Emcee Julie Nesrallah flips the last page of her prepared notes. Everyone gathered in St. Andrew’s Church on Kent lets out an audible breath of relief. We empathize with the poor CBC Radio 2 host, who seems to be a little short of breath herself. It seems there’s simply too much to say about the Chamber Players of Canada.
Let’s set the scene a bit. It’s a snowy night in Ottawa. The streets are slick and empty, most weather-fearing folks having opted to stay in and skip the awfulness. And yet, there is one church that it still, relatively, hopping on a Monday night.
The Chamber Players have been written about before on this blog, and rightly so. They are one of Canada’s premiere chamber music bastions, a reputation earned through their dogged collecting of some of the most exceptional classical music talent in the country.
For this concert series, Creative Director Julian Armour and his squad of incredible players are adding a new twist to their repertoire. They’re calling it the Rush Hour Concert, which for me evokes images of drive-by classical music playing, perhaps on some kind of moving float. And while that would a boon for many drivers stuck in traffic on Wellington at around 4pm, the concept is actually a little more elegant than what my crude mind doth conjure!
The idea is for a concert that exists conveniently between the work and family spheres, something that you can do before heading home to your cozy home with a fireplace to rival the one on Parliament Hill.
And last night, they offered their public their first taste of the new concept, in an event they called Chamber Music Miniatures. While I’d love to spend the entire article quipping about what slightly comedic image every title conjures (this one evokes one where itty bitty plastic dolls play chamber music, but it’s too high to be heard because they’re so small), this one seems to be more related to the length of the pieces played, which is indeed short.
For this concert, they had prepared a veritable feast of platelet-sized morsels of the finest of music. The first course involved some Mahler, some Puccini and some Prokofiev. The second featured Gershwin, Lefebvre and Still.
All the pieces were played with the beauty and integrity that is typical of the troupe. It strikes me that chamber music is to orchestral music as the typical rock band is to James Brown’s backing back; there are far fewer people on stage, and the musicians are allowed to rock out a bit more. The body positions of the performers even evoke the poses struck by punk or metal bands. Dare I say it – there may even be such thing as a violin face.
And here’s the part you want to pay attention to. The chamber players are doing the exact same thing tonight! (February 12, 2013 at 6pm.) Same line up and everything. So if you missed out on this exceptional bit of string and wind playing (oh, didn’t I mention the flute and the clarinet?), you should probably check this out. Whether or not the name Rush Hour Concerts makes you think of hour-long concerts held by the rock band Rush, they are certainly not to be missed by anyone who appreciates the fine wine that is chamber music.
Tickets for tonight’s concert are available at the Chamber Players’ website, or through several outlets listed at the previous link. This is the Chamber Players’ last concert until April 22, when they will take on Handle, Jongen and Tchaikovsky with Four Cellos. Sounds like a party.