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
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
Akiko Tominaga is an artistic tour guide. The worldly pianist, featured in the Spotlight Series from 2-3pm on Sunday, April 24th in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ TransAlta Pavilion, called the program “Postcards from Afar” to take the audience on a musical journey. The best part is, they don’t even have to leave their seats.
Tominaga herself has experienced many cultures and their sounds. Born in Japan, she grew up moving to the varied musical landscapes of Singapore and the United States, she’s traveled to Europe and Asia and makes her home here in Canada. Along the way, she’s picked up sonic souvenirs that she’ll present to her audience. “Postcards from Afar” is based on pieces inspired from these different cultures,” she notes, citing specific references to Asian, Spanish and French influences. “Through the music, people can experience different cultures.”
Much like travel, the program selections are a feast for all senses. “You can blend and paint with sound,” she states. Highlighting works by French master Debussy, Spanish rhythmist Albeniz and Japanese minimalist Takemitsu, she couldn’t select a wider variety of cultural palates to paint with. “Music goes into the visual arts (in one’s mind)” she nods. “We experience it through audio, but we can feel the temperature, texture and tonality.”
Each culture has evolved in its own musical influences. The listening ear can place the hint of an Asian-influenced scale compared to a more western aesthetic. Tominaga suggests that accessing it starts on the page. “It all comes from the score.” She attests, noting composers’ own interpretive descriptions like ‘celestial light’ and ‘joyously’ on the printed page. “I analyze and study the score, then reflect on what the composer wrote. I see the images. I hear it. I see shimmering gold. By envisioning it, I can play it.”
This particular program has, itself, traveled. Tominaga played it in recital as a part of Roland Graham’s Master Piano Recital Series in Ottawa last month. As it travels, it evolves. “It’s never the same,” she expresses, “The whole dynamic performance experience is exciting. It can only be created in that moment. That unique experience is what attracts me to live music.”
Take the trip with Akiko Tominaga. All travel yields memorable experiences. But, unlike most jaunts abroad, this Spotlight Series show is by donation only and includes one thing you won’t find at any airport… free parking.
Please RSVP if you’re attending the concert on Sunday, April 24.
Each year, students from Mount Royal Conservatory compete in hundreds of classes at the Calgary Performing Arts Festival (formerly the Kiwanis Festival). By their estimation, 80 to 90 percent receive a combination of first and second place certificates.
Pianist Charlotte Giraudeau is only 6 years old but is already an accomplished pianist, working with teacher Kathy Dornian in the Academy for Gifted Youth at the Conservatory.
“Charlotte competed in 6 classes including one which was her first complete concerto. Most students that age group would enter 1 to 3 classes,” says Kathy Dornian. “She was entered in the 6 years and under classes which are non-competitive (the piano categories are non-competitive up to age 8). She certainly received many accolades from the adjudicators.”
“Most of her repertoire was around Grade 4, which is quite remarkable for age 6. Level aside, what makes her unique is that she is already displaying a high level of musicianship and imagination, and I feel that she shows tremendous promise and potential,” Kathy notes. “The cute-as-a-button factor of course is a lovely bonus at this age and she demonstrates a real ease with and love of performing for an audience.”
Charlotte has a sister, Madeleine, who also is a very talented student of the Academy for Gifted Youth. “Madeleine is 10 years old and playing at a Grade 9-10 level. She gave a stunning performance on March 11 of a very complex and difficult Canadian piece and won both the class and a scholarship. She competed in 5 classes, won 3 and placed second in 2,” says Kathy.
Charlotte and Madeleine are both adopted from different orphanages in China and are completely unrelated biologically, yet both obviously have a very strong natural affinity for music. Their parents moved to Calgary from Edmonton a couple of years ago. Their mother is Chinese, and their father is French.
“Charlotte is a joy to teach and lots of fun!” says Kathy. “It is rare to have an hour lesson for that age level but an hour with Charlotte simply flies by and we could probably easily go for two and she would still maintain focus and concentration.”
It’s that special time again: Mount Royal Conservatory’s semi-annual piano sale is coming up fast on Oct. 24-25.
This sale is exclusively for students, parents, employees and alumni of Mount Royal University, thanks to a long-time agreement with Kawai Pianos and its local dealer Standard Pianos.
There is a wide selection of grand, upright and digital pianos — new and used — offered at exceptional prices. Some are pianos used in the Conservatory’s music program. All of the instruments on sale have been professionally maintained and include a warranty from Standard Pianos or the Kawai factory.
! MRU employees, students and alumni will receive a special discount on the first day of the sale. !
Since 1993, Kawai Pianos and Standard Pianos have provided a large number of pianos to the Conservatory at no charge.
In addition, Kawai Music Canada has established an annual piano scholarship of $3,000 for the outstanding piano student in the Conservatory, as well as a new piano fund. This fund provides annual income to help purchase new instruments for the Conservatory.
Friday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Mount Royal University’s Lincoln Park Room (J301)
or call for an appointment 403.209.2232
Visa and Interac are accepted. Delivery will be available.
