Duo Concertante: Concert Review

by Bob Park, Feb. 27, 2017

For the final concert in its 2016/17 season, the South Okanagan Concert Society presented the wonderful, Newfoundland-based, Duo Concertante. Violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves are partners in life and partners in music. Seventeen years ago we had first heard this superb duo here in Oliver, on the old Frank Venables Auditorium stage. In the intervening years Nancy and Tim have performed all over the world and received countless awards and accolades.

And here they were again, in Oliver, but this time we could welcome them to the new Venables Theatre! Of this year’s high quality concert line-up, this was perhaps the performance I was most looking forward to. In our age of electrically and digitally processed music it is refreshing to spend a few hours enfolded by the natural, un-amplified sound of beautiful instruments.

Duo Concertante reminded us what a miracle of sound in skilful hands the grand piano and the violin are! In spite of what one might expect by merely looking at their size, these instruments really were perfectly balanced. The big sound of our modern Yamaha C3 never overpowered the violin. While some brilliant minds in 16th century Italy were designing St. Peter’s Cathedral, creating the sculpture of David and painting the Mona Lisa , others invented a tiny wooden box that can fill a concert hall with sound that speaks straight to the heart—even four centuries later!

The concert opened with a seldom heard Sonata in A Major, by J.S. Bach. Instead of featuring a violin soloist with keyboard accompanist, this sonata had the violin and the keyboard on an equal footing. The counterpoint style has a melody being followed by another and often a third always playing catch-up, and each instrument takes the lead at different times. Although old J.S. Bach and the early music crowd might disagree, I think that this sonata works better with piano than with the original harpsichord, since the different voices can be separated more distinctly.

From the first movement of this sonata on, I knew we were in for a real treat. Nancy’s superb violin playing let us relax and enjoy the music, without her making us aware of how fiendishly difficult this instrument really is. The audience could sit back and let Nancy do the driving. Just one example: Nancy’s way of doing vibrato. Instead of imitating legendary violinists (Heifetz, Kreisler) with a one-speed, super- fast vibrato on all passages, Nancy varies the speed and intensity of her vibrato. On long notes in the Bach sonata she would come into the note softly with no vibration, and gradually build the volume, adding vibrato and then ending the note softly, again without vibrato. Easier said than done, and very effective. Throughout the concert, the violin became her way of expressing emotion, her personal voice.

The Bach was followed by another rarely heard work, Tartiniana Seconda, by Luigi Dallapiccoli (more fun to hear Tim say it than for me to spell it). This short four movement work featured melodies based on Baroque -era dance rhythms combined with some modern harmonies. The original Tartini theme was played with

broad triple stops on the violin. The variations allowed Tim to play some fine solo passages on the piano. This lively piece of music deserves more frequent performances.

Concluding the first half of the evening was the Brahms Sonata No.2 in A, perhaps the best known of the composer’s violin sonatas. The beautiful theme of the first of three movements is, I think, well known to violin fans, being on all those “greatest hits” CD’s! Brahms’ life and music are infused with sorrow, dignity and beauty. The slow second movement was absolutely lovely, played by Nancy with that expressive sense of dynamics that draws you in. The highlight of the night for me. This second movement changed in mood and ended with a lively tempo, tricking many of us into thinking the piece was over. The duo must forgive us for applauding; it seemed appropriate considering the magic of the moment.

The second half of the concert was given over to the Franck Sonata in A major, jokingly referred to by violinists as the “Frank Sinatra”. Not every violinist is up to performing this piece. It requires absolute mastery of all technical aspects of the violin and buckets of emotional energy. Nancy certainly pulled it off. When I focussed on Tim’s excellent piano accompaniment, it struck me that the piano part in this work is just as impossible as the violin part! I can’t think of a better way to end a wonderful evening than with that cascading triumphal melody that concludes the final movement!

After that brilliantly executed and exhausting work, it was surprising that the duo still had the energy to treat us to another technical fireball as encore. They played an arrangement of Kachaturian’s well-known Sabre Dance. Lots of fun!

What’s next for the Concert Society? “Piano Chameleons” (two pianos duel it out); “Cheng2Duo” (young brother and sister on cello and piano); “Cari Burdett and Quintet” (gypsy, folk, opera, jazz tunes, cabaret style); “Joe Trio” (court jesters of the classical). The four concerts of the 2017/18 season are already “live” on the ticket section of the Frank Venables Theatre website , as well as being accessible via the theatre box office, Tuesdays through Thursdays, and at 498-1626. Pick your reserved seats as soon as possible! Save $24 on the series, by purchasing tickets to all four concerts in advance!

