Wyatt Concert Series presents The Assad Brothers


It’s nearly time for Mount Royal Conservatory’s next Wyatt Artist in Residence Concert Series performance.

The Assad Brothers are performing Nov. 9. Tickets are available now.

The Brazilian-born classical, Latin and jazz infused Assad Brothers aren’t just treating their Calgary audience to an unforgettable concert: they’re here to instruct our Academy for Gifted Youth Guitar program as part of the Wyatt Series.

Murray Visscher, Mount Royal Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth guitar program co-coordinator.

And the students are in for the masterclass of a lifetime, says Murray Visscher, Academy program co-coordinator and ensemble coach.

“I remember first hearing the Assad Brothers while I was in university. They had recently released the album, Latin American Music for Two Guitars, and they were coming to perform in Vancouver. The concert was amazing. They were fast and fluid with effortless ensemble, filling the room with their contagious passion for the works that they played,” said Visccher, who received his Masters Degree at the San Francisco Conservatory and has performed for audiences in major North American cities.

“I went to the concert with a group of guitar student friends and we all went away wanting to play just like that. The Assads have been a huge inspiration to my generation of guitarists and they continue to inspire. I’m thrilled that our Academy students have the opportunity to share the excitement that has motivated so many players to challenge their musical and technical boundaries in an effort to simulate the achievements of Sergio and Odair Assad.”

Sérgio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of guitar innovation, ingenuity and expression.

The Assad Brothers are setting new performance standards and are playing a major role in creating and introducing new music for two guitars.

The Assads have worked with renowned artists Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Fernando Suarez Paz, Paquito D’Rivera, Gidon Kremer and Dawn Upshaw.

Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy Program for Gifted Youth began in 1980 and is an enrichment program providing musical training of the highest quality for gifted young artists.

The Academy Program offers participants a balanced, performance-based course of study, as well as opportunities to meet and perform with professional musicians and renowned teachers.

Specific training includes sessions with acclaimed musicians in private lessons, small group classes and masterclasses; individual sessions with an accompanist; chamber music coaching; instruction in theory, aural skills and musical discoveries; frequent recitals aimed at developing confidence and stage presence; and participation in a large ensemble for those students who play orchestral instruments.

DID YOU KNOW? The Wyatt Artist in Residence series honours Hal Wyatt and his late wife Marnie, long-time friends and supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory.

Sherri Zickefoose, Oct. 22, 2014

Christmas in Song kicking off the season early!


Mount Royal Conservatory is getting a head start on the festive yuletide season with its Christmas in Song concert Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.

Now in its 26th year, Christmas in Song has delighted family audiences with a mixture of holiday favourites, classical masterpieces and traditional carols. It’s become a treasured part of the city’s holiday festivities.

Christmas in Song is an excellent showcase featuring the talents of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, and Mount Royal’s family of choirs: Arietta, Arioso, Artio and Kantorei. This year, the Conservatory’s Jazz faculty and students will be adding some seasonal swing.

“For me, the musical highlight of the season is always Christmas in Song — the Conservatory’s wonderful yuletide celebration,” says Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian. “It’s always a thrill to see such a large stage filled with Mount Royal choristers and Calgary Youth Orchestra members.”

Performers will be sharing the stage with Calgary’s Heebee-jeebees, the popular a cappella group made up of several Mount Royal choral alumni: Cédric Blary, Chris Herard, Ken Lima-Coelho, and Jonathan Love.

For some of the children in Arietta and Arioso, this is their first performing experience.

The Conservatory is especially pleased to collaborate once again with Glencoe Resources, its long-time partners in Christmas in Song.


Tickets: Adults $30, Students/Seniors $20, Children under 12 $10, family and group discounts available. Call 403.440.7770

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

October is Calgary Organ Festival time

MRU Carthy Organ
Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Carthy Organ is a real beauty. Recitals are planned city-wide for the Calgary Organ Festival Oct. 24-Nov. 2.

