Working in Concerts
Profile by Jane Ledwell
When Andrea Ellis was a child, she didn’t tell her parents she wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut. She said, “I want to work in concerts.”
She laughs, “I guess as a child I was always keen on music, and I was interested in concerts… The whole experience intrigued me, but I’m not sure what I imagined was entailed!” Whatever it entailed, the accomplished and focused young musician, singer, and teacher has managed to build a career “working in concerts.” As Executive Director of the Indian River Festival, this summer she’ll present internationally prestigious concerts.
By Grade 11, Andrea was already volunteering with the Indian River Festival and soon was concert staff. She says the Indian River Festival was “free PD for a student,” and she went on to work with the Atlantic Presenters Association and Contact East, “working in concerts” and other live performances, coordinating tour bookings and professional development for artists. “Having sat in a room and heard the best presenters in Canada talk shop is very valuable,” Andrea says.
“I love the idea of being able to work at concerts and perform a little myself and be a part of the musical community of PEI,” Andrea says. She does so in her work at Indian River Festival, as a Bachelor of Music–trained private piano teacher, and as a founding member of the “Sirens” choral ensemble, a group gaining a reputation for challenging and ambitious programs.
Sirens is a choir of overachievers, and Andrea says, “For us (as members of Sirens), it’s trying to create a group that is delivering the highest-level performance we can deliver with the time we do have… We push our personal performance in terms of each program and challenge ourselves.”
The graduate of the National Youth Choir says, “We want people to be mesmerized by sound. Voices that blend are amazing. (Singing in harmony) one of the coolest things we can do as people. Moments you know it really fits, you can be overwhelmed by it.”
The acoustics of the Indian River Church are often described as mesmerizing. Andrea says, “As soon as you open your mouth, you realize how special (the church) is. For a choral singer, it’s very immediate what you hear—but the sound also keeps moving. So you come to a cadence and perhaps stop, but the sound continues just a little bit.”
The Indian River Church, Andrea says, “is a real gem.” “There’s such a community that supports that building,” she enthuses, “and all with the same goal, to keep the venue present, to keep it part of the community, to see this landmark continue. To see the church rising up as you come up over the hill on the Clermont Road, it’s quite amazing.”
Andrea values the continuous relationship between the musical community surrounding the church and “the people who were married there, with family history in the community,” and the spirit and energy “keeping it alive.”
Indian River Festival’s artistic director, Robert Kortgaard, Andrea says, “is really connected with the Classical community of our country… He is able to choose artists who can deliver high-quality performances and also are able to talk about what they are doing: why they are performing a piece, or what the composer was going through when they wrote it.” Andrea continues, “Seeing artists, seeing how they are reacting to what they’re doing, hearing the story… It humanizes the music and humanizes the artists.”
This year, Andrea does not anticipate big changes in Indian River. “I am certainly in continuation mode. The past few seasons have been quite successful,” she says. “I always love the variety. That’s the best thing for me. To hear singer-songwriters, traditional music, and Classical music…”
At the Indian River Festival, Andrea observes, “There is a core Classical and a core contemporary audience, and others who like jazz or blues. My goal is to every now and then get the core audiences to cross-pollinate with each other.” Working and playing in Indian River and across PEI mean Andrea Ellis is fulfilling her childhood musical wish.