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A taste of Eastern European folk music

By Alex Binkley on March 21, 2016

Except for the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms they played as an encore, the music that Carissa Klopoushak, Alexandru Sura and Thibault Bertin-Maghit presented at MacKay United Church on March 18 had a familiar-sounding ring to it.

That’s because the folk music of the Ukraine and Romania the trio draw on influenced many composers,  including Ravel and Bartok, in the symphonies and melodies they created and are heard regularly today. The audience of about 300 treated the trio to a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the concert, part of the church’s Chamber Music Series.

The joy of small venue concerts is the audience can meet the performers afterward, and in this case, inspect Sura’s cimbalom, an intriguing instrument for those who hadn’t heard one before. Wikipedia describes a cimbalom as “a concert hammered dulcimer: a type of chordophone composed of a large, trapezoidal box with metal strings stretched across its top.”

It’s commonly heard in Hungary and throughout Eastern Europe and Greece. The cimbalom is typically played by striking two beaters against the strings. Its sound is gentle and intriguing and it was never possible to anticipate by the casual air with which Sura plays ranged over the strings. He did two well appreciated solos.

Klopoushak, a violinist with the National Arts Centre and member of a Ukrainian folk-rock band Tyt i Tam, played both violin and viola, several types of flutes and sang for several pieces in a rich voice that matched the music. Bertin-Mahgit played several instruments and is the double bass in this group. He’s also a member of Collectif9 of Montreal, which blends classical and rock music.

When asked after the concert how to describe the trio’s music, Klopoushak said she wasn’t sure. At times, the music seemed almost classical, then moved into a more folksy sound and at times almost sounded like jazz wasn’t far away. But the different moods and tempos captivated the audience.

Homeland is a group definitely worth hearing and continues the success of the organizers of the MacKay Chamber Music series in attracting widely different and enjoyable music for the audience, which usually numbers upwards of 200. The music sounds good in the high ceiling church.

The next concert will take place on Sunday May 8 at 7:30 pm. The Silflay String Quartet with team up with guitarist Roddy Ellias “in a program of familiar and new music with a jazz twist.”