It’s not very often that a church is packed on a Tuesday morning, but that was the case this past week at St. Andrew’s Church in the Glebe. It was a full house as audience members came to see four notable cellists (Julian Armour, Denise Djokic, Paul Marleyn, and Stéphane Tétreault) perform both classical and modern pieces.
Before the show, as the audience waited in line to find their seats, I couldn’t help but notice I was one of the few to represent my own age demographic. While the time slot for the particular set I attended was obviously selected for the retired community and young parents, the Chamber Players of Canada are actively making steps towards including more of a diverse audience. Along with offering affordable family passes, the Chamber Players presented a “Rush Hour” performance the night before for those on their way home from work or class. The group has also tapped into various technological mediums, including a mailing list that can keep concert goers up to date on upcoming performances.
As for the morning concert at St. Andrew’s, the quartet’s performance reflected diversity in time and geography. The combined age of the four cellos played by the performers amounts to nearly 1,000 years, making the instruments rare and portable museums. However, these instruments and their musicians were attuned to both an older and current aesthetics. The set started with a well known Vivaldi concerto but moved towards the contemporary through the dissonance and varied time signatures of Belgian composer Jongen. With a nod to the informal, the set finished with a well known jazz number by Duke Ellington. Perhaps one of the strongest pieces, however, showcased 19-year-old Montreal native Stéphane Tétreault. His skill at playing an authentic 1707 ex-Paganini Stradivarius seemed at a level far above his years.
Speaking with Tétreault after the recital, he reiterated the value of classical music within contemporary society. He spoke directly of the importance of accessibility and including younger audiences in order to maintain the genre’s relevance. The best way to do this, he says, is through online mediums. “You go to where the young people are, and they’re all online. A lot of people may think they don’t like classical music, or it’s not for them, but chances are we all know a classical tune [that we can associate with].” Tétreault mentioned another way to include varied audiences is through classical arrangements of contemporary tunes; this perhaps explains the quartet’s choice to play a jazz tune. “Even if it’s only a two-minute piece, it’s a good way to attract more people [to classical music.]” says Tétreault. His words ring true, but there also remains the simple reality in witnessing a live concert: watching this talented cello quartet perform was a special and magnetic show.