It’s a decade since the late Don Vaugeois, a local music philanthropist, and music teacher Nancy Watt sat down for a morning coffee meeting and hatched St. Albert Chamber Music Society.
“When we started this we were looking to get through the first season. It wasn’t until around the third season I realized all the benefits to the community,” said Watt, who is excited about the expanded season in celebration of the musical milestone.
While Edmonton Symphony Orchestra regularly performs towering, blockbuster master works, Watt’s concept looked at programming more low-key chamber music.
Chamber music is small scale compared to orchestras – mainly soloists, duos, trios and quartets. However, the musical conversations are equally intense and energetic. Although performed in a more intimate setting, the music is still full of weight, depth and real drama.
And the public quickly picked up on it. They recognized quality when they heard it. To date, evening performances attract an average of 150 music lovers, an impressive number for St. Albert’s small city population size.
In this landmark year, Watt has not only prepared a regular five-season showcase. She also scheduled three free pop-up concerts. St. Albert City’s Community Events Grants provided a one-time grant of $1,800 for artist fees.
Dubbed "Take 10 Pop Up Concerts", the three one-hour events take place on the 10th of September, October, and November. All pop-up performances start at 12 noon.
“We want to bring chamber music outside traditional locations and introduce the enjoyment of classical music to people. Classical music is portable. It doesn’t always have to be in a concert hall,” said Watt.
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra violinist and former St. Albert resident Neda Yamach along with violist Clayton Leung introduce Take 10 at Chapters bookstore on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
“They’ll be doing a mix of traditional classical and arrangements of popular tunes. Chamber music doesn’t have to be ancient master works. It can be more current, something to engage audiences.”
On Thursday, Oct. 10 St. Albert flautist Crystal Krips along with St. Albert cellist Caitlin Laslop join forces with flautist Dorothy Speers under the moniker Terzetto to play a leisurely afternoon of classics in St. Albert Place lobby.
“They performed at St. Albert Botanic Park in the summer of 2016 and they provided a real diverse repertoire of music.”
Closing the pop up series on Sunday, Nov. 10 at St. Albert Centre is Obsessions Quartet. The magnificent foursome encompasses violinist Joanna Ciapka-Sangster, violinist Yue Deng, violist Leanne Maitland and St. Albert ESO cellist Ronda Metszies.
Obsessions is also the only ensemble included in the regular season package. Along with special guests saxophonist Kent Sangster and St. Albert double bass player John Taylor, they return on Jan. 18 to play jazzed up sets blending the styles of Astor Piazzolla, jazz, tango and classical music.
“Their pop up concert is just a teaser of their upcoming concert in January. It will be light repertoire. And I really wanted to include Ronda. We should really be proud of her contribution and connection to the ESO.”
In an effort to enrich the experience for listeners attending the regular season, Watt has invited cellist and musical historian Julia Darby (formerly Julia Dolman) to prepare short presentations prior to each concert.
“She’ll be giving background on the performers, composers and the music. These talks will provide information and give the audience something to listen for.”
The first concert of the season opens Oct. 19 with mother-daughter duo pianist Patricia Tao and violinist Gabrielle Depres, winner of Rotary’s Lyle Moore Scholarship.
“Patti is such a consummate pianist and Gabrielle is a tour de force. She has an incredible career ahead of her. This will be a show stopper.”
Following on Nov. 23 is the inaugural performance of the South African-born, Calgary-based Three Sisters Cello Trio.
“The concept of having three cellos is very unique. They’ve been performing since 2005 and touring since 2012 to some very exciting places,” said Watt.
“I’ve heard their recordings and I love the sound of three cellos together. They’re very passionate and as sisters, they’re very emotionally connected. There’s an intuitiveness when siblings perform together that is very special.”
The Alberta Baroque Ensemble, the season's largest ensemble, takes centre stage on March 22.
“I’m very excited because last season we had the Edmonton Chamber Orchestra. The response was fantastic and I’m happy to feature a bigger sound. During the second half there is a special treat with special guest artist Allene Hackleman, principal horn for ESO.”
The season comes full circle on May 2 with ESO principal trumpet Robin Doyon and Andrea Pedro, a new pianist on the Edmonton scene.
Individual concert tickets range from $30 to $35 and a season subscription ranges from $120 to $140. Tickets can be purchased at Musée Heritage Museum at 780-459-1528, the Art Gallery of St. Albert 780-460-4310 or online at eventbrite.ca.