Inaugural Evening at the Atelier

Rosemarie Umetsu has not only been a supporter of the arts through her fashion collaborations but has also loved to entertain enthusiasts housing countless performances at her beloved atelier. Having recently moved locations, the couturier has officially embarked on a new chapter in her fascinating career.

“We have now created a Fashion House taking the Atelier to a higher level of fashion experience with clients and where I can use this space to further augment my design culture”. As she is presently in JUNO mode designing for up to 5 nominees this year and with names like Isabel Bayrakdarian, Measha Brueggergosman, Yuja Wang and many more under her client roster, there was an urge to dive even deeper into developing Umetsu’s fashion expression.

In addition, Yamaha Canada Music has also come on board as a top level sponsor where the atelier is now in a position to continue in an expansive way of what was done in the past. The space can now enhance the goal even further to support arts groups and helping nurture developing artists, as well as assist the established.

Tomorrow evening, the Yamaha Recital Space will present its inaugural recital featuring Korean-Canadian pianist Younggun Kim as well as debut the new Yamaha CX piano. With bookings already going into 2018, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is excited to embrace this new urban event space and its great acoustics.

Younggun Kim performs at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu

Younggun Kim’s performances have been known for their “technical capacity and a lush sound” with concerts spanning all across North America and Europe. This Saturday, a special inaugural concert will be taking place where the Korean-Canadian pianist will allow audiences to experience a new performance space in the Yorkville area.

Couturier Rosemarie Umetsu, for many years, has opened her atelier doors to artists and opera singers having organized countless intimate concerts. With a brand new location and in partnership with Yamaha Canada, Kim’s recital will be the first of many to come in this brand new chapter.

With his performance attire also being prepared by Umetsu (as he will also be debuting a brand new Yamaha piano)piani, we chatted with Royal Conservatory alum about his upcoming musical presentational and of course, a little fashion.

MC: What’s your approach when performing intimate recitals in comparison to playing at Roy Thomson or Walter Hall?

YK: An intimate space means less distance between me and the audience, which gives me a chance to communicate with them in a way that is unique to such spaces. It is an interesting sensation as a performer that it feels as if I’m playing in a private gathering, surrounded by my friends. It is also possible to verbally communicate with the audience more easily in such a setting; from explaining the background of the next piece to cracking some jokes, playing for a smaller crowd is a great opportunity to connect closely with the public – more so if one doesn’t need a microphone. Lastly, the characteristics of a more intimate space enable a whole other palette that is not necessarily accessible in a large hall; even the smallest nuances will not be lost to the public, and while it isn’t feasible to stuff an entire Wagner production in a 150-people space, such a venue is quite ideal for solo piano and chamber music.

In a way, this is similar when comparing a public lecture and a seminar class. Both have their respective virtues. I’m really looking forward to this Saturday’s session.

MC: Share more details about the evening’s program.

YK: It’s a mixture of popular pieces, rarely played gems, and rarely played versions of these popular works. Every piano enthusiast will recognize the two Chopin works that I have programmed; however, they may not be familiar with Godowsky, who rewrote many of Chopin’s works including his Etudes. Godowsky’s pieces are new works using Chopin’s pieces as a starting point and they deserve to be played more than they are. The practical problem is that Godowsky’s works are, because of his affinity for polyphonic writing, complex harmonic language and his adventurous spirit, considered to be some of the most difficult piano music to play. Imagine playing two Chopin Etudes simultaneously – and that’s exactly what one of the pieces I’ll be playing is about. Also interesting are the Kapustin set; unlike the rest of the program, Kapustin’s musical language is jazz; they are very exciting and quite honestly, always great fun to play. I am happy to say that they have proven themselves to be audience favourites too. I am also playing pieces by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Liszt; they are well-known pieces but for a variety of reasons not often performed in public.

MC: Finally, tell us more about your personal style and what fashion means to you both as a musical stage performer.

YK: I always try to dress myself according to the occasion. I believe that how I look is very important in creating a persona on the stage, and it is not disconnected from what I try to convey aurally; after all, you will be ‘seen’ as well as heard on the stage. So far my efforts in fashion have been concentrated on dressing myself in a way to show the same seriousness and dedication that I give to my music; maybe it is time for me to move ahead!

A Family Affair

As an ode to the upcoming Family Day long weekend, I thought it would be nice to send out a special thanks to all the dedicated parents out there who invest countless amounts of time with their kids for, well, pretty much everything.

Being a musician, music teacher, and now a parent myself, inspiration and dedication go a long way but when you’re still a kid, mom and dad play an integral role when it comes to staying motivated. Even though we’ve all been there, practicing music hasn’t always been at the top of the fun list. It paid off of course.

Musical memories and where our interests first began are always nice to reminisce and look back on. Whether it was the first time you went to a classical concert with your family, or saw someone play an instrument you’ve never heard before, these moments paved the way for many who now have a vast musical career.

On February 20th, the talented musicians from Pocket Concerts will be presenting an extra special concert catered to the next generation of music enthusiasts. Families with little ones and older are warmly invited to experience a Family Day filled performance (and conveniently in the early afternoon just in case a nap time needs to follow after an exciting musical experience).

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We chat with PC’s Artistic Directors Rory McLeod  and Emily Rho about some of their cherished memories.

MC: Can you share a musical pass-time when you were younger?

