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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Piano Six - New Generation will perform together for first time on May 25
Daniel Wnukowski, founder and artistic director of Piano Six - New Generation, which will be performing almost in its entirety for the first time on May 25. (supplied)

Six internationally renowned concert pianists will unite for the first time on Saturday, May 25, at St. Mark’s Anglican Church.

Piano Six – New Generation is a collection of six Canadian concert pianists. Aside from independent international careers, the group performs individually in small, remote communities across Canada to help fill the cultural gap left by arts funding cuts over the last decade.

Daniel Wnukowski, founder and artistic director, says the new generation of Piano Six was modelled after the original, which was founded and run by Janina Fialkowska from 1994 to 2004.

“It seemed like the timing was once again right to have it running again. There are so many communities all throughout Canada that could use our help,” Wnukowski said. They don't just sit down and play. They interact with the audience "and invite people backstage to find out what makes the music so special.”

Each pianist travels to a rural remote community to perform for and engage with the residents. Trying to reach as many schools as possible, each performer remains in one location for one to two weeks. Wnukowski said they interact with four or five schools and finish each tour with a community event.

“We have interactive activities and we love to pull the music apart, share our reactions to it, try to find what stirs an emotional connection from a piece of music,” he said. “Instead of simply playing the music we rip it apart and present it in a way that’s accessible and fun.”

Setting themselves apart from the original group, Wnukowski says technological advancement played a big role in forming the group and helping them to keep connected, as well as providing more avenues to get their program out to the world.

“Live streaming is an example – which we do on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Thanks to these technological advancements we can now reach an even greater number of Canadians than the original group was able,” he said.

And that’s no small feat considering the original Piano Six reached about 100,000 Canadians in their 10-year run, said Wnukowski.

Each performer is incredibly busy, performing and travelling worldwide. He said everything started on Skype and the group has yet to all meet face to face.

“We still haven’t had the fortune of all six being in the same location at the same time. We’re hoping Toronto will do that. Niagara we’re coming pretty darn close.”

The performance this weekend will feature five of the six: Marika Bournaki, David Jalbert, Angela Park, Ian Parker and Wnukowski. Special guest Godwin Friesen will be subbing in for Anastasia Rizikov, who couldn’t step away from an engagement in Italy.

Piano Six is set to perform in its entirety on Oct. 20 and 22 in the Toronto area.

The Niagara performance will feature the world premiere of a commissioned work "for 12 hands/two pianos" by Toronto-based jazz composer, Darren Sigesmund. “He wrote a work specifically for this concert, so it’s a world premiere. We’re ending the evening with it. It’s a jazz work and it’s a lot of fun – it’s brilliant,” he says.

The concert is hosted by Bravo Niagara! and begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online here for $40. Children and students are free for this performance in an effort to encourage youth to take interest in the arts.