It’s no secret that classical music audiences are dwindling across North America, and members are finding creative ways to rekindle interest.
The St. Albert Chamber Music Society defied the odds. Not only did he maintain public interest, but by encouraging regional performers, he expanded his audience.
For the final concert of Season 12, taking place Sunday, June 5 at St. Albert’s United Church, the society engages the Alberta Baroque Ensemble, a dedicated group of classically trained musicians exploring the spirit of the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. This is the collective’s first recital with the company.
COVID has brought cultural life to a temporary halt, but the ensemble’s core 14 players are returning with talent and confidence on an unprecedented scale. In some ways, Baroque musicians rehearsing on Zoom during the pandemic have supported them in the dark, and now they’re eager to share all of its beauty.
Founder and artistic director Paul Schieman has selected four works by master composers from the Baroque period, one of the richest and most diverse in the history of music.
The introductory piece of the ensemble is that of Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) Sinfonia in B flat major. At the time, Mozart was employed as a court composer and wrote music based on the needs of clients, Schieman explained.
“It starts out pretty brisk and becomes more subdued in the middle until it continues with a fast final movement,” he said.
The ensemble moves the composers to Georg Philipp Telemann Suite in G majora six-movement ode to Don Quixote adapted from Miguel de Cervantes’ epic novel about chivalry and romance.
“It takes up the elements of Don Quixote’s adventure and depicts what happens there. In the first movement, there is the awakening of Don Quixote followed by his attack on the windmills and his love for Princess Dulcinea. Sancho Panza, his sidekick gets cheated, and there’s Don Quixote’s horse with Sancho’s donkey galloping. It ends with Don Quixote resting.
On another note, several generations of Bach composers have contributed to the classical catalog. In a nod to the famous family, the musicians interpret the emotional Sinfonia in D minor composed by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, the fifth son of Johann Sebastian Bach.
“It’s a later baroque piece that is part of the classical period. It’s a bit like the music of Leopold Mozart – lots of sturm and drang.
The last piece is by JS Bach Violin Concerto in A minor, a deeply expressive piece that tests a violinist’s musical pedigree. It features elegant soloist Anna Kozak, violin 1 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
“Anna has been doing this work for the past few years. She brings years of experience, joy and lots of life to this piece.
In addition to promoting established classical ensembles, the society nurtures up-and-coming musicians and raises their profile. Cory Manners of St. Albert is the star young musician of this concert. Currently, he is a piano and cellist student with the Edmonton Youth Orchestra.
“This year he is on a tear. He was recognized to attend the provincial festival after participating in the Rotary Music Festival. When someone works so hard, I am immediately delighted on their behalf. It is still in the development stage , but last year he crushed it,” said St. Albert cellist Ronda Metszies. She is Manner’s music teacher in addition to being an integral part of the Baroque ensemble and ESO .
He will perform the Italian composer Benedetto Marcello Sonata No. 1, a quintessential developmental cello work intertwined with Baroque ornamentation. Nancy Watt, piano teacher at St. Albert, will accompany the young cellist.
“He has a beautiful sound and he’s very sincere when he plays. He’s not a showman. What he brings to the music comes straight from the heart. There’s no bravado. He’s a musician very thoughtful, honest and genuine,” Metszies said.
Doors open at 2:15 p.m. The concert begins at 3 p.m. on June 5 at 20 Green Grove Dr. Tickets are $35 adults, $30 seniors, and $15 students. They are available on www.eventbrite.ca and at the Heritage Museum. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.