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General News · 2nd November 2008
D. S.
A highlight of the 2008 Whaletown concert season on Cortes Island was an evening with the SERENATA ORCHESTRA, October 3 in the Gorge Hall. The event was unprecedented, not only in the beauty of the music, but also in the logistic mastery of accommodating so many performers in homes of generous Islanders. An entire chamber orchestra with 8 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, a bass, 2 oboes and 2 horns found space enough on our little stage to deliver a wonderful performance under the baton of maestro Ronald Edinger. Most of us did not know this ensemble before and thus were delighted by their polished professionalism. The group was just small enough for us to hear the individual players passing their themes and phrases among each other in perfect concert.

The program contained an interesting blend of baroque and classical masterpieces with contemporary (albeit harmonious) compositions. It started with one of the 12 Concerti Grossi (opus 3/10) with which F. Manfredini had introduced the Concerto Grosso genre during his service at the court of Monaco early in the 18th century. In its alternation of passages between orchestra and solo violins this music celebrates the brilliant magic of the violin, perfected during Manfredini's career by masters such as the Albanis, Stradivari and Guarneri. If only our soloists, Calvin Dyck and James Mark could afford such instruments (they now trade for $ tens of millions)! Nevertheless, their lovely playing was a perfect introduction to a stimulating night.
Next we heard the famous Palladio allegretto by Karl Jenkins, a living Welch composer who created much Jazz and advertisement music and transferred its dynamic rhythms into his classical and even ecclesiastical pieces. If you forgot the pulsing theme of the Palladio, look for it on the internet. It got the audience toe tapping.

A surprise from BC was the orchestration of five Latvian Folk Songs by Imant Raminsh who came to Canada from Latvia as a child, studied at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and spent much of his creative life in Vancouver and Caledonia College in BC's interior. The songs were beautifully played, particularly the “Soldier's Lament” touched the listener's heart.

Also the well-known St. Paul's Suite by Holst came to life in the Gorge Hall. For amateur string players the complex fabric of hopping fiddle music interwoven with the “Green Sleeves” theme tends to be a challenge. It was nice to hear how it really should be played.

We all know the “Queen of Sheba” tune by G.F. Händel. The CBC seems to offer it every week through some of its outlets, often performed at neck-breaking speed, perhaps proving how fast a group can play uni-sono. The Serenate's rendition was at a more stately tempo and regal style, well suited to the image of a glittering queen's entry.

The feature of the evening, announced in advance, was Mozart's piano concerto #9 (“Jeune homme”), with Allen Reiser on the Whaletown baby grand. The performance was flawless, played with much dramatic weight and elaborate cadences in all movements.

The final offering in this concert was the beautifully lyrical “Canticle for an Angel” by Michael Conway Baker. Although born in Florida, Conway Baker is a prolific and much decorated British Columbian composer, based in Vancouver. In addition to classical scores of traditional warmth he has written much for film and television. In the piece we heard, Allen Reiser joined the Serenate strings on the piano and Calvin Dyck played the solo violin with such emotional abandon, you might think the piece was written for his violin. With a standing ovation afterwards the audience showed their gratitude for this lovely music as well as for Calvin's loyalty to Cortes Island.