Master craftsmen crowdpleasers

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Any musicians who can start a performance with two pieces by Gershwin and follow it with a Bach cello solo adapted to clarinet and STILL captures the audience are definitely masters of their craft.

Kornel Wolak is a classically trained clarinetist. Born in Poland and trained in Europe, the U.S.A. and Canada, Wolak is a versatile and established performer with an excellent sense of humour. He stunned the audience with his mastery of circular breathing (continuing to blow into his instrument while drawing the next breath) and wicked fast playing. Equally comfortable playing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra or on the stage at Oliver’s Venables Theatre, the Southern Okanagan Concert Society was lucky to grab him for the final concert of the 2015/16 concert series.

Chris Donnelly contributes a sense of fun and amazing jazz talent to the duo. Donnelly is a composer, fantastic jazz pianist, and a closet spoon player. Nominated for a Juno in 2008, and for ‘Best Recording of the Year’ and ‘Best Keyboardist of the Year’ in the 2009 National Jazz Awards, Donnelly is the first jazz performer I have witnessed take on an Oscar Peterson piece and do it justice. Together, Wolak and Donnelly are a beautiful combination of old world and new, control and mayhem, talent and ability.

Wolak and Donnelly took on a varied programme, featuring works from jazz greats George Gershwin and Oscar Peterson, and classical masters W.A. Mozart and Gioacchino Rossini. Not satisfied with the solo pieces available for clarinet, Wolak even adapted two string pieces by J.S. Bach to clarinet, and performed them seamlessly. In a combination that defies tradition, Donnelly accompanied Wolak for the second Bach piece on the spoons, and his talent playing the spoons nearly matched his ability on the keyboard.

duo1In the second half, Wolak and Donnelly opened the floor to questions, shared their experience and craft with humour and enthusiasm. Their stories, jokes, and personal touch left a lasting impression on the crowd of music lovers who attended the concert. Everyone who attended will smile as they recall the story behind Donnelly’s comic piece ‘Henry’s Song and Dance’; a musical interpretation of the first time Donnelly was stiffed for a gig, and probably the only time the venue had sold the piano the night before his performance.

In grand jazz fashion, Wolak and Donnelly closed the evening by opening the selection of the encore to requests from the audience. After a short negotiation with those who provided song ideas and fumbling the beginning of a piece Wolak obviously did not know, they promptly dove into their own tune (Flight of the Bumble Bee), leaving the audience amazed, entertained and looking forward to the first concert in the autumn.

This is the time to take advantage of Early Bird prices for next season. The first concert on November 11th is Quartango, classically trained musicians with a passion for tango explored on piano, violin, double bass and bandoneon. They have charmed audiences around the world and will come with two amazing tango dancers to create an evening you won’t forget. SOCS is switching over to a new ticketing system recently introduced by Venables Theatre. You can buy on line or if you need help just contact Janet Marcotte at 495 6487 in Osoyoos or Bob Park at 498 8889 in Oliver. Early bird prices are in effect until the end of April.