imageNever mind the NHL playoffs. Another hot ticket in town right now is for another great stickhandler — world-class violinist James Ehnes — when he performs in the city on Sunday, May 3.
The renowned musician with a rock star following headlines the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg’s Tea with James afternoon event at the Fort Garry Hotel, which caps off the club’s 120th anniversary season.
It’s a notable coup for the organization to have an artist of Ehnes’s stature perform an intimate recital in his home province.
But unless you were lucky enough to snag tickets early, you’re likely out of luck if you want to see the show. The event, which has been in the planning stages since the fall of 2013, sold out weeks ago.
“Manitoba is where I grew up, and will always feel like home,” the Brandon-born Ehnes, 39, says via email from Scotland, where he’s in the midst of a European tour. “It’s also great playing for Manitoba audiences: in a personal sense, I love knowing that I have friends who are listening and supporting me. But in a totally objective sense, I think audiences there are great — enthusiastic, open-minded and knowledgeable.”
Now based in Bradenton, Fla., where he lives with his wife, Kate, a former ballerina, and their two children, the charismatic artist is critically acclaimed for his consummate artistry as both a soloist and chamber musician. His numerous awards and accolades include a recent 2015 Juno award — his 10th — for Classical Album of the Year (Solo or Chamber Music), as well as being made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010.
Ehnes — who also conducts, and plays piano and viola — leads his own string ensemble, the Ehnes Quartet, and has served as artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society since 2011.
The music club program will include works by Elgar and Respighi accompanied by pianist Andrew Armstrong, and followed by a proper high tea. Ehnes will also have his stunning 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius fiddle in tow, which Winnipeg music lovers have swooned over during recent Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performances.
“We thought we’d shoot for the moon,” Margaret Jefferies, the music club’s longtime honorary president, says of approaching Ehnes two years ago for the performance. “And, of course, we are absolutely delighted that James will be with us for such an important event in the life of this venerable organization. We look forward to welcoming him to our stage.”
That feeling appears mutual, with the violinist, who has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, maintaining close ties with his native land that also sees him visiting Brandon nearly every year.
“I always look for reasons to come back to Manitoba,” Ehnes says. “My parents no longer live in the province, so I generally have to rely on concert invitations to get back home. And of course, the Women’s Musical Club is a great organization, so I’m very pleased to be playing for them.”
And then the artist also famously known for his love of baseball and vintage sports cars — he owns a 1979 Ferrari GT that he meticulously restored by hand — adds one final comment:
“Go, Jets!”