Sunday, 11 August 2013

Tuckamore Festival Reverses A Trend

The Afiara String Quartet have performed on the stages of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and now the D.F. Cook in St. John's!

Gone are the days when you had to leave Newfoundland and Labrador to see a big name band or star.  KISS, Marianas Trench, Tegan and Sara have all rolled through St. John's in the past ten days with a complete stage act and special effects –and there is more to come before summer closes.  (I never thought I'd see Lil' Jon headlining in Clarenville!)  Mile One and other large venues regularly sell out, even at the height of festival season when there are many competing events.

Nor is this is phenomenon limited to popular or rock music –it's just that in the world of classical music and jazz your arts and entertainment dollar goes a lot further.  You can get both quantity and quality too.  For example, for the price of a single KISS ticket I bought a two-week pass to the Tuckamore Festival –Chamber Music in Newfoundland.  That is seven concerts featuring talent that you could line up for at Carnegie Hall or other top-notch venue in New York or London.  And I have not counted the free lunch time concerts, special Q&A sessions with outstanding musicians and composers, and open rehearsals that take you behind the scenes. 

One of the things that delights me about the Tuckamore Festival is that it bucks the trend I see in other classical music audiences –the aging demographic.  With some justification, there has been a stereotype that the classical music audience, say the symphony crowd, are largely senior citizens.  That isn't necessarily true of the Tuckamore and with good reason.  Affordable prices, mixed programming, and alternative venues –think the Rocket Room with a concert that starts at 10 p.m.–all help to attract fresh blood without compromising acoustics. Dinuk Wijeratne's program combined Bartok, Chick Corea and his own compositions inspired by Indian music, electronic music and Persian Poetry. 

The N.Y. Times had it right when they described Dinuk Wijeratne as "exuberantly creative".

Access to the thoughts of composers and musicians, being present to witness the special magic that comes from collaboration of extraordinary skill and talent is a treat for the audience to share.  Hopefully, it is addictive and all those feel-good vibes will persuade younger audiences to make classical and jazz a habit.  That's what happened to me.  As a young teenager I would regularly walk 45 minutes so that I could take in the free composer's series that McGill University hosted.  Add in jazz afternoons at Vehicule art gallery or the organ series at St. Joseph's Oratory and you had my live music diet tailored to fit a student's budget.  In time, that taste would mature into symphony tickets and being able to throw roses at the stage, travel to the BBC Proms and much more including life with a son who understands a whole lot more music theory than I do.  But we always talk music and I'm still learning.  Now, if we'd only agree on who deserves the standing ovation!

The Tuckamore Festival is about to start its second week.  Check out their website:

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