January 1st, 2017, I attended the Prairie Virtuosi annual New Year’s concert! Happy New Year!! What a wonderful way to bring in the New Year!! This is made even more special by the fact that Prairie Virtuosi (PV) are celebrating 20 years of making music together!! Original members include Joan Savage, James Legge, and Gillian Lyons – and they have grown and included and featured many other musicians over the years!! It is very exciting to note that as part of celebrating 20 years of music making, PV are exploring and performing all 6 of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos – 3 at their New Year’s concert and 3 in June! Yesterday’s concert featured #3 in G, #4 in G, and #1 in F.

The concert began with J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3 in G: Allegro & Allegro – between which was inserted a gorgeous Adagio from Sonata in G BWV 1021 – the soloist for the Adagio, Adriana Lebedovich, did a fine job of leading the group and her performance in the Adagio was stunningly engaging in full Baroque style. I enjoyed the stately energy of the 1st Allegro and it’s Rock ‘n Roll steadiness! It was fun to see the group interaction while passing mini solo bits from player to player. I loved how the group came together dynamically and with a slight slowing of the tempo for the descending unison line that anticipated the return of the 1st theme and the ending – this was beautifully effective and exciting energy-wise – what a great opening to the concert!!

The inserted Adagio was a wonderful change of pace that featured vioinist Adriana Lebedovich with Basso Continuo accompaniment (Scott McKnight, cello & Gillian Lyons, keyboard harpsichord) until just before the end where the rest of the strings crept in to round things off for the final cadence of the Adagio. The 2nd Allegro: following the release of the Adagio was a blaze of energetic playing – the group tore into the 2nd Allegro at an exhilaratingly lightning fast speed – it actually took me a few seconds to mentally catch up with this brilliant tempo. The tempo took me a bit by surprise and it was a super fun ride right to the end of the 2nd Allegro – and no one fell off the page!!

J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #4 in G came next featuring more brilliantly energetic playing by soloists: Carissa Klopoushak on violin and Sarah Moon & Brenda Moats on flute. All three movements of this were amazingly engaging with a fascinating amount of thematic materials passed around the group and between the soloists. In the faster sections, true virtuosity sprang forth from the soloists and left me in utter awe of their engaging masterful-ness.

After intermission, PV treated us to “Two Gymnopedies” by Satie arranged by Debussy: Lent e grave and Lent e douloureux. These are 2 of my favourite pieces. I really enjoyed these arrangements and the mood they were played with. These involved lots of hauntingly beautiful oboe lines and horn lines and in one of them, bassoon player Stephanie Unverricht displayed her percussion skills by playing a cymbal with a mallet. During the 2nd one (which is the 1st of the 3 in the original piano arrangement), the bassist, Richard Carnegie broke a bass string (which is really hard to do and not very common!) – I heard a loud bang and didn’t realize until the end of the piece that that was the sound of a bass string breaking…

The broken bass string gave Jim Legge a chance to speak to the crowd about the next Brandenburg Concerto #1 in F which they performed in a different order than it is traditionally done – with precedence from Bach’s time of changing the order of movements to use the piece for another occasion (it was not uncommon for composers to borrow from their own work and others to put something together for a commission – I like to think of it as stretching creativity by re-arranging something that already exists to suit a particular event). This concerto features 2 French Horns, 2 oboes, and bassoon primarily in the Trio sections – as a side note, the double reed players were all in red! I found this concerto beautifully relaxing as it gave me the opportunity to daydream a bit. Joan Savage led this concerto – I love how leadership is changed up from one selection to the next – this spreads out the work and the responsibility and also gives each selection a slightly different flavour while maintaining the same overarching style throughout the program.

I love how this group plays together and I have enjoyed many concerts over the past few years – looking forward to more!! Many thanks to the players at this concert including: on Violin: Kim deLaforest, Carissa Klopouchak, Adriana Lebedovich, James Legge, Joan Savage, Marcel Van den Hurk, and Nova Wong; on Viola: Ryan Davis, James Legge (doing double duty!), and Heather Wilson; on Cello: Amos Friesen, Joel MacDonald, and Scott McKnight; on Bass: Richard Carnegie; on Flute: Brenda Moats, and Sara Moon; on Oboe: Glenda Lindgren and Carl Hofmeister; on Bassoon (and percussion): Stephanie Unverricht; on Horn: Carol-Marie Cottin, Anna Millan; and, on Harpsichord: Gillian Lyons. Special thanks to the Directors for all their extra work: Carol-Marie Cottin, James Legge, Scott McKnight, and Joan Savage. I am looking forward to (and hoping to attend) the next concert: June 3, 2017 – where they will present Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos #2, #5, & #6!! For more info, check out: www.pvorchestra.ca

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT
soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla String Quartet, a recording project of classical vocal pieces, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

https://annabekolaysstudio.wordpress.com/anna-bekolays-studio/

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