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Masterworks Concert Opens New Season


THUNDER BAY, ON -----  October 18, 2011  --- It seems the music season is getting off to a later start this year. I think Mark Fewer part of that may be due to the fact that it is getting more difficult to sell tickets to an event when it is still possible to enjoy time out of doors.

These days when the night comes early many people are heavily invested in their family entertainment systems. A hundred dollar cable bill and a brand new high definition plasma TV grace many homes. The constant hype and sales promotions by large corporations make it seem that everyone should have these appliances so that they do not miss something important. The sales pitch is so strong and effective that Arts groups cannot ever hope to compete with the message. If Arts groups could muster one tenth the money that cable companies rake in there would be a new Arts renaissance.

I have several questions for the consumers of mass media. Do you really get what you are paying for? Have you been able to watch all 400 channels at your command? Like most people I have a good television with cable and I only am interested in about three channels. Channels that require different packages which forces the cost of cable over the hundred dollar mark. In addition to the cost of it all watching TV is a genuine waste of time. A walk around the block costs nothing and will do more for you. Time spent with children is always well spent. You can’t talk to a child and watch TV at the same time. If we were not so caught up in the world of mass media we could enjoy more of the real things in life. Taking in the symphony especially with a friend or a young one who has never gone before is sharing the gift of great music by great composers. Participation in concerts of all kinds is a social experience and a great way to build bonds between friends and family. The absence of these qualities is one thing that causes me to watch less television and go to more concerts and plays.

 In Thunder Bay the TBSO will present some 37 public concerts this season. This is real music produced by musicians who live in our community and are our neighbours and friends. I have looked forward to the first masterworks concert for awhile now. Remembering the towering performance of Anton Kuerti  at the closing concert of last season I was anxious to see the first programme.

Mark Fewer is a remarkable cross-over violinist. Well known in classical as well as jazz circles his playing is always fresh and vibrant. In checking his website I see a busy October schedule with performances every four or five days. Some of them Jazz concerts, others classical.

This is the first season where Arthur Post has both selected the music as well as conducted the programme. In my preconceived notion of a masterworks concert I would expect an orchestral appetizer followed by a concerto in the first half, the second half would consist of a major orchestral masterwork. Well that was the formula.

 This concert presented Mark Fewer as soloist. One piece I enjoyed was by Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960 Philadelphia). The Air is a love letter to the violin. My partner for the night does not have a strong music background but she also enjoyed the piece because it made “an emotional connection”. That’s what good music is supposed to do.

The Hungarian tunes by Pablo Sarasate provided Fewer with the opportunity to switch styles once more. His Gypsy inspired playing was simply marvellous. The Miles Davis Suite was a surprise. It is not often that we have the chance to see a composer arranger play some of his own work on stage. It is even more of a surprise when the conductor exchanges his baton for a Double Bass. The piece was one of the most enjoyed on the programme but it was not masterworks material.

That leaves the Symphony #2 by Robert Schumann. For this piece the trombone compliment was boosted from our normal one to three and I had to wait until the final movement to hear the sound the three trombones added to the mix.  Arthur Post did a superb job bringing out the subtle qualities of this symphony. For his time Schumann was a forward looking composer, and Post commented “I do not consider this an old work”. The opening and closing movements are very upbeat, so the musical appetizer “On the Double” by Jordan Pal did its job of providing an effective preview of the second half of the concert. For all that the quick movements were exciting I found the playing of Colleen Kennedy; oboe and Peter Shackelton; clarinet very effective in the slow movements.

It is the start of a new season and I hope that you are getting tired of hitting the remote button trying to find something interesting to do. There is still over 30 TBSO performances to enjoy.

Check out their website and look for something that interests you.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor:

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