THE Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg celebrated its glorious 120-year legacy by inviting one of the top living violinists in the world to tea.
Sunday afternoon’s Tea with James featured Brandon-born virtuoso James Ehnes in an intimate one-hour concert performed with pianist Andrew Armstrong.
Women’s Musical Club Tea with James
120th Anniversary Celebration
Hotel Fort Garry
Sunday, May 3
Attendance: 220 (Sold out)
Five stars out of five
In the planning stages since the fall of 2013, the gala event that included an English high tea inside at the Hotel Fort Garry’s Provencher Room sold out a month ago.
The multiple award-winning violinist, 39, who has performed in more than 30 countries on five continents, scarcely needs introduction. He’s greeted like a hometown hero every time he appears in the city. Ehnes maintains close ties with his home province and travels back to Brandon nearly every year.
His warmth, sincerity, gentle humour and humility were on full display during the weekend recital.
This concert, hosted by broadcaster/writer Eric Friesen, provided a rare opportunity to hear the soloist perform up close and personal. Friesen chatted informally with Ehnes before the violinist played two sonatas, adding to the atmosphere of being a gathering of old friends in a genteel music salon.
It’s also notable that the mostly older audience of 220 included eight of the musical club’s past presidents — all introduced by current president Kathryn Young and lauded for their steadfast “initiative, creativity and commitment” during her opening remarks. She also introduced honorary lifetime member Kathleen Richardson — a quiet backbone of Winnipeg’s arts community — that added further context and gravitas.
The program’s centerpiece, Elgar’s Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82, is considered one of the British composer’s four melancholic and introspective works composed around the end of the First World War, which culminates with his famous Cello Concerto in E minor.
Ehnes attacked its opening movement with gusto, navigating its tempestuous waters that also provided a first taste of his wide-ranging tonal colour palette coaxed out of his stunning 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius.
He infused his second movement with world-weary resignation in a deeply felt performance, including barely-there runs, hushed tones and a responsive rubato always tastefully matched by Armstrong’s sensitive playing.
The finale showed greater force, displaying Ehnes’s bravura, which grew in emotional intensity and depth until its fiery close.
Special mention must be made of the Connecticut-born Armstrong, critically acclaimed in his own right as concerto soloist, chamber musician and recitalist. Performing with an artist of Ehnes’s stature is surely no easy task, but the powerhouse pianist proved his fearless match note for note. The two musicians’ rapport was immediately palpable, as a compelling partnership that is both organic and responsive to each other.
The second, lesser-known work, Respighi’s Violin Sonata in B minor, created its own revelation. The lushly romantic, three-movement work included virtuosic passages during the opening that saw Ehnes scaling stratospheric heights, to passionate declamations during the Andante espressivo. Ehnes and Armstrong punched out the finale with its strongly rhythmic accents, scarcely pausing to catch their breath as the music hurtled towards its end.
In response to an enthusiastic standing ovation, the duo treated the clearly enthralled crowd to Brahms’ Scherzo in C Minor from the F.A.E. Sonata that teems with vigour and the vitality of youth.
The musical club is to be commended for its vision and all that it continues to do in nurturing our city’s vibrant musical community. This wonderful concert has become one more memory in its own musical annals, as it proudly embarks on its next 120 years.
Congratulations to Joshua Peters – Winner of the 38th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition announced this evening – May 3, 2015!
Joshua will be performing for the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg on November 22, 2015 at 2 p.m. at the WAG – along with pianist/accompanist Katherine Dowling, as Winnipeg is one of the stops in Joshua’s cross-country Egré tour. We look forward to having Joshua perform on our stage!
What an incredible afternoon! One of the foremost violinists in the world, James Ehnes, with pianist/accompanist Andrew Armstrong, has just performed at our 120th Anniversary Celebration, and they enthralled the crowd with Elgar’s – Violin Sonata in E minor and Respighi’s – Violin Sonata in B minor. As an encore, the duo played Brahm’s – Scherzo in C minor….magnificent! The event was hosted by a local, veteran broadcaster from Classic 107, Eric Friesen and greetings were read from the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba – The Honorable Philip S. Lee and Dr. Harry Duckworth – brought greetings from The Manitoba Historical Society. Dr. Duckworth regaled the audience with some history of the Women’s Musical Club’s initial founders, 6 society women from 1894!
High tea was served admirably by staff of the Hotel Fort Garry and was delicious!
We appreciate the immense support from our sponsors for this event – The Winnipeg Foundation, The Gail Asper Family Foundation Inc., R.D. Bell, M.J. Buyachok, Johnston Group Incorporated and Dr. William Pope. We also thank our Media Sponsors Classic 107 and the Winnipeg Free Press.
