Halifax’s Cecilia Concerts has announced Baroque Fest, a pop-up mini-festival celebrating one of the most diverse periods in musical history.
It was a really important period in music, with a lot of growth and change, plus a fair amount of the music from that time is just inspiring and lovely to hear.
The free festival of four online concert films and one in-person sensory-friendly adapted concert features works by Baroque masters performed by some of Canada’s top chamber musicians.
“Cecilia Concerts presents a lot of music from the Classical Period and a fair amount of music from the Romantic Period and the early twentieth century. However, we don’t often have Baroque offerings so we felt it was time to dust off the harpsichord and put some focus there,” says Cecilia Concerts’ executive director Gregory Morris. “It was a really important period in music, with a lot of growth and change, plus a fair amount of the music from that time is just inspiring and lovely to hear.”
It was also an opportunity for the music presenter to test out a festival format. “So the two came together nicely this past year,” continues Morris.
With original plans to bring all of the featured artists for live in-person concerts beginning with an opening recital by pianist Angela Hewitt, the pandemic had other plans, and it was clear in-person shows were unlikely. That led to a rescheduling of Hewitt’s concert to next fall and the decision to film three of the planned concerts in Toronto and Montréal.
“Cecilia Concerts has a really fantastic programming committee that did a lot of the legwork planning everything, and we’re all really excited to present these filmed concerts, the musicians, and their programs to our at-home audience,” says Morris.
In Program One, Cecilia Concerts’ 2021/22 musician-in-residence and Juno Award-winning violinist and Toronto Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Jonathan Crow is joined on stage by ten of his colleagues from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s chamber soloists for a celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach concerti. The program includes “Brandenburg Concertos” Nos. 2 and 4, the “Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor,” and an arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by composer Liam Ritz. This concert film is available to watch for free online from March 4 until March 11.
Program Two (March 11-18) features Toronto’s Opera Atelier with the multi-disciplinary storytelling event Angel, exploring themes of creation, loss of innocence, isolation, and redemption through John Milton’s Paradise Lost texts and the mystic poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Amongst its many performers is Nova Scotia-based soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee in the starting role performing along with members of Tafelmusik. A live online Q&A session will follow the concert with the production’s creative team. This concert film is available to watch for free online from March 11 until March 18.
Montréal-based ensemble Les Barocudas features in Program Three (March 18-25) with a concert of primarily Italian works including offerings by 17th-century composers Dario Castello, Giovanni Legrenzi, Tarquinio Merula, and Biagio Marini. This concert film is available to watch for free online from March 18 until March 25.
Program Four (March 25-April 1) features cellist Stéphane Tétreault performing the complete Johann Sebastian Bach Cello Suites on his priceless 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius cello. This concert film is available to watch for free online from March 25 until April 1.
In Program Five, award-winning pianist Jennifer King and music therapist Anna Plaskett lead the first performance in Cecilia Concerts’ new series of sensory-friendly chamber music concerts. The concert has been designed especially for families with neurodiverse members of all ages and will take place at the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall on April 3.
“Community outreach and public engagement are important to our organization,” says Morris. “As the organization continues to grow, we are always looking for ways to reach new and diverse audiences.”
Without programs adapted for their specific requirements, many in our community do not have opportunities to discover, explore, and enjoy classical music.
As the initiative is about building community and inclusivity, Morris says it was essential for the concert to be held live rather than virtually. That way, they can offer accommodations for those on the Autism spectrum or who have neurological distinctions, sensory processing challenges, or other special needs, and those who are just more sensitive to traditional live concert environments.
Morris says King and Plaskett have been excellent resources to help move the project along, recognizing it was important not just dim the stage lights and call them sensory-friendly concerts.
“Jennifer and Anna have crafted a beautiful purpose-built program that will provide the neurodivergent community with similar opportunities as neurotypical audiences to enjoy the health benefits of attending professional chamber music concerts,” he says. “Without programs adapted for their specific requirements, many in our community do not have opportunities to discover, explore, and enjoy classical music.”
The all-Baroque concert features award-winning flutist Derek Charke with pianist King performing works by composers Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Giovanni Battista Martini.
Cecilia Concerts’ Baroque Fest takes place March 4 through April 3. Visit ceciliaconcerts.ca for more information.