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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Ross’s Ramblings: Music Niagara understands sound, technically
Nattily attired Patrick Little, vice-chair of Music Niagara, welcomes guests to St. Mark’s
Church before a concert to honour the memory of Christopher Newton.
Nattily attired Patrick Little, vice-chair of Music Niagara, welcomes guests to St. Mark’s Church before a concert to honour the memory of Christopher Newton. Ross Robinson

As an event organizer, I learned long ago to “always overspend on sound.”

How many times have we been to concerts or speeches or weddings or sports events where the organizer has cheaped out on the audible component?

Frustrating for the audience. Unfair to the speakers or performers. Often a waste of time for many in the audience.

I recently attended Music Niagara’s concert “Strauss’s Enoch Arden,”  dedicated to the memory of Christopher Newton. Happily, their technical director Kirk Starkey and his colleagues had the audible components totally mastered. An unusual circumstance, even at the most fou fou of events.

Bravo, bravo and encore.

Even with my long time hearing challenges and attention span shortcomings, I was able to enjoy and savour every note, every syllable, every nuance. From the eloquent welcome and introduction by the vice-chair of Music Niagara, Patrick Little, dashing in white Bermuda shorts, knee socks and blazer, to the speech by Guy Guy Bannerman sharing personal vignettes of Christopher Newton, the late afternoon two hours at St. Mark’s Church was both riveting and relaxing.

First class by absolutely every measure.

Then, onward to Johannes Strauss’s “Sonata No. 3 in D minor” for violin and piano. This masterpiece was presented by the passionate and emotional violinist Artis Bankas and the elegant pianist, both tender and forceful, Victoria Kogan. Their focus and intensity never wavered and from my second pew seat I could see the tension in their necks, their intense eyes, their love of performing for us. Ms. Kogan’s right foot rarely stopped working the pedal.

Shaw Festival’s artistic director Tim Carroll then narrated the melodrama, with perfect diction and well-honed vocal projection. His British accent added a sense of “je n’est sais quoi,” but Patrick and Guy Guy (my former Chautauqua neighbour and Ryerson Park pal) had done our characteristic Canadian mode of pronunciation proud earlier in the program.

I was able to hear every syllable, without straining or angling my head and ears in an attempt to optimize the enjoyment of the concert. Let’s have a toast to great audio.

There is just so much to do in our Niagara-on-the-Lake. NOTLers have such varied interests and the pity is that so few could be with us in St. Mark’s Church for this precious concert.  Please don’t be shy to step out of your sandbox, to wade into the world of culture and the arts.

Sit peacefully and admire the stained glass windows, the wooden pews and enjoy the magical quality of the building’s acoustics.

Relax, reflect, refresh, re-energize.

Heck, I didn’t really understand the word melodrama until I asked for its definition over an Oast House Barnraiser and pulled pork sandwich later. Ah, a cold beer, views of the vineyards and good conversation. Lots to like, eh?

When my friends started to discuss Johannes Brahms and this D minor sonata, distinctive from Brahms’s other violin sonatas, by virtue of its more extroverted and virtuosic nature (these words lifted from the handout provided upon arrival) it was time for me to shift my gaze to the television screen to watch Cameron Smith’s birdie-filled back nine to win the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

Which is to say that so people have their unique interests and passions and tastes. Heck, our good lord makes chocolate and vanilla and Ben and Jerry see fit to produce another thirty two flavours.

Perhaps it would behoove us to step out of our comfort zone on occasion. Music Niagara and several other cultural groups set the table for a feast of enjoyment here in our wee part of the world. Pull up a chair.

Be daring. Open your eyes and ears. The days and years are ticking by.

Please forgive any faux pas in this Ramble. I was way out of my usual space.