RML: My mom is a cellist, so the house was always full of music when I was a kid. I remember waking up to the sound of her teaching on Saturday mornings throughout my childhood, but what really stands out is the memory of listening to LPs (yes, I am old enough for that) in our living room. When we were really young (probably 2 and 4 years old), my brother Alex (also a violist) and I used to listen to Swan Lake, dress up in tights, and dance around the living room pretending to be princes.

My first memory of attending a concert is from when I was about 8 years old. My grandma gave me and my mom a pair of tickets to a concert in Roy Thompson Hall. I’m guessing it must have bee the TSO, and there was a female soloist. I have no memory of what piece she played, but I remember that she was wearing a green dress with puffy sleeves, and I was impressed that she could memorize such a long “song.”

ER: When I was about ten, my mom took me to an orchestra concert. It was my first time hearing Beethoven Symphony No. 5, and Zubin Mehta was conducting. The performance made such an impression on me that I developed an intense crush (for a ten year old) on Maestro Mehta, which led me to a quest to find all the recordings by him. This ‘obsession’ was not easy, not having grown up with the Internet, iTunes, smart phones, etc., but possible more satisfying because that.

MC: When did you realize that you wanted to learn your instrument of
and venture into the performance realm during your musical
studies?

RML: I started on the violin when I was five, and I don’t remember making that decision. My brother Alex played, so I probably wanted to emulate him. I chose the viola much later in life, once again following in Alex’s footsteps. He picked up the viola when he was 12, but it took me much longer.

When I was 19 and living in Montreal, doing a B.A. in English Literature, my violin teacher left town for the summer. I had more time on my hands than usual and wanted to take some lessons, and I happened to be working at Wilder and Davis (a violin shop), so I borrowed a viola from them, contacted Jean MacRae, and started taking some viola lessons. I started playing a lot of chamber music on viola (the best way to learn the instrument), and played both instruments for a while.

Then my violin was stolen. It was tragic at the time, but eventually the insurance money came through, and I had to decide whether to buy another violin, or take the leap and buy a viola. I discovered that I preferred the sound of every viola I tried over every violin, and decided it was a sign. Over the course of the following year, I decided I wanted to make a go at becoming a professional musician, with the viola as my instrument.

Dominic puts clarinet away RESIZEDER: I didn’t really choose the piano. We had my mom’s piano at home, so it was one of the toys from the beginning. I started lessons when I was about three, and I can’t quite say that I’m one of those people who made the decision to pursue music deliberately. Things just went from one thing to another, and I ended up playing the piano for a living! Having said that, I do distinctly remember the fun and thrill of performing from a young age, and I’ve always craved the opportunities to be on stage and share. 

Click here to purchase your tickets (children and youth under 19 are free)

Mozart 261

As Mozart turns 261, another TSO festival has begun in honour of the great composer. Starting 2017 with a bang, we had the pleasure of attending “Magnificent Mozart” featuring violinist Kerson Leong and 14 year-old pianist Leonid Nediak. Conductor Peter Oundjian put on his ‘Mozart Hat’ and led with the utmost passion as always.

Kerson Leong, Peter Oundjian_2 (@Jag Gundu)

Kerson Leong with Peter Oundjian (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (@Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)

 

More performance will follow this month as Mozart @ 261 continues with:

For more information visit tso.ca and celebrate the wonder of Mozart

A New Sarastro

As we near closer to the premiere of the COC’s latest production of The Magic Flute, another new face will take the stage with beloved soprano Kirsten MacKinnon. Croatian bass Goran Jurić will make his Canadian (as well as North American) debut playing the role of Sarastro.

Juric, GoranA character, where many assume a villain from the beginning,  Sarastro guides Tamino and Pamina towards the truth, gradually revealing his deep wisdom and great kindness. Juric is no stranger when it comes to performing as the high priest. With a new city and continent to conquer, we chatted with the young and dashing artist on his latest musical venture.

MC: How do you feel about performing for the first time in Canada?

GJ: The dream of every musician is to perform around the world and to meet music lovers from all over. This will be my first appearance in North America and I am so happy to make my debut in Canada, especially Toronto. The Canadian Opera Canada is such an incredible performing institution and I am so honoured to be a part of this cast. Toronto is such a wonderful city – colourful and very hospitable. I love Lake Ontario along with the lights and high-rise buildings which are amazing. You don’t see that in Munich (where I currently live). During the holidays, I was taking the streetcar and loved how the driver was singing along to Christmas songs with other passengers.

MC: In preparation for this role, how did you study Sarastro’s character?

GJ: The Magic Flute was the first opera I sang during my studies at the Croation National Theatre in Zagreb. This performance with the COC will be my seventh production. Each one reveals a new lens where I seek to create a different interpretation of Sarastro while also working with the director and conductor. Even though I have played this role several times, I still refer back to when I first studied his character. You can take on so many approaches, but Mozart’s score, of course, stays the same. When it comes to the story, Mozart does not give you an answer right away if Sarastro is good or bad. The same can be said for the Queen of the Night. It is important to interpret this opera in a variety of contexts in order to understand all of the characters. To me, this is the genius behind Mozart’s music where one can reincarnate themselves when taking the stage every time.

W. A. Mozart - The Magic Flute (Zagreb 2010)

Goran will also be performing a Free Concert Series concert on January 24th titled “Lost in a Russian Forest”.