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


Kosher Pickles & The Intimacy Of Two Friends
Friday, January 08, 2010

It was almost a tough choice for my Friday night activity. The unveiling of the new National Broadcast Orchestra (formerly the CBC Radio Orchestra and formerly the Vancouver Orchestra) is playing tonight at the Chan Centre and offering new works by Canadian composers.

My other choice was Early Music Vancouver’s Sonata Project featuring Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonatas from the High Baroque. The performers are Marc Destrubé on baroque violin (formerly the Musical Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra) and Alex Weimann on harpsichord (the new Musical Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra). In the end musical intimacy in an intimate locale won out. That, plus the fact that the venue, Unity Church, 5840 Oak Street happens to be across the street from Kaplan’s which serves up the best Montreal smoked meat sandwiches in town. Best of all this if a few blocks from my house so my friend Graham Walker and I will walk to dine at Kaplan’s with enough time to cross the street to listen to the pre-concert talk at 7:15. The concert begins at 8.

There is a good possibility that we might run into Marc Destrubé at Kaplan's. But not with Alex Weimann as he is a vegetarian who would starve on a diet of kosher pickles.

Intimacy won out and the first reference point that comes to mind is the 50s “pianoless” quartets of Gerry Mulligan with trumpet player Chet Baker or Art Farmer (my fave). Without the piano, the sax and trumpet solos could not be just that. There was the necessity of a constant accompaniment by the other instrument. When I listen to Gerry Mulligan’s What is there to Say with Art Farmer they (Art Farmer and Gerry Mulligan) seem to be talking to each with their instruments. They seem to be in my living room and I feel warm with the comfort of being with friends.

It’s not because I happen to have photographed both Destrubé and Weimann and I do know them a bit that tonight’s concert will seem like a Gerry Mulligan/ Art Farmer in my living room concert. It is because these two men, who not only are friends but they, also know their music and have played together lots of times. Like Art Farmer and Gerry Mulligan they cannot hide behind the sound of many other instruments. The concert will be collaboration between friends. I can think of no better collaboration than the sharing of a Bach sonata.

While I think I have a good ear I rarely do hear that harpsichord in the background of a larger baroque orchestra. And when I listen to a solo harpsichord I can really not discern the personal style of the soloist. In short I am not a lover of the harpsichord. The idea of being on a desert island listening, only, to solo harpsichords would drive me into insanity far more quickly than noise did to Vincent Price as Roderick Usher in the 1960 film The House of Usher.

But thanks to previous concerts by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra directed by Alex Weimann I am warming up to the instrument.

Adding to the sense of intimacy will be the venue, the church itself. It is an extraordinary church in which little in it reveals that it is a house of prayer. It seems to be more a house of art as I peruse (as I have in past performances here of concerts by Early Music Vancouver) the beautiful Shadbolt prints that adorn the side walls. At any given time I miss, from my past, the baroque altars of Mexican churches with the flickering of candle light. Tonight Shadbolt will be just fine.

With good food digesting in our stomachs Graham Walker and I will be enjoying a concert among friends.

Beautiful notes on tonight's concert


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