A Joyous Chamber Music Festival

New Orford String Quartet, 2012 Festival. Photo: courtesy of PEC Chamber Music Festival.

The Link, Summer 2019
| by Lin Parkin|

Stéphane Lemelin was touring with Piano Six, a group that brings classical music to rural communities in Canada, when he fell in love with Prince Edward County. Drawing on his network of talented musicians, he started the PEC Chamber Music Festival in 2004.

“At that time, the County was relatively undiscovered and this was a way to provide some world-class entertainment to a smaller community still in its initial stages of growth,” says Hedy Brambat-Kellar, Director on the board of the PEC Chamber Music Festival.

A large part of Lemelin’s focus was bringing classical music to children at area schools who lack access to live performances. The Festival also gives the community at large a chance to see classical performers at affordable prices and more intimate venues than you’d find in large cities.

“The Festival also gives the community at large a chance to see classical performers at affordable prices and more intimate venues then you’d find in large cities.”

That is Chamber Music, by definition. It is classical music performed in smaller settings without full orchestral music. Originally it was performed in people’s homes, often the chamber room, with only select guests invited to attend. It creates a deeper connection between the performer and the audience.

The PEC Chamber Music Festival takes this one step further with the performers playing music by living Canadian composers, many of whom are also in attendance.

“The performer is playing for not just the audience, but for the person who actually wrote the beautiful music, and the composer gets to experience the thrill of hearing his notes played by some of the best musicians on the planet,” explains Brambat-Kellar. “For the audience it is an opportunity to be exposed to classical music with perhaps a more contemporary spin, as living composers are influenced by life a little differently than composers from the past.”

The event kicks off on September 7 with a free outdoor concert at Macaulay Heritage Park, featuring True North Brass. Other musicians, mostly brass, will also perform for an afternoon filled with toe-tapping and dancing in the park.

The main event takes place at St. Mary Magdalene Church beginning September 13. Opening the Festival is the New Orford String Quartet, performing with violist Aloysia Friedmann. The first weekend also features esteemed pianists Jon Kimura Parker and his brother Jamie Parker, in a rare two-piano concert performed on two Steinway pianos. The Gryphon Trio rounds out opening weekend.

The second weekend will include soloists from the highly regarded Quebec ensemble Les Violons du Roy, mezzo-soprano and CBC broadcaster Julie Nesrallah, and finally pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, silver medalist in the 2015 Chopin Competition.

Uriel Vanchestein will be attending the Festival, and collaborating with Quebecois singer/songwriter/poet Gilles Vigneault to compose a world-premiere piece for Julie Nesrallah to perform at the Festival.

Brambat-Kellar relates there is something unique about the Festival. “It’s in those moments where the audience gets to experience the intimacy of the venue and are able to speak to the musicians either at the reception or after a performance. A lot of our performers over the years have come back repeatedly because they enjoy their time here so much.”

The performers take accommodation with local families during their stay in the County, becoming a part of the community while they are here. “This is one of the reasons they love to come back.”

Visit pecmusicfestival.com for more information.

Lin Parkin has an insatiable curiosity and applies her thirst for knowledge to everything she writes. Her work has appeared in a variety of magazines, periodicals, websites and other digital publications. She typically covers the arts, lifestyle, and community.

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