It’s hard to believe, but spring is here and so is the final performance of the 2013-2014 Creston Concert Society lineup. On March 24, the society is presenting ARC Ensemble at the Prince Charles Theatre.
Over the last 10 years, the ARC (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) Ensemble has become one of Canada’s preeminent cultural ambassadors, raising international appreciation of the Royal Conservatory and Canada’s rich musical life. Its members are all senior faculty of the conservatory’s Glenn Gould School with guest artists drawn from its most exceptional students and graduates. The ARC Ensemble has performed throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, and its first two CDs, On the Threshold of Hope and Right Through the Bone (devoted, respectively, to the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Julius Röntgen) were both nominated for Grammy Awards in the best chamber music recording category.
The ARC Ensemble has collaborated with a range of artists, includng pianist Leon Fleisher, novelist Yann Martel, actors Saul Rubinek and R.H. Thompson, and composers Omar Daniel and Vincent Ho. It is playing a leading role in unearthing repertoire ignored due to political changes or shifts in musical fashion, and its work has received unanimous acclaim from the world’s cultural press. Its concerts and recordings are meticulously researched and assembled with rich supporting materials and are often augmented by lectures on their musical, political and social context, or included as part of larger-themed festivals.
Currently ARC Ensemble is touring with the acclaimed Music in Exile series, which explores the music of composers forced to flee Europe during the 1930s, and has been presented to huge critical acclaim in Tel Aviv, New York, London, Budapest, and Toronto. They were dismissed from their jobs, forced into exile, often imprisoned and killed. They are the composers who suffered and died under Hitler and Stalin, and the Royal Conservatory of Music plans to establish an in-house institute to help retrieve their suppressed works.
The ensemble’s recordings enjoy regular airplay on networks around the world and its concerts have been broadcast on CBC Radio, National Public Radio in the US and on public radio throughout Europe. It’s most recent release is dedicated to the chamber music of another émigré, the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (née Frankenburger) who left Germany in 1933. The recording features his Quintet for clarinet and strings and an unpublished Piano Quartet last performed in 1932.
ARC ensemble includes:
•Benjamin Bowman, one of Canada’s most dynamic and versatile musicians, who has performed to critical acclaim throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He performs regularly as a soloist, and is a member or frequent guest artist for some of the country’s best chamber music ensembles. Most recently, Bowman was featured on the 2013 Juno Award-winning album Levant. He holds the position of associate concertmaster with the Canadian Opera Company orchestra;
•Steven Dann, whose career has covered a wealth of violistic possibilities as principal viola of some of the world’s leading orchestras, as a veteran of the string quartet and chamber music world, as soloist and recitalist, and as a dedicated teacher. Born in Vancouver, he has held the position of principal viola in Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and the Vancouver and Toronto symphony orchestras. He plays a viola (circa 1780) of Joseph Gagliano, and teaches viola and chamber music at the Glenn Gould School;
•Clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas, a prolific recording artist who has made over three dozen recordings, including a recording of the Mozart clarinet concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra, and has recently won a second Juno Award for the album Levant with his Amici Chamber Ensemble. Valdepeñas was a Grammy Award nominee two years in a row in the chamber music category. He holds the position of principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and is a former conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra;
•Simon Wynberg, who in addition to his role as artistic director of ARC Ensemble, enjoys a diverse career as a guitarist and chamber musician. He has programmed chamber music festivals in Scotland and the Caribbean, and was artistic director of Music at Speedside and the Guelph Spring Festival in Canada from 1994-2002. His entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes him as “not only a virtuoso performer of distinction but one of the guitar’s foremost scholars.” He has edited over 60 volumes of hitherto unknown guitar music. He is the curator of ARC’s musical projects, including the current Music in Exile series, and is executive producer of ARC’s recordings; and
•Se Doo Park, the newest member of the ARC Ensemble. A recently appointed member of the Royal Conservatory faculty, the cellist is now appearing regularly in chamber concerts with leading Royal Conservatory faculty-artists and has participated in major international festivals including Aspen, Banff, and Centre d’arts Orford. Winner of the 2012 Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank competition, she plays on the 1824 McConnell Nicolous Gagliano cello.
Tickets for ARC Ensemble are $22 for adults and $10 for students at Black Bear Books, or $25/$12 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30. While this is the last performance of Creston Concert Society’s regular season, a special performance of ABBA tribute band ABBA Again will take place April 12 in the Creston Room of the Creston and District Community Complex. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students at Black Bear Books, with a $5 discount for members with a coupon.
—CRESTON CONCERT SOCIETY