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Friday, July 12, 2024
Music Niagara showcases clarinetist James Campbell

Richard Baker

Special to The Lake Report

Music Niagara continues its unconventional choice of programming in its At Home Series on Sunday, Sept. 6, with a performance produced by James Campbell, the eminent Canadian clarinetist and wind soloist, who is also very well-known to our audiences.

His lifetime achievements have brought him wide recognition and acclaim in the spheres of orchestral and chamber music as well as in teaching and recording.

His instrument, the clarinet, has to be one of the most hauntingly lyrical and expressive of the wind family, possessed of an amazing range of mood and feeling that not only playfully amuses but also reaches into and can lacerate the soul when given the chance. Understandably, it has been a favourite of classical, jazz and popular composers over the centuries.

Campbell’s program is entitled “From Beethoven to Brazil: A Joyous Musical Journey.” It was filmed at Queen’s Landing here in NOTL with Lord Mayor Betty Disero among those in attendance.

The performance consists of a magnificently enjoyable range of music, a journey that takes you from the Germany of Beethoven and Schubert, to the Spain of Manuel de Falla, lingering in the Brazil of Guinga, Pixinguinha, Bonfa and Jobim, returning melancholically to France and Belgium for Piaf and Brel, and finally to a cheerful conclusion in jazz America with Sid Robin and Charlie Shaver’s “Undecided.”

The “joyous” in the journey can be found in all the pieces, but it is a joy that comes from the exquisite beauty of mood and melody, so different in all of them.

One of the highlights of the program is what must be one of Schubert’s most achingly emotive songs, “Shepherd on the Rock D965,” scored for piano, voice and clarinet, in which Campbell is joined by soprano Leslie Fagan and pianist Elina Kelebeev.

This song was written for a friend of Schubert, a singer, who had asked him for something that would let her express a wide range of feelings. Sadly for him, and like so much of that lonely bachelor’s best music, it was published and first performed after his early death.

I was completely taken by the Brazilian segment with its enchanting melodies and rhythms. Listening to Sete Estrelas and Cochichando, arranged for clarinet and guitar by Graham Campbell, followed by the popular Bossa Nova medley, performed by the complete ensemble that also includes Atis Bankas on violin, and Bob Mills on bass, I found myself drifting sentimentally back to my infancy in Rio de Janeiro, where, during the first two years of my life, I was cared for a stone’s throw away from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

As you may gather, the entire experience was indeed a joy. You can see and hear it on Music Niagara’s website, www.musicniagara.org, or on YouTube, this Sunday at 4 p.m.

LABOUR DAY CONCERT:  On Monday, Sept. 7, the festival’s At Home Series presents the debut of the Kiri Quartet, performing some of the most moving string quartets by Mozart and Brahms, shot live at the beautiful Chateau des Charmes in the heart of NOTL wine country.  Watch the concert live  at 4 p.m. or enjoy it later together with more from the series at www.musicniagara.org.

* Richard Baker is chair of the board of directors of Music Niagara.

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