Internationally-acclaimed performers, free campus concerts and a Halloween night silent film screening set to live music are in store for audiences of the Calgary Organ Festival and Symposium Oct. 24 to Nov. 2.

If you’re new to it, the 10-day festival is filled with recitals around the city, a symposium , a hands-on workshop and worship services.

And since Calgary is said to have the highest number of pipe organs of any city west of Toronto, it seems fitting to show them off. This marks the fifth year for the festival, which is organized by Mount Royal University Conservatory.

Recitals around the city include performances by international recording artist and early music specialist Luc Beauséjour (Montreal), and multi-international competition laureate and silent film specialist David Baskeyfield (UK/USA).

Halloween night will be celebrated in style at the Great Halloween Organ SpookTacular, featuring a screening of the 1925 silent movie Phantom of the Opera set to live pipe organ accompaniment at Knox United Church. Baskeyfield is increasingly renowned for silent film accompaniment; besides Phantom, he’s created music for Nosferatu (1922).

Here on campus at MRU, there is a free, live outdoor carillon concert Oct. 27 at 12:10 p.m.

The open air event is audible around campus but we recommend bringing a blanket to sit on and listening from the TransCanada Amphitheatre by MRU’s Charlton Pond.

And if you’ve never visited the Conservatory’s Wyatt Recital Hall, home to our stunning Carthy organ, there’s a free recital Thursday, Oct. 30 at 12:10 p.m. Francine Nguyen-Savaria will be performing the organ music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).

The full festival schedule is available online.


Sherri Zickefoose, Oct. 6, 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

High River classical concert boasts Conservatory connections


Here’s an amazing concert you won’t want to miss:  two extraordinary Mount Royal Conservatory students — young pianist Kevin Chen, 9, and violinist Isabella Perron, 14, — are set to dazzle in High River Saturday, Sept. 20.

The Conservatory prodigies are opening the southern Alberta town’s annual High River Gift of Music concert series.

If you haven’t witnessed these gifted performers in concert, this is a great opportunity.

Conservatory alumnus Kevin will be performing the world premiere of his commissioned composition about the devastating 2013 southern Alberta flood, River Rhapsody. The full-scale, nine-minute piano piece reflects the flooding’s turmoil but also the resilience of the High River community.

Kevin, a former Conservatory student of Colleen Athparia, has passed Canada’s ARCT piano teacher diploma exam and is currently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Despite being nine years old, Kevin has composed many pieces (the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra played his Symphony No. 1 last year). He has said he hears music in his head, and enters it directly into his computer.

“Kevin is the most talented all-round musician I’ve ever seen and I’ve taught many so-called prodigies before,” said Athparia. “He comprehends music at such a high level, that I really need only to guide him like a bird taking off in flight.”

Isabella is a gifted and award-winning violinist, singer, and pianist who competes nationally.johanne_concertPic-copy-195x300

Described as a complete musician, Isabella is highly regarded for her stage presence, spark and musical spirit. Isabella comes by these talents naturally: her mother, noted Montreal concert cellist Johanne Perron, teaches master classes and lessons at Mount Royal Conservatory. 

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 15, 2014


Tribute concert honours Calgary composer

Composer, teacher and music publisher Roberta Stephen is being honoured by Conservatory musicians and others at a tribute concert organized by the Canadian Music Centre Sept. 21 at Scarboro Church.

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.

Conservatory faculty member Colleen Athparia performs at a concert honouring Roberta Stephen

“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.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 8, 2014

Exciting times this fall at Mount Royal Conservatory

piano 3

September signals back to school at Mount Royal Conservatory for students, music educators, and new events for concert goers. Our Academy for Gifted Youth is gearing up with fresh faces, auditions are underway for our family of youth and adult choirs, and our ensembles, Calgary Youth Orchestra, early childhood programs and speech arts will soon be in full swing.

But fall classes and activities aren’t just for children.

Research shows that group classes and private lessons for adults enrich lives. Life-long learning benefits everyone, whether learning to play an instrument or singing as a hobby, or private speech arts lessons for boosting your career in the boardroom.

