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Pops Goes the Island

Doug Riley will perform his Prince Edward Island Suite

by Isabelle Gallant

Doug Riley—composer, arranger, performerThe PEI Symphony’s upcoming pops concert, “Pops Goes the Island,” appears to have something for everyone. The program includes jazz, light classics, beautiful melodies and energetic dances, and two pieces with a local connection.

The featured soloist for the concert on February 11th is pianist Doug Riley. Well-known on the Island for his performances at the PEI Jazz and Blues Festival and his stint last summer in Canada Rocks, Riley (alias Dr. Music) is one of Canada’s most important jazz performers. He has collaborated on recordings with numerous legendary musicians, including Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Gordon Lightfoot and Moe Koffman. He has been honoured with many awards and distinctions for his work, and in 2005 he was presented with the Order of Canada.

Riley is an accomplished composer and arranger, and with the symphony he will be playing in one of his own compositions: the Prince Edward Island Suite. As its name suggests, this symphonic work was written about PEI, where Riley lives for four months of each year. The work was commissioned by the Toronto Sinfonietta in 2002, and was inspired by Riley’s surroundings on the Island. As he writes, “I approached each movement as a tone poem describing a particular aspect of the natural ambience of the Island.”

The work, combining jazz and classical genres, is a concerto for jazz quartet in four movements. Dawn and Sunset create scenes of the beginning and the end of day through various orchestral colours and textures. Ceilidh employs Celtic percussion instruments, such as the bodhran, the spoons and the Celtic military snare drum, to convey a down-home kitchen party. Storm ends the suite on a dramatic note, combining ominous calm with pounding fury to conjure up a true Maritime gale. This movement also uses polytonality and atonality to express the weather’s tension.

The concert will also feature several other short works: Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, Tarantella for Bootleggers by Canadian composer John Estacio, Raider’s March by John Williams, and John Fenwick’s Charlottetown Festival Suite. Conductor Jamie Mark wanted to make sure the program included some light classics that everyone could enjoy. “They [the audience] may come to hear Doug Riley, but we want them to hear a little bit of what the orchestra can do too,” said Mark.

The Charlottetown Festival Suite by John Fenwick includes music from Anne of Green Gables and Johnny Belinda. Fenwick was the orchestrator and arranger of Anne, and he also scored Johnny Belinda and The Legend of the Dumbells during his time as Music Director of the Festival in the 1960s and 1970s.

For Mark, the excitement of the concert is “inviting a new soloist who lends a new dimension to things.” In this case, he feels it’s a great privilege for both him and the orchestra to get a chance to work with Doug Riley. “He’s been referred to as one of the great icons of Canadian jazz,” noted Mark.


Luc Beausejour

Review by Isabelle Gallant

This season, the Indian River Music Festival hosted harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour for the first time. The Montréal musician played a concert of harpsichord favourites on a beautifully-decorated, custom-made French instrument. The large audience at St. Mary's Church on the night of July 13th was extremely appreciative of Monsieur Beauséjour's joking nature when speaking and quick fingerwork at the keyboard.

The first half comprised four short pieces by Jan Sweelinck, Johann Jacob Froberger and François Couperin and a French Suite by J.S. Bach. The Sweelinck was a stately, majestic Ballo del granduca. This was followed by the quirky, melancholic Tombeau fait Paris sur la mort de Monsieur Blancheroche by Froberger. The last measure of the piece consisted of a fast descending scale, symbolizing the death of Blancheroche when he fell down a flight of stairs. Two pieces by Couperin followed, one flowing and full of rubato, the other courtly and gracious.

Bach's French Suite in G Major was filled with decorations and emotion. This work is well-known among keyboard players and Bach enthusiasts. Beauséjour played a vigorous courante, a lullaby-like sarabande and a spritely gigue, among other movements.

The second half began with another suite, this one by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The movements contrasted beautifully with one another. I particularly enjoyed the Rappel des oiseaux, which really did sound like two birds calling back and forth to each other. This work was followed by another Suite, by Antoine Forqueray. It was originally written for viola de gamba, and maintains its initial key, so is "dark and powerful" in tone, as Beauséjour said. The recital finished with three Scarlatti sonatas, one being the final encore. They were light and breezy-the third one especially dazzling.

As the church grew darker the harpsichord glowed in the light of candles placed on three alters surrounding it. One could almost imagine we were sitting in a French court of the 1600s. The instrument itself was made in Montreal in 1998 in the French style by Yves Beaupré. It has two manuals and a range vast enough for most solo repertoire as well as works for ensemble. Both the red-orange lid and black base are exquisitely decorated with golden oriental art.

Following the concert, Beauséjour explained how the harpsichord works and answered many questions from the people gathered to listen. A personable artist and a fantastic player, he was truly a fine addition to this summer's season.

Isabelle Gallant is from a musical family.

Good at Their Game

Choristers Chor Leoni and harpsichordist Luc Beausejour

by Anne Bergstrom and Isabelle GallantA slice of Chor Leoni, renowned male choir from Vancouver

This summer's Indian River Festival will feature a return visit on July 3 by the renowned all-male choir, Chor Leoni, directed by Diane Loomer. These Vancouver-based singers were finalists in this year's European Broadcasting Union's "Let the People Sing" International Choral Competition, and triple winners in last year's CBC Radio National Competition for Amateur Choirs.

Their program will highlight works by Canadian composers and arrangers, some with an Atlantic connection, others with Vancouver composers or arrangers. Canadian selections will include Away From the Roll of the Sea by Cape Bretoner Allister MacGillivray, arranged by Diane Loomer; We'll Rant, We'll Roar, arranged by Willi Zwozdesky; Ubi Caritas by Ramona Leungen; Jing-ga lye-a by Bruce Sled; and two Stan Rogers songs, Make and Break Harbour and The Mary Ellen Carter. International composers include Sandstöm, Nikolsky, Tchaikovsky, Sheremetev, Tormis, Schubert and Poulenc. And more!

Chor Leoni is known for its rich, smooth sound and its appealing choral personality. If you have listened to them on Jürgen Gothe's program Disc Drive on CBC (the show originates in Vancouver and he likes to feature West Coast talent), there is another dimension to a live performance. These fellows are not a "stand in a row and sing" type of ensemble. Choreography and changing formations will be part of the presentation.

The group previously appeared at Indian River in 1997, and members were charmed both by the acoustics and by the audience of Jersey cows which gathered at the fence across the road when they rehearsed with the church doors open. Second tenor Bruce Hoffman recounts that the cows "didn't cough once"!

Another concert to look forward to at the festival during July is the appearance of harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour on Sunday the 13th. Beauséjour, hailing from Montréal, has appeared in recital across North America and Europe, and at several festivals, including the Lanaudière International Festival and the Lamèque Early Music Festival. He has recorded 15 CDs, many of which have been critically acclaimed across the globe. Beauséjour holds a doctorate from the Université de Montréal, and has studied under harpsichord masters such as Ton Koopman and Mireille Lagacé. He currently teaches harpsichord and organ in Montréal.

Beauséjour continues to present great works for solo harpsichord, as he will in his performance at Indian River. The entire program consists of music written between the late 1500s and the early-to mid 1700s, which covers the end of the Renaissance era and the entire Baroque era; it was during these years that the harpsichord knew its heyday. Beauséjour will play J.S. Bach's French Suite in G major and Jean-Philippe Rameau's Suite in E, as well as two Scarlatti sonatas and two pieces by François Couperin. The program also features music by the lesser-known composers Sweelinck, Froberger and Forqueray.

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