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Summer of Music at Niagara-on-the-Lake

The Vocalis Chamber Choir wraps up its 10th season at the Music Niagara Festival.

The music continues for three more weeks

This year, the Music Niagara festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake is commemorating the events of the War of 1812 and the peace that has existed between the United States and Canada following the end of hostilities in that conflict. The festival got off to strong start during its first two weeks, with one of the highlights being the first-ever appearance of the Trinity College Cambridge Choir. The opening weekend concert by the Trinity Choir was a prayer for peace and forgiveness honoring the almost 200 years of peace between our two countries, and it was attended, appropriately enough, by the largest audience ever at the festival’s home in St. Mark’s Anglican Church.

All concerts for the final three weeks take place in St. Mark’s, and begin at 7:30pm, unless otherwise noted.

1812 Events

Festival events with a specific 1812 tie-in include a free concert this Sunday afternoon at 2pm by the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Association Band at the Simcoe Park Bandstand. On Monday, July 20 at 2pm, in the Niagara Historical Society Museum on Castlereagh Street, chanteuse Patricia O’Callaghan entertains with songs of the period by Beethoven and Haydn, set to the poems of Robert Burns, while Lori Gemmell, principal harpist of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, presents a program devoted to the development of the harp and early 1800s Celtic music, accompanied by violinist Atis Bankas. The National Youth Orchestra of Canada appears on Sunday, July 29 at 6:30pm at the Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre on Stone Road, in a program that includes Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and works by Dvorak, Ravel, and Prokofiev.

The world première of two new works for chamber quartet, fife and drum, accordion and aboriginal drum, commissioned in honor of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, Mikhail Bronner’s 1812 Capriccio and Dmitriy Varelas’s Queenston Heights Rhapsody, with special guest artist and world champion accordion player Alexander Sevastian, takes place on Thursday, August 2. On Sunday, August 5 at 2pm, the Karakoro Drum and Dance troupe, from Japan, returns to the festival for a free concert at the Simcoe Bandshell, with a message of peace and harmony, reflecting the 200 years of peace that have followed the War of 1812.

The final event in this year’s commemoration of the War of 1812 takes place on Saturday, August 11, when Edwin Outwater, music director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, leads the St. Mark’s Orchestra and the Buffalo-based Vocalis Chamber Choir in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Also on the program is Haydn’s poignant Symphony No.45, known as the “Farewell.” It’s a fitting wrap-up, both for the festival and for the 10th anniversary season of the Vocalis Chamber Choir, which under the leadership of its director James Burritt has developed into one of the finest choirs in Western New York.

Featured events

On Saturday, July 28, the acclaimed male vocal quartet New York Polyphony, noted for its refined musicianship, offers a unique program combining medieval chant, renaissance polyphony, and modern harmonies.

“Britten, Bernstein, Bowles and Bedbugs: The Bohemians in Brooklyn 1939-1943” is the intriguing title for a production on Monday, July 30, featuring singers Patricia O’Callaghan and Bryce Kulak, harpist Lori Gemmel, and storyteller Tom Allen for an evening described as “equal parts cabaret, social history, very juicy gossip, glorious music and all parts fun.”

Formed as recently as 2006, the Afiara String Quartet has already garnered several major awards, including winning the Banff International String Quartet Competition, and on Saturday, August 4 they will present a program of works by Beethoven and Dvorak, as well as a new piece, Lockdown, by Dan Becker.

On Sunday, August 5 the classically trained and “eclectic by design” Quartetto Gelato, a longtime festival audience favorite, returns with its unique mix of multi-instrument virtuosity and world-ranging musical repertoire.

Canadian romantic pianist Andre Laplante offers a tribute to what would have been the late Glen Gould’s 80th birthday anniversary on Monday, August 6 in a program of solo works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt, and then joins the members of the Gould String Quartet for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet.

All that jazz

On Friday, July 27 at St. Mark’s at 7:30pm, to complement the Shaw Festival’s smash hit production of Ragtime, pianist Dick Hyman plays a program of classic ragtime, stride, and early jazz piano by Scott Joplin, Zez Confrey, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Bix Beiderbecke, and Fats Waller. The 9:30pm Saturday “Jazz on the Patio” series at the Epicurean continues with the Ben Hognestad Trio on July 28, the Mike Field Jazz Quintet on August 4, and the Drew Jurecka Trio on August 11.

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