Please join us as we kick off our new season on October 18th 2015 at 2:00 pm at the WAG – featuring WindSync!
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!
In the blink of an eye, the lazy summer days come to an end and it’s time for another arts season packed with great music, amazing artists and — as usual for Winnipeg — a cornucopia of concerts from which to pick and choose from. Here are my top 10 choices (listed in chronological order) from now until that white stuff hits the ground:
Your (Irish) roots are showing! Camerata Nova presents Dowland in Dublin, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m., at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church featuring Montreal-based early music group La Nef, with guest tenor Michael Slatter. This a capella vocal ensemble never ceases to surprise; its latest choral venture transplants Renaissance composer John Dowland’s refined lute songs to a gritty 16th-century Irish pub. Tickets or more information: www.cameratanova.com
The Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society presents the sublime artistry of Grammy-nominated musician Paul Galbraith, Saturday, Oct. 11, 8 p.m., at the Planetarium Auditorium. For tickets, call 204-667-5250, or check out: www.winnipegclassicalguitarsociety.com
The Winnipeg Singers kicks off its 42nd season with Psalm and Song: Choral Music of Jewish Composers on Sunday, Oct. 19, 3 p.m., at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. The program features the Canadian première of Songs in A Time of War by Winnipeg’s Sid Robinovitch as well as Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, among others. Tickets available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the door, or by calling 204-944-9100. For more information: www.winnipegsingers.com
The venerable Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, founded in 1922 and Western Canada’s longest established choir, joins forces with local Icelandic choir Sòlskrkjan Kòr, in Nordic Sagas, Sunday, Oct. 26, 3 p.m., at Westminster United Church. Included as part of the WSO’s weeklong Nordic Festival being held Oct. 24-31, the program showcases special guest soprano Tracy Dahl and tenor/narrator P.J. Buchan performing music from the land of ice and snow. For tickets, call 204-896-7445 or purchase at the door. Details: winnipegphilharmonicchoir.ca/13/
The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra scores again when conductor/violinist Scott Yoo returns to its podium, Tuesday, Oct. 28 at Westminster United Church at 7:30 p.m. The all-string orchestra concert features Sir Hubert Parry’s An English Suite as well as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, plus a world première by Winnipeg composer Randolph Peters. For tickets, visit www.themco.ca or purchase at the door.
After spending years on the back (piano) bench performing with popular singer-songwriter Steve Bell, Mike Janzen gets the spotlight in the WSO pops show Reimagining Broadway, which also stars Canadian chanteuse Sarah Slean, Nov. 7-9, at the Centennial Concert Hall. The dynamo jazz pianist/composer/arranger blew the roof off last year with his sneak-peek rendition of Chim Chim Cheree and this show promises more. For ticket information, see: www.wso.ca or call the WSO box office: 204-949-3999.
Virtuosi Concerts adds its own voice to the numerous tributes being made worldwide to mark the solemn centenary of the “war to end all wars” with The Great War: 1914-1918, Saturday, Nov. 8, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m. at the University of Winnipeg’s Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. The emotional climax of the program promises to be Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, with each of its six movements dedicated to a friend who perished in battle. For tickets: call 204-786-9000 or see www.virtuosi.mb.ca.
The Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg presents local soprano Sarah Kirsch on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2 p.m., at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The gifted vocalist recently won top prize at the 37th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Competition with her prize package including a month-long, 10-city Canadian tour that stops here. Tickets available at McNally’s, or at the door. See http://womensmusicalclubofwpg.ca.
Also noteworthy, Manitoba Opera presents the local première of Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, at the Centennial Concert Hall, November 22-28. The epic work, which celebrates courage in the face of tyranny, is one of the many artistic offerings being made this year to commemorate the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Watch for Winnipeg-born soprano Lara Secord-Haid, who marks her debut with the 42-year old company as Marcellina. Tickets: www.manitobaopera.mb.ca or call 204-944-8824.
Get into the festive spirit when the WSO presents a community sing-along of Handel’s Messiah, Friday, Dec. 12 (note earlier start time: 7:30 p.m.). Or, for those who prefer to just listen, renowned conductor and founding director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Ivars Taurins leads guest soloists with the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus and orchestra the following night, Saturday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. For tickets, see: www.wso.ca or call the WSO box office: 204-949-3999
And there you have it, folks! Enjoy the music and see you in two weeks.
By HOLLY HARRIS
Winnipeg Free Press – September 10,2014
“I feel like there’s been this pressure building in this bottle and the cork has popped — I’m surfing on some crazy wave — and I don’t want to get off,” Kirsch says.
