By Cecilia Nasmith
The Jan. 13 concert at Cobourg's Victoria Hall Concert Hall is not only a celebration of two great composers – it is also a tribute to Cobourg resident Michael Pepa (one of the aforementioned composers) who is observing his 80th birthday.
As founder and artistic director of the Les AMIS concert series for 35 years, Pepa has been bringing world-class musicians to Cobourg since 2016, offering classical favourites along with new music.
This latest entry in the Les AMIS concert series features 26 professional classical musicians of the Canadian Sinfonietta orchestra. Produced by The Loft owner Ken Prue, the program has them taking the stage at 3 p.m. as an ensemble with featured soloists.
Pepa began the Canadian Sinfonietta in 1998 with conductor Tak-Ng Lai with a mandate to reintroduce live chamber music to the growing population of GTA communities, producing a new generation of concert-goers by presenting traditional concerts that feature a twist. As the group observes its own landmark of 20 years of music, it brings a concert of old and new, with works by Mozart and selections from Pepa's own oeuvre of more than 80 compositions.
The focal point of the event will be the celebration of Pepa's birthday and – as many of the musicians performing have been mentored by the educator, violinist and composer – orchestra members are pleased to be present for the occasion.
One of them is Canadian Sinfonietta concertmaster and artistic director Joyce Lai.
“Performing Mozart in conjunction with Pepa aligns with the orchestra's mission to attract a new generation of concert goers by presenting programs that are a balance of traditional and new sounds,” Lai said in the press release.
“As composer-in-residence, Michael Pepa has made a significant contribution to the new music growth of the orchestra. He has also personally been a great inspiration and support to me as a violinist and soloist.”
Sunday's program will include Mozart's Symphony 33 and his Adagio for solo violin and orchestra, as well as three works by Pepa.
About his choice of compositions, Pepa explained, “The creation of the three works spans approximately 40 years. Mutations (1977) follows a normal three-movement structure and explores the interchange between the solo cello and orchestra. The second movement, Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm, was inspired by Bartok's exploration of Balkan asymmetrical rhythmic patterns. Yakami Variations (2014) was inspired by Japanese taiko drumming. Fantaisie Bohemienne (2005) plays with Gypsy melodies.”
One of Sunday's performers, pianist Dr. Erika Crino, has performed a number of times in Cobourg over the last few years and is one of Pepa's many admirers.
“What I admire most is the marriage between his constant child-like pure enthusiasm for new discoveries and his many years of experience and serious study,” she said.
Pepa said he tailored the program to feature the four soloists – Crino, violinists Lynn Kuo and Joyce Lai, and cellist Rachel Mercer.
“These four internationally acclaimed artists are the music advisors of Les AMIS, who will bring the best musical experiences to Cobourg and the world at large for many years to come.: