Several hours of freezing drizzle made me wonder whether the February 11 concert at MacKay United would be held. The walk there was tolerable but as soon as I opened the door into the church, I heard music.
Not any music but harpist Michelle Gott playing her harp. I’d never heard a harp played solo before and it’s a treat for the ears. I wasn’t the only audience member who thought so. Gott’s harp towers over her but she brings it to life with seeming ease as she fingers the strings.
While the weather reduced the audience to about 40, compared to the 150 plus that usually attend the concerts, the music that she and the Silflay Quartet performed that evening quickly erased any concern about the conditions outdoors. Silflay consists of violinists Leah Roseman and Mark Friedman, violist Sonya Probst and Thaddeus Morden on cello. Members of the Quartet also perform with National Arts Centre Orchestra.
It was a bright and cheerful program. Gott opened with Roseman and Friedman performing Jacques Ibert’s Deux Interludes. Then Probst and Morden joined them for Claude Debussy’s Danses Sacree and Profane, a contemplative blend of music that stirs up thoughts of warm summer evenings in quiet places. Then Gott performed Paul Hindemith’s Sonta for Harp, which enabled her to demonstrate the range of her playing and why the harp has a special sound among musical instruments. Silflay concluded the evening with Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s String Quartet No. 2. Their performance of the different moods the composition captures earned boisterous applause from the audience. They played the same music during the NACO’s national tour last year to considerable acclaim.
Silflay are regulars at the MacKay concerts, usually teaming up another musician to explore different types of musical compositions. Watching the musicians from one of the front pews is a treat as they strive to stay in sync.
Gott is currently a professor of harp at the University of Ottawa and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the NAC Orchestra and the Boston Pops as well as in numerous festivals in Europe and North America. She made her Lincoln Center debut in 2009 as the winner of the Juilliard Concerto Competition.
The final concert for this season will be May 6 and features Roseman and pianist Dina Namer playing the music of various Jewish composers.