Early Music Vancouver - Concerts With FriendsWednesday, December 22, 2010
|Paul Luchkow & Michael Jarvis|
In previous years I have attended all sorts of Early Music Vancouver concerts with my granddaughter Rebecca. It got to the point where by age 7 she knew the difference between a viola da gamba and a cello. I am sure that most reading this would not know that difference, or would you? She could also differentiate the sound between a baroque violin and a modern one.
But of late, after all she is 13; Lady Gaga seems to be her ticket. I cannot understand because my musical tastes, paradoxically at age 7, were nonexistent and by age 13 I was no better. My “sophisticated” musical tastes began when I was 16.
I cannot figure out how an ear that had grown accustomed to the likes of Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Johan Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude and even the Austrian/Bohemian Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Biber, could now listen to Lady Gaga on her iTouch (which I confess I bought for her). The 17th century Biber has been made even more obscure by modern search engines that will most likely connect you to Justin Bieber.
The answer I get, from most of my friends I complain about the loss of my baroque concert companion, is the usual, "It's a product of her age and that some day she will return. You must have patience.”
Meanwhile I consider myself lucky to have one particular friend, the graphic designer Graham Walker who is always game to listen to a gut-stringed instrument or as was the case last night, Early Music Vancouver’s Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas at the Chan, which featured five unusual instruments, two oboes da caccia, two natural horns and a violone.
Walker and I have attended 9 year’s worth of these Bach Cantatas (about 40 of them), presented by Early Music Vancouver, which feature a mix of brilliant local talent with some singers from abroad and specialty musician who play, in contemporary terms, instruments that most of us would not recognize.
Even with her memory of her baroque past, fading, Rebecca could tell you that any concert featuring soprano Ellen Hargis and oboist Washington McClain would have to be very special.
|David Douglass, Rebecca, Ellen Hargis|
And special it was. Tonight’s performance at the Chan was like having Christmas Eve dinner at home with family. Many of the performers we have seen for years.
We notice that they sometimes change their names as violinist Natalie Mackie who used to go by the name of Nan. We notice that Natalie sported a new hair do. We noticed that leader and virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé still wears weird shoes. And every time Walker sees Destrubé on stage he makes the comment, “If he had red hair he would be the spitting image of Antonio Vivaldi."
I have given several nicknames (kind ones, I believe) to members of the Early Music Vancouver concerts. Many perform for the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. Violist Steve Creswell, exuberant with the smile of a saint gazing on the Madonna, I dub the Happy Bear. His equally exuberant cohort at the baroque cello, Nathan Whitaker, is Koala Bear.
|Dr. Eric Vogt|
In baseball many players have amulets to give them luck. I believe that the same situation exists for musicians. Destrubé has his special concert shoes and keyboardist, organ and forte pianist, Michael Jarvis has his special florescent red eyeglasses.
When Graham and I sit down for these concerts we notice all the above. Last night we looked forward to listening to Ellen Hargis’s soprano voice (she is my favourite soprano who specializes in the baroque) which is pure and clear but to which she injects a warmth that is most uncommon.
There is very little preaching to the converted. Most who attend (and in this case packed the Chan Centre) are habitués of Vancouver’s thriving baroque and early music scene. Perhaps it is thriving because Early Music Vancouver’s Artistic Director and his board (including that most generous Dr. Stephen Drance) have a secret formula for relieving stalwart, penny pinching and thrifty business leaders from their money.
Going to these Early Music Vancouver concerts gives one the opportunity to meet with people sans facebook and Twitter and to look at them in the eye and smile. These concerts, after so many years, have become a tradition of the predictable. No matter how surprising and fresh baroque composers can sound today there is a comfort to be had in meeting up with people who share one’s taste for music. I have observed how they have changed and become older and stouter (they probably see the same in me). Some of my friends are not there as Abraham Rogatnick who died last year. It is specially fun to have chats with members of the orchestra (they simply step down from the stage) as we did with violinist Paul Luchkow. It seems that it was only yesterday that I spotted a young cyclist at Hemlock and Granville. I went up to him and said, "Sir you look like a baroque violinist." He was dumfounded. But I had cheated as i had attended one of his first concerts in Vancouver. A few months later at a concert I went up to him and said, "Sir you look like a cyclist." It wasn't only yesterday as Walker and I asked him about his son Oscar. "He is two," Luchkow told us.
That predictable pattern of meeting up with friendly faces has its special moments. I always seek out Dr Eric Vogt who used to preside over the UBC cyclotron. Last night I addressed him, “Sir, are the particles still charmed?” His answer, he stood up from his seat to do so, “Yes, they indeed are.”
And then I spotted a man wearing new and recently polished shoes and a nice suit. On his lapel he had the Order of Canada. “José [Verstappen] where are your Birkenstocks?” His answer was something like this, “The Order of Canada does impose a dress code.”
Ah! The pleasure of attending a wonderful concert amongst friends. Rebecca, hurry up.
The Prince of a professor & the man in Birkenstocks