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Concert Review: A concert in honour of creativity concludes the 2018-19 MacKay United Church Concert Series

By Alex Binkley on May 6, 2019




Few would dispute the creativity of composer J.S. Bach, which was magnificently on display during the final concert in the 2018-19 MacKay United Church Chamber Music series.

The event was billed as Cosmopolitan Bach and featured violinist Christian Vachon and pianist Roland Graham, who have impressive CVs as performers and teachers. They performed six of his sonatas that now are considered as milestones in classical music. While they are known simply as Sonatas 1 through 6, they certainly deserve titles to reflect their distinctive sounds.

Once again Mother Nature and her storms dampened the turnout for the event at MacKay United Church on April 26. Those who braved threated downpours were well rewarded as Vachon and Graham turned the concert into a musical tribute to Bach’s creativity. Their playing highlighted the range of Bach’s compositional talent.

Their playing highlighted the range of Bach’s compositional talent.

Listening to them perform the sonatas one after the other broken only two short intermissions left one marvelling at the sheer inventiveness of Bach. So many different sounds and transitions. It was like he was experimenting with how music could be presented.

Roland Graham. Photo by Lok Ng.

It also left one thinking about how the sonatas would sound played on different instruments and in modern styles. The possibilities seem endless when you consider how some rock music sounds played by symphony orchestras.

The program notes pointed out that Bach composed the six pieces in the 1720s in the midst of one of his high output periods when he was transitioning from kappelmeister to a minor German prince to Leipzig where he moved in 1723 and spent his remaining 27 years enhancing his reputation as a composer.

Graham is the Director of Music at Southminister United Church and is very active in local music circles. Vachon has taught music at the Conservatorie in Gatineau and at the University of Ottawa and has performed and studied around the world.

They made an impressive duo.

The MacKay United Church Chamber Music series will return for the 2019-2020 season on Sunday September 22, 2019 featuring Luke Welch, piano. Visit their website for more information.