Curious? See what the Conservatory is offering and join us.


Calgary Boys’ Choir6978_lg
“Approachable” Fall Family Concert
Oct. 19, 2014
3 p.m. Leacock Theatre
A free early season family concert aimed at recruitment, featuring the Senior Choir and a variety of child-friendly post-concert activities.

Calgary Organ Festival and SymposiumMRU carthy closeup
Oct. 26-Nov. 2
Internationally-acclaimed performers and a Halloween silent film screening  set to live music are in store for audiences of the fifth annual Calgary Organ Festival. This year’s 10-day festival lineup of recitals and concerts includes performances by Luc Beauséjour (Montreal), and David Baskeyfield (UK/USA). The Great Halloween Organ SpookTacular is featuring a screening of the 1925 silent movie Phantom of the Opera with live pipe organ accompaniment at Knox United Church.  Free recitals at MRU include a live carillon concert outdoors. See complete listings at

Wyatt Artist in Residence Concert Series
Assad Brothers Guitar DuoAssad Bros Mount Royal Conservatory
Nov. 9, 2014
7:30 p.m., Leacock Theatre
Brazilian-born brothers Sergio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of guitar innovation, ingenuity and expression. “Call it one of the most engaging musical presentations of the season. Better yet, call it a stunning display of the music of the Western Hemisphere:” The Los Angeles Times

Christmas in Songcons_img_header_cis
Nov. 29, 2014
7 p.m. Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
A family holiday tradition and a celebration the season with the joyful sounds of Mount Royal Conservatory. Christmas in Song has been a treasured part of Calgary’s holiday festivities for nearly three decades. This, our 26th annual concert, will feature Mount Royal’s Arietta, Arioso, Artio and Kantorei choirs, the outstanding Calgary Youth Orchestra, and a surprise line-up of special guest artists.

“Winter Wonderland” Concert by Calgary Boys’ Choir
Dec. 7, 2014
Leacock Theatre  7 p.m.
This will be a full-length, ticketed concert event featuring both levels of the Calgary Boys’ Choir in music celebrating the glories of winter, wildlife and scenery.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 2, 2014

Gabriela Montero: Stunning improvisation in a classical world


Don't miss Gabriela Montero in concert April 1, 2014 at Mount Royal's Leacock Theatre.
Don’t miss Gabriela Montero in concert April 1, 2014 at Mount Royal’s Leacock Theatre.

In a world where classical musicians strive for perfection playing every note written, making it up as you go along is largely left to jazz.

But Gabriela Montero has managed to play both sides, winning over critics and fans alike.

The Venezuelan-born American pianist was a child prodigy, performing concertos with the national orchestra at age nine:

VIDEO: “>Gabriela Montero, 9, plays Haydn D Major piano concerto

While Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were no strangers to improvisation, the classical world has long moved away from it.

But as a classical musician, Montero brings a wealth of knowledge and sheer talent to improvising the work of the masters. And the results are stunning.

VIDEO:  Montero improvises movie score for 1922 silent film Nosferatu in Berlin, January 2014

Montero puts it best: “It’s spontaneous creation. It’s spontaneous music making. And is it perfect? I don’t know. It’s not, I mean it’s something that is just born and dies,” (she told CBS 60 Minutes).

See Gabriela Montero in concert April 1, 2014 at Mount Royal’s Leacock Theatre.

She is teaching master classes for our Academy for Gifted Youth students as part of our Wyatt Artist in Residence program.

And stay tuned for our announcement for the star-studded lineup for the 2014-15 Wyatt season.

 Sherri Zickefoose, March 18, 2014

Van Cliburn and his MMB connection

Van Cliburn and Morningside Music Bridge

Yesterday, February 27, pianist Van Cliburn had passed away.  The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is the most prestigious competition in the world, and this year, they have commissioned Christopher Theofanadis to compose a piece for their competitors to perform in the semi-final round of the competition in April.

Christopher Theofanidis, composer

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