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Thriving in a Niche Market


THUNDER BAY, ON   -------    January 29, 2011  ----  It was a cold and frosty night last Saturday  evening but the crowd attending Consortium Aurora Borealis “Extravaganza Italiana” concert at St. Paul’s United Church soon warmed up to the sounds of soprano’s Michelle DeBoer (left)) and Dawn Bailey. Together with the exotic and enchanting sounds of the theorbo played by Lucas Harris the audience was treated to a display of baroque virtuosity seldom seen in Thunder Bay.

Even by Consortium Aurora Borealis high standards this was intended to be an exceptional concert, and the planning for this even goes back more than a year. Elizabeth Ganiatsos the groups Artistic Director now lives in Toronto and attends early music concerts regularly. Groups such as Tafelmusik and the Toronto Consort are renowned for their high standards and thrilling performances of the baroque repertoire. Naturally Elizabeth invited the performers to Thunder Bay for the concert on Saturday night.

Canada produces so much fine musical talent these days that it is difficult for them all to find meaningful work. For soprano Michelle DeBoer, her talent and virtuosic Lucas Harris theorboability specializing in the baroque repertoire has given her a busy concert schedule with appearances with the Toronto Consort, Tafelmusik and now Consortium Aurora Borealis in Thunder Bay. Success on the concert stage has led to a busy teaching studio. Michelle told me she has over 20 vocal students.  Like the other musicians on stage Saturday this has lead to a rewarding and fulfilling musical career.

Lucas Harris has chosen a somewhat different path to musical success. He also specializes in the music of the early 17th century that calls for the use of the theorbo. This instrument was developed from the bass lute and was needed to accompany the more dynamic singing styles of Claudio Monteverdi. Needless to say there are not that many thoerbo masters around and Lucas Harris also has a busy performance schedule with some of the country’s best early music groups. Now he too can add Consortium Aurora Borealis to resume.

My farming friends have a saying, “The expert is the guy from out of town”. What they are really saying that often times the best is right here in our own Jen Bryanbackyard.  That would be the case for Jennifer Bryan who has been playing concert gigs for the Consortium since coming to Thunder Bay. Her performance of Biagio Marini’s Sonata terza “Variata” for violin and continuo earned her a prolonged applause. Her playing was crisp, energetic and high spirited. She showed the fire that a violin can add to a concert programme.

Other musicians on stage that night were Elizabeth Ganiatsos on harpsichord, Anthony Bacon on cello and Michelle Zapf-Bélanger violin.

It was a great concert and perhaps one of the better classical concerts of the season. Too bad it was so cold out on the weekend. Many people stayed home.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor:

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