THUNDER BAY, ON ---- February 28, 2012 --- Consortium Aurora Borealis finished its 33rd season in style. The “All Vivaldi Extravaganza” has always been a popular concert for the group but this season’s effort was over the top. With ten musicians on stage, Consortium presented a programme of varied concerti by Antonio Vivaldi. The very first piece resulted in a standing ovation for recorder player Dr. Birgit Reick. So the evening went on with ovations for the cello concerto played by Anthony Bacon, and a violin concerto played by Gregory Lewis.
There are two good stories in this concert, the first involves Gregory Lewis. Eleven years ago his father brought his 4 year old son to one of our all Vivaldi concerts. They were sitting in the balcony for better sound and view. When it came time for the violin concerto on the programme the young 4 year old stood up on the pew and began playing an imaginary violin to the music he was hearing. When it was finished he told his father that “I want to play the violin” Now 11 years later he has obtained his ARCT level on the violin and he was asked back to play the solo part of the same concerto he heard so long ago.
The second story involves the extraordinary performance of the recorder player Birgit Reick. As she began practicing on her own very good wooden sopranino recorder the instrument began to take up moisture. After the joins in the recorder had become tight the wood swelled until the recorder cracked making the instrument unplayable. What to do? After a few e-mails and phone calls I offered her my plastic sopranino but she was able to find another wooden one. The problem is wood recorders need to be broken in if they have not been played in a while. There was not enough time to break the wooden recorder in before the concert. She borrowed a brown plastic recorder from a friend and playing from memory produced dazzling results from an instrument you might hear in a grade six music class.
While the Consortium presented new musicians to our season it is also about old friends. Colleen Kennedy and Doris Dungan have been playing with the Consortium from its earliest days. From my own experience I admire them and like to play with them because when things go wrong they can very quickly get things back in order. There was no need for that talent on Saturday night, but their confidence and enthusiasm transferred to the balance of the musicians on stage. From the music point of view Elizabeth Ganiatsos assembled a talented group of musicians and led them through a glorious evening of Vivaldi concerti.
Elizabeth’s passion for this music is deeply rooted. She has spent many of her summers in Venice, haunting all of the places where Vivaldi worked, and played music. She has taken thousands of great photos of that city and on Saturday night the audience was treated to a slide show to the music of Antonio Vivaldi.
This particular concert had a very good house, and this bodes well for the future of the Consortium as a concert presenter. People were arriving at the church before 7:00 pm to get a good parking spot and to attend the pre-concert talk. The addition of the slide show meant that it was 10:20 by concert’s end. Too long for some people and towards the end of the evening people began to make their way to the doors.
While the season has come to an end the Consortium is busy planning for next season and the one beyond. I can tell you now that the next concert will take place on September 29 2012 also at St. Paul’s and also starting at 8:00 p.m. It will feature a woodwind quartet plus a piano.
I have to admit that I have been a little uncomfortable writing a review for the Consortium while I am also President of the group. No conflict of interest here as long as I state that fact. Then again who else is in a better position to comment on the musicianship of our performers and the future of this group. With luck and good fortune we will continue to present the best chamber music series of any group in Northwestern Ontario for many seasons to come.
President: Consortium Aurora Borealis