• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa Chamberfest 2011

It is soon time again for merry chamber music making Ottawa style as Ottawa Chamberfest 2011 is just around the corner. It’s the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and it promises an exciting diverse array of music and music related performances and presentations. The plans for this year’s festival includes a host of stellar events – some you could even call zany and surely will not disappoint!

This year’s Chamberfest 2011 is specially dedicated to the former Ottawa Citizen music critic Jacob Siskind, who past away last September. Siskind, left the bulk of his estate to the Ottawa Chamber Music Society.

The festival runs from July 23rd to August 5th at several Ottawa venues including: Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, Dominion-Chalmers Church, and the Church of St. John the Evangelist as well as a special set of pop up flash surprise concerts on the streets by a very groovy musical ensemble from New York City known as the Asphalt Orchestra – just like a true festival!

Twinkle twinkle many stars; this year the line up of luminaries includes: Festival programmers, The

Gryphon Trio; Karina Gauvin with members of the NACO conducted by Jean-Michaël Lavoie; Isabel Bayrakdarian; Canadian pianists including Anton Kuerti, Serouj Kradjian, Marc-André Hamelin, Jan Lisiecki and Katherine Chi. Returning is the Pacifica Quartet, the American ensemble that was a festival hit with concert goers and critics last year.

An all-Canadian performance involves retired Royal Winnipeg Ballet star Evelyn Hart (dear to the heart of this Winnipeg born guy). She will host and narrate a late-night concert of dance music. Ottawa’s own, mezzo-soprano, Julie Nesrallah, will perform Carmen in an intimate setting in the ByWard Market. Look for the Toronto-based Cecilia String Quartet, winners of last year’s $25,000 Banff International International String Quartet Competition. Who knows – maybe they’ll buy a round?

There are festival firsts this year too; the National Youth Orchestra of Canada will perform as part of its annual national tour. Many years ago when I was an active Ottawa musician myself, I had many friends who were members of this spectacular junior orchestra of future professionals. The orchestra includes high-school and university-age players. And check the schedule for performances by the Takács Quartet founded in Hungary and quartet-in-residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The Canadian composer Gary Kulesha will host new music concerts in a return of the a late-night concert series at Saint Brigid’s. There will also be a special tribute to the veteran Canadian arranger and composer Howard Cable with music making by the True North Brass.

If jazz is your fancy, this will be a treat: Canadian clarinetist James Campbell, in performance, will include a late-night jazz improvisation session with clarinet star Phil Nimmons and jazz pianist David Braid. Concert goers can also be part of a special celebration as Canada’s Nexus percussion ensemble will perform a 40th anniversary concert.

All in all, the festival promises a staggering 97 performances and events with individual performers far too numerous to include in this article. Please be sure to visit the website or call the number at the end of this article.

As if the list of performers is not enough to entice, there is one zany band of contemporary music makers who will surely catch your ears, eyes and definitely joyfully surprise…
I am most excited about the crazy and wonderful musical ambushes promised by a group of high spirited New Yorkers – just the juicy music making and shaking up the Ottawa urban-scape can use? They are the Asphalt Orchestra and they will be talked about. They simply are enjoyed and talked about wherever they go! A 12-piece brass and percussion band, they specialize in catching unsuspecting onlookers by surprise and they do it well, so watch out and be pleasantly caught off guard. The New York Times has called them, “part parade spectacle, part halftime show and part cutting-edge contemporary music concert…coolly brilliant and infectious.” I can’t wait for them to infect Ottawa and the festival! You will hear everything from classical to jazz and rock music by some of those genres’ greatest writers. If you like music by Björk, Charles Mingus and Frank Zappa, to name only some, you’ll get a real kick out of this band of roving musicians.

What a great schedule, so much great music and so many fantastic performers, an impressive bill of Canadian artists and some homegrown talent too. Need to blame somebody for all this ‘wonderful’? Point your appreciative fingers directly at artistic director Roman Borys. It is, fabulously, all his fault. The creative audacity – bringing all of this to Ottawa, in the summer, for people to enjoy…What could he be thinking!? Enjoyment and musical pleasure happening hand in hand – imagine!

It will be one great fortnight’s series of treats in the city. Follow the links, dial the number, get the information and then go to it. While you are there enjoying it and while it is on do not be surprised if you are musically ambushed by those sneaky New Yorkers! You can sneak up on them at: www.asphaltorchestra.com

Hold onto your seats – but you’ll want to get them first! For all the information you need about the festival, including venues, tickets, passes and schedules visit the festival’s website at: www.chamberfest.com or live dangerously and use the old stand-by and reliable telephone. You can call the Chamberfest information line at: 613-234-6306