A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Manze & Egarr With Cookies, Braun Without
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Amidst all the attention given to the sciences as to how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered "useless," will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever try to live longer or live more prosperously. The arts are the science of enjoying life.

John Maeda
Muriel Cooper professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last night I was one of the happiest of men. I attended a warm and exquisite concert by Early Music Vancouver that featured Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr. I was happy because I was there with my friends Abraham Rogatnick and Graham Walker. I was happier still because I had lured my wife Rosemary who was enthralled by the down home virtuosity of Andrew Manze ("Aw shucks I play the violin better than just about anybody in the world but I am not going to tell you this.") and Richard Egarr ("Aw shucks this classical fortepiano that looks like a glorified music box is so easy to play that anybody could do what I do.") The 20 minute pre-concert talk by the pair was part stand-up comedy and a spirited apology as to why they play music and (thank God) did not choose a career in plumbing.

We were asked for questions so I asked Egarr why he was not wearing his usually loud ties. He seriously(I think) told us that we were lucky to see them in clothes as the airline had lost their luggage.

From the atmosphere of an intimate concert in a neighbourhood church (in this case Shaughnessy Heights United Church) complete with coffee, juices and home-made cookies at the interval I cannot fathom why flocks of people will converge on a concert at the Orpheum featuring, perhaps a Schubert Symphony when for less money they might enjoy as I did (and from about three metres away) a Schubert violin and piano sonata.

In the concerts of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra (all held in churches) and in the majority of the concerts of Early Music Vancouver I never feel a barrier between the musicians and myself. We are welcomed to talk to them back stage or sometimes they mingle during the interval. I have seen my friend Paul Luchkow, a violinist with the PBO almost lose that infectuous smile of his when he plays sitting down in his other gig as a violinist for the VSO.

The exception to this difference between the warm congeniality of the former with the colder and more serious latter seems to be the Artistic Director of the VSO, Bramwell Tovey whose banter and easy to understand explanations of the musical goings on I appreciate. Another exception is VSO violinist, Robin Braun (above, left) who understands that if her career in her profession is going to evolve and prosper she has to promote it from the side. And she has an unusual web site if you realize that most symphony players don't have one. Braun is an accessible musician who shares a bit of that disarming ("What I do isn't as impossible as you might think," attitude of Manze, Eggar and Luchkow).

As I discussed with Luchkow last night the less than good attendance of the concert I wonder why there has to be that barrier between the audience of a symphony orchestra and the musicians and a barrier between those who attend the Orpheum concerts and those who opt for neighbourhood church concerts.

The virtuosity of Manze and Egarr is no less than those of the super musicians lured to play in Vancouver for the larger musical organizations. After listening to Manze and Egarr explain (with on the spot examples with their instruments) how an 18 year-old Schubert was influenced by Mozart I could now attend a Schubert symphony at the Orpheum and get that much more. But would I mingle with the musicians and bite on homemade cookies? I think that our city's musical companies should get together and compare notes.


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