchester, and Lord Tennyson. Other bell voices include True Cast, Flemish Bells, Harp Bells, English Bells, Celesta Bells, and Organ Chime.
  • The bell tower originally contained 147 miniature bronze bell units which were struck by metal.
  • By definition, a true carillon must have at least 23 bells — any fewer and the instrument is considered a chime.

Sherri Zickefoose, Oct. 7, 2014

Polaris performer prepped by Conservatory pro

Violinist Jesse Zubot is a former student of Bill van der Sloot. His live performance with Tanya Tagaq at the Polaris Music Prize gala is turning heads. Photo: Victoria Johnson
Violinist Jesse Zubot is a former student of the Conservatory’s Bill van der Sloot. The noted improviser’s live performance with Tanya Tagaq at the Polaris Music Prize gala is turning heads. Photo: Victoria Johnson

People are still talking about Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s Polaris Music Prize gala performance last week. But take a closer look on stage: that’s violinist Jesse Zubot. Did you know he got his start taking lessons from our Academy for Gifted Youth manager Bill van der Sloot? Zubot began playing violin at age four and studied with van der Sloot until he was 16.

Mount Royal Conservatory's Academy manager Bill van der Sloot
Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy manager Bill van der Sloot

(His brother Joshua Zubot also studied at the Conservatory.)

Zubot, who now calls Britannia Beach, B.C., home where he runs the critically acclaimed creative music label Drip Audio, is part of three Juno Award-winning acts: the acoustic-roots ensemble Zubot & Dawson, The Great Uncles of the Revolution and Fond of Tigers.

He came back to the Conservatory as a guest artist for the Academy a few years back.

We caught up with Zubot to learn more about his Conservatory experience.

Jesse Zubot: One of the best things I got through the teachings from Bill was learning very clean and precise technique. This saved me a lot of time once I became a professional musician. As an adult musician, I could concentrate more on composing and creating exciting performances instead of having to spend all my time keeping my playing together.

Question: Your incredible work with Tanya Tagaq was a joy to hear and to watch during the Sept. 22 live performance at the Polaris gala. What do you think audiences took away from your performance? What was the experience like for you?

Jesse Zubot: I think the audience at the Polaris took away that it’s OK to be musically free…  I think they may have sensed some form of spiritual awakening almost.  Working with Tanya is all about being in the moment and letting the music guide you. We pretty much do 100 per cent improvised performances so it is very real and can even be overwhelming for some listeners as we aren’t afraid to raise the roof with extreme volume or intense emotions. Hopefully the Canadian music industry will be more open to supporting more artistic live musical performances in the future at award shows. The experience was great for me. It was good to actually really do what we do instead of conforming to an arranged piece of music that is the same as the actual recording, like most others did. It felt great to get some recognition for our work. We’ve been touring hard for the last six or seven years.

Question: Looking back, what was the best advice you received as a young musician that you carry with you today?

Jesse Zubot: I would say having fun and being committed is very important. If you make the decision to be a musician you really have to honour that decision and go for it 100 per cent.  It can be a hard life, but if you give it all you got, you will be rewarded greatly.

And here’s what Bill has to say about Jesse Zubot:

“The interesting thing about Jesse is that his imagination is boundless. He defies description as an artist. He has the facility and skills of an accomplished classical musician and that’s what makes him so amazing. He’s invented his own style of playing violin, that’s his imagination. There’s no one in the world that plays like him.”

And here’s a favourite memory: “I remember when he was 12, we couldn’t find him to go on stage to play a Paganini violin concerto in D major. We found him on a stage ramp riding his new skateboard while wearing his tux!”

Sherri Zickefoose, Oct. 2, 2014

Conservatory powerhouses performing at CPO’s Polish Week

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.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 24, 2014

Calgary Boys’ Choir sharing stage with Boychoir at CIFF

The Calgary International Film Festival is showing Boychoir, and is inviting the Conservatory's Calgary Boys' Choir to perform. Image: CIFF
The Calgary International Film Festival is showing Boychoir, and is inviting the Conservatory’s Calgary Boys’ Choir to perform. Image: CIFF

The Calgary International Film Festival is adding a real bonus feature: a pop-up performance from the Calgary Boys’ Choir.

Calgary Boys' Choir at Carnaby Street on tour.
Calgary Boys’ Choir at Carnaby Street on tour.

Performing live at the Wednesday, Sept. 24  screening of Boychoir (starring Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates) audiences will enjoy a live concert from the Conservatory’s senior Calgary Boys’ Choir at Eau Claire Market and again just before the movie begins.

The added bonus of the live performance is all about bringing extras to the festival audience.

“Watching an incredible film like Boychoir would be a memorable experience on its own, but when it’s paired with the magic of the Calgary Boys’ Choir, performing live, it becomes truly unforgettable,” said Mark Hopkins, CIFF’s experiential programming co-ordinator.

“Involving the Calgary Boys’ Choir was one instance where everything came together wonderfully. With a film called Boychoir, it seemed only natural to get the boys’ choir involved,” he said.

The choir will perform twice before the 6:45 p.m. showing of the film —  first, a pop-up concert in Eau Claire Market, then a brief performance in the theatre before the film starts.

The film will help share what the Conservatory and singers already know: choirs are a rewarding and worthwhile activity for everyone.

“The Calgary Boys’ Choir is excited to be associated with this wonderful new movie about singing boys,” said Calgary Boys’ Choir artistic director Paul Grindlay. “We love to sing and share our music with others, and it’s affirming to see Hollywood choose this story to make a film.”

Boychoir is a story about an orphaned 11-year-old boy sent to the American Boychoir boarding school. Angry and acting out, the boy catches the attention of choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman) who sees the boy’s (Garrett Waering) immense talent and potential and encourages him. The film’s director, Francoise Girard, who also directed The Red Violin, tackles the theme of music as a social force in a new setting.

“Having an amazing actor like Dustin Hoffman involved will undoubtedly enhance the film’s appeal and effect,” said Grindlay. “Of course, I hope that this movie introduces the unique beauty of boys’ voices to many and increases popular awareness and interest in what we do, because we think it’s valuable and important. For those of us involved in choirs and orchestras, music provides the soundtrack to our lives. It’s a rewarding discipline that challenges us constantly, a path we travel with our closest friends which takes us abroad and brings us home again. It is a divine creation which is essentially simple and yet fascinatingly complex. It stirs and inspires, calms and comforts, helps us to define ourselves and allows us to tell our stories.”

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 22, 2014