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 name Roberta Stephen is music to ears of Calgary musicians.
The composer, teacher, publisher, and singer has been the mainstay of Alberta Keys Music Publishing Co. Ltd., publishing dozens of works by her fellow Canadian composers.
“Roberta Stephen has done so much to encourage young composers and to promote Canadian music in Calgary,” says Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth faculty piano instructor Colleen Athparia. “She has made a great contribution to Calgary composers by publishing their works.”
Athparia, who is hailed as one of the top four Canadian pianists of contemporary music today, is one of many performers honouring Stephen in an upcoming concert: A Tribute to Roberta Stephen — A Life in Music — Composer, Teacher, Music Publisher on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. at Calgary’s Scarboro United Church (134 Scarboro Ave. S.W.)
“I’m performing in this concert as a way of thanking her for her inspiration,” said Athparia, who has recorded Danse Sauvage by Calgary composer Allan Bell, which Stephen published.
The piano piece was the required Canadian composition in the inaugural Honens piano competition.
The concert honouring Stephen and her music is showcasing a wonderful lineup of professional and student performers with ties to Mount Royal Conservatory. The free concert, organized by the Canadian Music Centre, pays tribute to her lifetime musical legacy through her compositions.
Performers honouring the octogenarian include Conservatory faculty, students and alumni, as well as other notable musicians:
- Michelle Todd, voice
- Stan Climie, clarinet
- Colleen Athparia, piano
- Kevin Chen, piano/composition
- Lucie Jones and members of the Mount Royal Chamber Flutes
- Lily String Quartet, featuring Diane Lane, Andrea Case, Elisa Milner and Patricia Higgins
- Holly Kletke, voice
- Cantare Children’s Choir
The work of award-winning Calgary composer Allan Bell, published by Stephen’s Alberta Keys Music Publishing Company, will be featured.
Stephen was born April 17, 1931, earned her Master’s degree from the University of North Texas and works as a teacher of singing, vocal pedagogy, composition, and advanced theoretical subjects. The award-winning teacher has been active in the community as a board member for New Works Calgary and the Canadian Music Centre.
For more information, click here.
Classical and improvisational pianist Gabriela Montero did more than delight a capacity crowd at her April 1, 2014 recital at Mount Royal University’s Leacock Theatre.
What’s it like playing for one of the world’s most gifted musicians?
We’ll let our Academy students tell you:
Stephen Lind, 24:
Q: What was it like playing for Gabriela Montero?
A: It was a great experience, it was especially interesting as I chose to play the C Major Schumann Fantasy without realizing it was on the program for her recital that evening. She mentioned that it is amongst her top five favourite pieces and obviously had a deep understanding of it, which made for a great lesson.
Q: What was the best advice you took away?
A: I’d have to say her approach of technique and being as efficient and relaxed as possible in every movement at the piano.
Jenny Z. has been an Academy student for two years, and is currently an APP student. The talented 16-year-old studies with Krzysztof Jablonski.
Q: What piece did you perform for your masterclass with Gabriela Montero?
A: Ballade No. 1 in G minor Op. 23 by Frederic Chopin
Q: What was the most important lesson she taught you?
A: She offered a lot of technical advice (since we mainly focused on technique), and the major one is: it is best to limit your movements to only what is necessary to produce the sound, because we essentially play by gravity, and once the key is pressed, any extra movements won’t affect the sound. In addition, the closer your fingers are to the keyboard, the more control you have on producing the sound. Even if you feel you need to move “with the music,” like lifting your wrist before beginning the next phrase, just think of how the music goes inside and don’t let it affect your movements.
Q: What was it like working with such a famous classical musician?
A: It’s a great privilege to learn from a world-class pianist. At first, I felt a bit nervous and curious to see what she would say, but in the end, her confidence and knowledge gives me confidence as well: I know I learned something that would definitely improve my performance skills in general. It is also illuminative, as she would mention something that I never thought of, and sometimes what she teaches also converges with my teacher’s words.
Teresa S., age 12
Q: Which piece did you perform?
A: Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 8
Q: What was the best advice from Gabriela Montero?
A: Don’t try to play the piano with a lot of extra motion, or with no motion at all. When you play the piano you should play it and be. It’s like walking, when you walk you don’t walk with stiff legs, but you also don’t walk like you don’t have any bones. You just walk. I thought that was very helpful.
Q: What was the experience of playing for a renowned musical star for the day?
A: I thought it was really cool! It was a great experience, I am very lucky to have had it! That is one of the things I really like about the Academy Program at Mount Royal, you get to have some great once-in-a-lifetime experiences that not a lot of people can have, so I feel really lucky to be one of the students working with these wonderful guest artists.
WATCH: Baritone Russell Braun offering his words of wisdom to Academy students:
NOTEWORTHY: Season subscriptions to the Wyatt Artist in Residence Series Recitals support the Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth program.
Sherri Zickefoose, April 9, 2014