Kenny and Brian set to amuse boomers

Kenny and Brian

Kenny Shaw and Brian Temple, Medici’s undisputed best sell-out show of last summer are back for another kick at your youthful, musical memories. These guys are a high-powered comedy duo aiming directly at the funny bone of baby boomer audiences. Both of these music veterans have been performing for decades and are celebrated entertainers in their home region of the Pacific Northwest. These two are not only achingly funny, but they also deliver the goods with a calibre of musicality of befitting serious concert musicians.

Their hilarious floorshow has brought standing ovations from sold out shows, and there are plenty more halls, country clubs, festivals and fairs on the horizon.

The humour and parody of this musical comedy duo is outrageously funny, and wielded with great skill. Kenny and Brian deliver an act tailored for all occasions that will appeal to audiences from all walks of life. Although there are plenty of unexpected laughs waiting, one thing is sure. You’ll never remember the harmony duos of the Baby Boomer generation the same way again.

They play Medici’s on Friday August 2nd of the long week-end the night before tenor Michael Burgess croons at our band-shell in the park. Doors open at 6:30 and Brian and Kenny open at7:30. Tickets are $20 each and are literally flying out the door. Get one (or two) quick. You’ll remember the laughter and the joy long after the sombre memories of this summer have faded. Medici’s is at 522 Fairview Road in Oliver…250-498-2228

South Okanagan Concert Society

The South Okanagan Concert Society (SOCS) puts on a series of four concerts per year with a particular focus on classical and world music. They strive for a mix of  well-known established performers, and edgy new talent.  Performances are generally held at the Frank Venables Auditorium (South Okanagan Secondary School) in Oliver, BC.

Tickets for the upcoming 2009-2010 concert series are already available. Flex passes are a great way to maximize the music! Each set earns you four admissions so you can see each concert as a single, or go to two concerts with a friend, or have a special evening out for four. Early bird flex passes are $45 until the end of April ($55 regular price).  Ticket vendor: Miss Molly’s Quilt Shoppe on Oliver’s Main Street. Single concert tickets may be purchased at the door for $20 each.

The 2009-2010 performers are:

duo-affiniteDUO AFFINITE
Friday, October 30, 2009

Guy Few on trumpet, corno and piano, and Nadina Mackie Jackson on bassoon create an irresistible combination of muscianship and engaging showmanship. Celebrated internationally as soloists, chamber musicians and recitalists, these two incredible musicians blend their ideas and spirits in this new recital concept. Trumpet and bassoon – the starting point – following the lead of Baroque tradition, the inspiration of 20th century composers and the voices of today. But there is so much more. Programming also includes piano, corno da caccia and voice. Join these two renowned musicians for an evening of musical magic.

“Few and Jackson play with polished tone, immaculate intonation, and infectious high spirits; it’s obvious they’re having a blast.”
All Music Guide, 2007



Friday November 27, 2009

Music and theatre are intertwined in the Golden Violin. The engaging script, costumes, backdrops and music draw the audience into the story. Violinist Cal;vin Dyck and pianist Betty Suderman take the audience on a journey, tracing the history of Calvin’s “golden violin”, a beautiful instrument crafted in 1807 by the Dutch violin maker Johannes Cuypers.

 “The audience was absolutely enraptured by his flawless interpretation…”
“Dyck and Suderman make a splendid ensemble as extraordinarily skilled musicians and actors.”
“He played with great skill and dexterity … sounding pure, crisp tones with a magnificent bowing technique.”
 – Daily News, Nanaimo

Friday, February 5, 2010

 Ezeadi’s charismatic presence, versatility and soothing voice have endeared him to audiences. Ezeadi is an innovator, motivator and  instigator in the African and World Music scene.

 Ezeadi’s music, based on traditional Igbo rhythms, evokes the spirit of highlife and afrobeat with a splash of funk, jazz, blues and reggae. The lyrics are prayers and appeals to universal consciousness and our conscience to make the world a better place for all.

His unique mastery of the pennywhistle, other instruments and vocal styling will take you to beautiful new places.

“This music uses gentle African rhythms and bubbling vocals to deliver peaceful idealism emphatically. It is new kind of African roots based world music cooked and ready to be served to the world from British Columbia.”  – The Province


Friday March 5, 2010

The Vancouver Chamber Choir is Canada’s outstanding profressional vocal ensemble. The choir impresses audiences with the depth and range of their repertoire and interpretive skills.

“… When it comes to unearthly beauty and awe-inspiring power, they’re a pretty fine mortal approximation of how celestial singers should sound.”  – North  Shore News

“Jon Washburn’s Choir remains at the forefront of Canadian vocal ensembles. ….“Canada’s leading professional vocal ensemble.”  –  Toronto Star

“…the choir’s performance… began with admiration and finally left you in awe.” – Vancouver Sun