One of Sarah Kirsch’s grandest tattoos is that of a large tree with proud branches stretching outwards towards her arms while roots dig deep down her lower back. It’s an apt metaphor for her flourishing musical career, as well as her adopted hometown, where the 30-year-old singer discovered her own artistic voice.
“It’s there to remind me that I can grow roots wherever I choose,” the Cranbrook, B.C.-born musician says over coffee at an Exchange District café. “I hadn’t had a home base for so long until I came to Winnipeg. When I arrived here it meant that I could finally become the human being that I wanted to be.”
Kirsch took top prize at the 37th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition held at Brandon University in May 2014.
It also meant Kirsch could nurture her own creative vision to become one of the city’s most exciting, wholly authentic singers. And her bold performances of contemporary art songs are getting her increasingly noticed both locally and nationally with that all-important momentum that seems to know no bounds.
Her most recent accomplishments include winning second prize in the 2014 Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg’s – WMC McLellan Competition this past April. She was also featured during the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 New Music Festival, Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts Festival, and in the Groundswell and Canzona music series.
The versatile soprano next appears at the WSO’s Music at the Millennium noon-hour series on July 1 when she will perform music by Schubert, Barber, Debussy, John Greer and Joni Mitchell with accompanist Chris Kayler.
One of her growing legions of fans is WSO artistic operations associate James Manishen, who first heard Kirsch sing during the 2012 WMC McLellan Competition while he served as a jury member.
“Sarah is a born communicator in addition to being a brilliant soprano soloist,” he states. “Her ability to get under the skin of everything she sings and make it alive for the listener is remarkable. You hear many voices when Sarah takes on vocal roles, and you come away excited and elevated from the experience.”
The biggest feather in her musical cap, so far, is taking top prize at the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition held in Brandon in May. Her significant prize package includes a three-week residency at Italy’s Casalmaggiore International Music Festival from July 7-27, as well as a four-week Canadian tour in November and a cash prize of $15,000.
“We were in complete disbelief,” Kirsch says of the shock of hearing her name called with Kayler’s as the grand prize winner following two gruelling performance rounds. “Being able to tour and do what I love is surreal. It’s been very emotional for me.”
A self-professed “gypsy,” the Calgary-raised singer first arrived here in 2008 with her then-partner after completing a music degree at the University of Colorado in 2005. Filled with intense self-doubt, and disillusioned about fitting into cookie-cutter classical modes, the rugged individualist cold-called University of Manitoba music professor Mel Braun for advice.
Braun immediately saw a diamond in the rough. He encouraged her to apply to the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music, where she began her ongoing studies with him, later graduating with a master’s degree in vocal performance in 2012. Kirsch credits the popular vocal coach with saving her musical life, and helping her rediscover her voice.
“Mel let me believe I could be whatever singer that I needed to be,” she says through tears. “He changed my trajectory and he changed my life.”
The relationship between teacher and student is often profound. Braun likewise sings praises for his protégé, calling her a “fearless musical adventurer.”
“It’s been a real pleasure to see Sarah grow into the deeply centred performer and communicator she is today,” he says. “When she sings, she seems to speak for the composers. She also has a huge heart and an infectious joy which always lights up her audiences.”
Braun is also keenly aware of the many doors that will open during her fall tour with stops including Toronto, Calgary, Kingston, Brandon and Winnipeg, among others.
“My hope is that national exposure not only brings her many other performing opportunities, but that it also helps her to continue building on the network of composers and collaborators that could sustain her career for a long time,” he says.
“In the meantime, she and her audiences are going to have a blast!”
As Kirsch is poised to take on the world one note at a time — including premièring Michael Matthews’ Solò queda el desert with L’Orchestre de Chambre de Montréal and performing Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor at the American University of Beirut next season — she clearly knows she cuts a striking figure.
One can’t help but notice her newly dyed lavender cropped hair, or the large, scary-looking skull emblazoned on her chest. The latter pays tribute to a late Canadian poet/family friend she calls Manny, who displayed the same image and played a key role in Kirsch’s life by encouraging her to blaze her own artistic path.
“I’m not trying to shock people, these are just reminders to fortify my identity and clarity of vision,” Kirsch says of her colourful body art that might raise eyebrows in certain circles.
When asked about future dreams, the passionate artist doesn’t miss a beat. “I want to be a limitless singer,” she says, adding that she plans to remain in the city for the near future. “I want to challenge people to think things that they wouldn’t normally think. I want to introduce people to new ideas, or help them resonate with old ideas. I want to make people feel something.”
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2014
Third Place: Soprano Alexandra Smither with pianist Pierre-André Doucet
City of Brandon Prize (for the best performance of the commissioned work) : Mezzo-Soprano Catherine Anne Daniel with pianist Shannon Hiebert.