Keep the fire Burning Part 4: In front of an audience with the Mountain View Festival!

When I start complaining about my insistent cat, and how she’s determined to have her own opinions shared during my interview with the Mountain View Festival Artistic Director, her dog very quickly decides to voice his own remonstrations for the recording as well.

Aren’t we here to talk about the first live performance with an audience in over a year for the International Festival of Song and Chamber Music Society? Or are we here to complain about pets? The jury is still out.

Kathleen van Mourik and I push our respective animals out of doors, and agree to glory in the possibility of musicians performing in front of audiences instead of cameras and microphones: Kathleen has decided to just have a darned concert in her garden! Thus:

“An afternoon of chamber music featuring the Tangos of Piazzolla performed by Olena Kilchyk, cello & Kathleen van Mourik, piano.

View through arch towards people seated in treed garden
The Mountain View archway may not lead to a Secret Garden, but that just means they’ll let us in! Photo by Theresa Johnston

Two shows: 4pm and 6 pm

-El Viaje
-Chanson de la Naissance
-Vuelvo al Sur
-Duo 1 from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
-Milonga Picaresque
-La Chanson du Popo
-Los Sueños

Out door event south of Carstairs”

MUSICAlive! asks Kathleen about her duets with Olena Kilchyk during the Isolation Point Concerts of Covid-19, and how they musically balance these 2 different instruments. Though stringed instruments are often spotlighted when accompanied by a piano, their performances seemed like a more collaborative effort.

“It IS really almost like a partnership. We’ve played together for years, so we certainly are very comfortable with each other, and will often pick music where the piano part has a much more interesting role. (And at other times) there will be a piece where it’s really much more accompanying material, and the cello stands out. So it was a bit of a mix that way for pretty much everything we did (last year) .”

Woman in light dress sits playing electric cello behind flowers
Olena Kilchyk plays like she hasn’t been isolated for a year. Photo by Theresa Johnston

Kathleen mentions that recording technique can also affect this impression of balance: the Isolation Point concerts have a very balanced recording situation, whereas older collaborators sometimes created the impression that the piano accompaniment was more subdued, or practically somewhere else! And there’s a new trend for the piano to play with a “high stick”, so the lid is raised high and the sound can be prominent.

“Olena’s the kind of cellist who wants a lot of piano support: that’s also something that’s part of our partnership. . . (When) you have a lot of piano sound behind you, you won’t feel so exposed.

“I know when you listen to earlier recordings, maybe going back to the 50’s and 60’s , the piano was maybe recorded almost in a different space; there’s this big cello sound or big vocal sound, and the piano is way off in the background. . . I think that has something to do with tradition and style. I think that the attitude toward that whole repertoire is changing: I have noticed little things like (recognized institutions) say ‘collaborative pianist’ instead of ‘accompanist’.These are changes that are happening in the world of collaboration in music.

“I come from a tradition where you play with a low stick, and you’re soft, and you’re really there just to support. So it’s a change in the way that pianists are treated.”

We ask Ms. van Mourik about the multiple names for the performances she programs.

“When we started running our (International Festival of Song and Chamber Music Society), we did it out in Sundre, which is Mountain View County, so we thought ‘Hey, we could call it Mountain View Festival’.”

Closeup of woman onstage outdoors seated at electric piano
Normally Kathleen Van Mourik’s pianos are much bigger and heavier, and thus not really garden-friendly! Photo by Theresa Johnston

Kathleen mentions that it was March 16, 2020 that they stopped performing live events, and that July 31 will be their first live concert with an audience since then! MUSICAlive! feels that “live online”, without an audience in the space where they’re playing, is just not the same. Kathleen agrees.

“I was just on the phone with another musician. . . and we were talking about doing all this online work this year. And it’s really hard because music is about communication, and if you don’t have your audience there (all her normal cheer has drained from her voice now), what’s the point?”

What did they decide?

“We decided that online is what it is, and we’re grateful that we have it, and that it pays the bills with teaching and that kind of stuff. . . I’ve been able to hire musicians for online concerts and pay for them, but it’s really great to have an audience! Without an audience, you don’t have that experience (of contact).”

So what’s the story about their first performance in 16 months?

“Olena and I have been wanting to put together a Piazzolla programme for a long time: Over the pandemic we’ve been a (work) cohort together which is kind of nice. Since (events) were completely shut down, we were able to rehearse together throughout the year, . . . and we thought: ‘here’s a bunch of tangoes, we could learn them, and rehearse them, and have them ready’. So as we were working and things started to open up, we thought it would be fun to put a concert together.”

MUSICAlive! points out that we’ve already touched on the negative aspects of the pandemic year so far: are there good points to it?

“For me personally, it gave me perspective, and it gave me a bit of a break from what I would call the grind of constantly trying to come up with a year’s worth of programs, and having to think so far ahead: sometime you have to come up with programs 2 or 3 years (in advance). It has kind of taken that pressure off, and has given me a breather to think: ‘Oh! I can kind of slow everything down there, and schedule project by project’ (laughs) Which I actually really like doing. I have room to really think things through!

“As a pianist, and a teacher, I’ve been really lucky to have lots of students, and I could teach them online when I had to, teach them in person when I could. I’ve had that other income, but for musicians who are maybe NOT pianists or voice teachers? I don’t know if you’re a drummer or you’re a saxophonist or trombonist . . . how much your income is going to come from teaching . . . A performance is actually a really enjoyable part of music-making: to get up there and play pieces in front of an audience, is actually, really . . . (joie de vivre has returned to her voice)

View from behind stage of 2 performers and outdoor audience
These were the lucky folks to participate in the IFSCMS’s first live concert since the pandemic hit! Photo by Theresa Johnston.

“You’ve worked hard. and you get out there, and you just Play! when you do these (online) recordings, it’s a very analytical mindset, very judgemental: it’s a very different experience. It’s a different job, for us.

Which is why she programs concerts in her front yard, and elsewhere:

Saturday, August 14, 2021
• 7:00 PM 8:00 PM
Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts

• 261051 Wagon Wheel View #8, Rocky View County, AB

Rise Up Weekends and Mountain View Festival present

Mostly Mozart”

Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major K. 415 
-featuring 9 year old Jocelyn Zhou with the Mountain View Chamber Ensemble
(Laura Reid, Diane Lane, violins; Michael Bursey, viola; Olena Kilchyk, cello)

Dumka from Dvorak piano quintet in A major
-featuring Kathleen van Mourik, piano with the Mountain View Chamber Ensemble

They’re going back to work, and we’re ALL really happy to see them . . . In Front of an Audience!

Posted by Carey Rutherford

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.

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