Thank you to all the audience members’ support of this monumental event in the Winnipeg Musical Club of Winnipeg’s history! An afternoon to remember! Thank you again James and Andrew!
We are just a few days away from the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg’s 120th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, the 3rd of May 2015 at the Hotel Fort Garry!
“Tea with James” – featuring James Ehnes, violin and Andrew Armstrong – piano – will be a musical event to remember! We have SOLD OUT! Thank you for all the support our organization has received over an amazing timeline, and we look forward to celebrating many more years with you!
Our season kicks off on October 18th, 2015 with an amazing quintet – WindSync – featuring a Winnipeg born flautist Garrett Hudson, who will be remembered as a WMC Scholarship winner, and a finalist in the 2008 WMC McLellan Competition. This quintet is not to be missed!
November 22, 2015 – 38th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition Winner – this year featuring strings – Winner – Joshua Peters – violin with pianist/accompanist Katherine Dowling.
December 27, 2015 – WMC Scholarship Winners’ Recital – 6 winners from the competition will perform, and receive scholarship monies totalling $13,500. The winners will be announced May 9th 2015 at Eva Clare Hall, Marcel Desautel Faculty of Music, U of M, 65 Dafoe Road. Free admission to watch the auditions on this date from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please come out and listen to some incredible Manitoba talent and provide an audience for the performers.
April 3, 2016 – Maxim Bernard, piano, he will celebrate the anniversary of a legendary performance, given 30 years ago by Vladimir Horowitz in Moscow, with works by Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Schubert and others. Exciting indeed!
WMC McLellan Competition
April 22nd 2016 – is also the much anticipated finals for the WMC McLellan Competition for Solo Performance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra – held biannually with scholarships totalling $20,000 – supporting artists who are performing at an advanced level and aiming toward a performance career in classical music.
Save the date for this exceptional event! Interested artists have until the 1st December 2015 to apply for this competition! The application is available online now!
Season Subscriptions: Earlybird – $80 until August 15th 2015 then Regular subscriptions $90. Student $20. Send cheque or money order to: WMC, 529 Laidlaw Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3P 0L2. Individual tickets available from McNally Robinson Booksellers or at the door (cash or cheque only). Students $5 at the door. For a season brochure or to order a subscription phone 204-944-9431.
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Never 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:
Sunday, March 29, 2015
2 pm, Winnipeg Art Gallery
Accomplished, versatile, brilliant, are descriptors frequently linked to
Canadian pianist, James Parker. To put it simply, he is among the most
sought after artists. Mr. Parker’s achievements are both lengthy and
impressive. His musical roots can be traced to the Vancouver Academy of
Music and the University of British Columbia where he studied with Kum
Sing Lee. He then went on and received his Master of Music and Doctor
of Musical Arts at The Juilliard School with Adele Marcus. Dr. Parker continues
the teaching tradition as the Rupert E. Edwards Chair in Piano
Performance on the music faculty at the University of Toronto.
Awards came early and often. Beginning in 1984 with a first prize at the
Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, James served notice that he was a rising
star. The CBC competition concurred, selecting him winner of the 25th
National Competition for Young Performers. The Virginia Parker Award as
the most promising young classical artist soon followed, further solidifying
Parker’s place as one of Canada’s best.
Concerts given by Dr. Parker consistently garner artistic acclaim. His style
has earned him praise as “one of the most searching musical intellects
and 10 of the nimblest fingers in the business” according to The Globe
and Mail. James has enthralled audiences in North America and Europe,
counting diplomats and dignitaries among his receptive audiences. He
has made frequent appearances on CBC, and has performed on Bravo!,
the CanWest Global Network, MuchMusic and a myriad of stations across
A consummate professional, James is recognized as a soloist, a chamber
musician and as the pianist for Canada’s foremost ensemble, the Gryphon
Trio. Add to this his critically acclaimed performances with major
Canadian symphonies like Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Quebec City,
Edmonton, National Arts Centre, Symphony Nova Scotia and many in
between, one is reminded of the scope of his contributions to the national
classical music scene. With three JUNO recording awards and many
other nominations from his vast discography, James Parker continues to
graciously strive to do it all.
His programme of music for the afternoon will feature compositions by
Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Frédéric Chopin!
James Parker is a Steinway Artist.
Tickets $25 Students $5 (at door only)
Tickets available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the door, and by calling 204-944-9431.
Please join us for an incredible afternoon of music and fellowship!