Victoria Sparks performs Evelyn Glennie and more in this special conversation with Anne Manson
There’s something bittersweet about watching Winnipeg percussionist Victoria Sparks perform the two percussion concertos she visits in this video. One concerto is by Alexina Louie and the other, Sid Robinovitch, and Victoria was to perform them with us this season at our March and April concerts respectively. Very sadly, the concerts are, of course, suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet what a pleasure to hear her play and discuss excerpts from these fascinating works in this Zoom chat with MCO Music Director Anne Manson.
Surely no member of the orchestra masters and manages as many instruments, doohickeys, and baubles as the percussionist, and here Victoria takes us through the arsenal of melody- and rhythm-makers – marimba, vibes, sizzle, gongs, bowls – deployed in Louie’s concerto. After that we revisit Sid Robinovitch’s sparkling, pensive, and witty percussion concerto, the sleeper hit of our 2015-16 concert season which we looked forward to reprising at our 2020 April concert.
Victoria also talks about how musicians are coping and staying creative amid this moment of social distancing, and as finale performs Evelyn Glennie’s gorgeous percussion chorale TheLittle Prayer. “With all this going on, I just thought I need to play something that just makes me feel calm. And this piece always just makes me feel centred and calm,” says Victoria. “It’s a piece I’ve been playing for a long time, but I keep coming back to it. It just makes me feel better every time I play it.” Watch the full video here or by clicking on the thumbnail below.
MCO donor and friend Roger Groening reflects on his father’s lifetime of music appreciation
My dad, Edd Groening, was 14 when he persuaded my grandfather to buy him a violin. A bow was not forthcoming, so he made his first one from horsehair, extracted from one of the horses on the farm. My dad practiced his violin with joyful dedication; never tiring, it seemed, of playing it. He learned other instruments as well, and successfully encouraged all his children to play and enjoy music.
Yet my father’s violin was likely his favourite lifelong companion, and he played it for over 80 years. For much of that time, he was an active performer with community orchestras, as well as with his church, wife of 60 years, friends, and family. Making music as a family became a critical part of any visit. We’d play together at his care facility, and even during the last year or so, when my father could no longer play, he would sometimes still ask for his violin. The music resounded in his mind, though his body could no longer perform the sensitive physicality the violin demands.
When my father moved to Winnipeg at the age of 90, we attended MCO concerts with one another. I would purchase season tickets and for about a decade, he was my date. We would sit together on the north balcony, second row from the front rail. Sometimes, even in the winter, we would walk back to his residence after the performance, discussing aspects of the concert. He was 103 at the last MCO concert we attended.
Years of musical appreciation were nurtured in good measure by the inspiring performances we shared at the MCO. My relationship with my father was informed by our mutual interest in music. While we shared other interests too, music was the best teacher. Through it we truly learned to listen to each other. I am grateful to my father for the gift of musical appreciation, and to the MCO for nurturing that gift.
Karl Stobbe’s second video in his moving Bach Sonatas and Partitas series performed from home
Last week we directed you to the first in a series of home performances of Bach that MCO Concertmaster Karl Stobbe is presenting from his home studio. Click on the thumbnail to the right for the latest instalment.
While peeking down the YouTube rabbit-hole, you’ll probably want to check out another performance featuring Karl. This one, re-released today, is from the MCO’s Feb. 2015 concert at Westminster Church and is of Mozart’s 40th symphony.