Les AMIS ask for Cobourg community grant

By Cecilia Nasmith

Michael Pepa and Ross Pigeau attended Cobourg council Monday to make the final pitch council will receive for a 2019 comunity grant from this year's budget.

Pigeau said the organization is a registered charity with the motto Great Art Through Great Music Always. Based in Toronto for 35 years (with Pepa as founding artistic director), it offered concerts that drew devoted audiences and toured internationally. With Pepa's move to Cobourg, it now brings world-class musicians for both intimate concerts at The Loft and larger shows at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall.

As for Pepa, Pigeau said, he's quite renowned.
“He's a master composer and has composed over 80 pieces that are played internationally.”

Pepa said Les AMIS is so named because these talented performers are his musical friends.

“I have been cultivating my musical friends for the past 60 years,” the octogenarian said.

“I wish I could say I am exaggerating, but I am not.”

Four key musical friends are Dr, Lynn Kuo (assistant concertmaster of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra), Dr. Erika Crino (on the faculty of the Kingsway Conservatory of Music in Toronto), Rachel Mercer (principal cellist of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra) and Joyce Lai (artistic director and concertmaster of the Canadian Sinfonietta). He has worked with them for 15 years, and they collaborated on a 2017 European tour that celebrated Canadian music in honour of the country's 150th anniversary.

“Each of these ladies has their own circle of friends, so we will never be short in actually having the top talent playin in Cobourg,” he said.

There are also other amazing musical friends he has long-standing relationships with, such as Scott St. John with whom he began working when St. John was 17. Now nearing 50, he's a Juno Award-winning violinist and professor at the University of Toronto.

The strategy of Les AMIS is to make Cobourg a beacon for the high arts, Pigeau said, attracting patrons from large cities – and much as Cobourg residents might go to Toronto for a concert and go on to enjoy dinner and an overnight stay, he added, they hope the process can be reversed with their Toronto audience members.

They hope to introduce patrons to the works of contemporary Canadian and international composers, and co-operate with local music groups. They have already reached out to the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir and Oriana Singers to explore possibilities for collaboration.

Les AMIS relies on ticket sales, sponsorships and grants for its revenue stream. In that connection, their request of the town is a $6,000 grant for 2019.

Along with the other community-grant requests, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin said, this one will be referred to the March 14 budget meeting.

And in terms of this year's budget, a final public budget meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 28, at which the Cobourg Police Service and Cobourg Public Library will make their own budget presentations.

A final budget-deliberation meeting will take place March 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 pm., and a draft budget will be submitted for approval March 18.