When it comes to concert ticket prices, you can't get better than free. And that's just what you get with the upcoming annual series, Millennium Centre Noon Hour Summer Concerts.
All you have to do is pop in to the Millennium Centre at 389 Main St. (corner of McDermot Avenue) and you'll find yourself in a stunning open space filled with natural light streaming in from the ceiling, and rows of chairs for cheerfully eager music lovers. Every Tuesday at noon beginning June 12, local classical musicians will perform 45-50 minute concerts, complete with commentary. It is an opportunity not only to hear beautiful music that will enhance the rest of your day, but also to get to know several of the musicians who you see on stage at the Centennial Concert Hall and other concert venues. There is an intimacy to these concerts -- it's almost like being in someone's living room. And there's even a light lunch available at a modest cost.
Artistic director and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Richard Turner has no trouble attracting artists to play in the series. "There is no arm-twisting involved," he said in a telephone interview. "It is an opportunity for musicians who might otherwise not be in the spotlight to show their artistry."
This is the series' seventh consecutive season and the lineup of guest artists has some familiar faces from previous years as well as a host of debut performances. "This will be (WSO principal trombone) Steve Dyer's first time with us (June 19) and the first appearance of Mel Braun (July 24), well known baritone and professor of voice at the University of Manitoba. Robin MacMillan (WSO) will be performing on oboe, English horn and piano (July 10)."
The series opens with WSO concertmaster Gwen Hoebig and principal cello Yuri Hooker in a program that includes the Kodaly Sonata for Violin and Piano and ends on Aug. 14 with WSO violinist Elation Pauls in recital with pianist Darryl Friesen. In between, you can catch Dyer with accompanist Cari Denby playing Hindemith, Debussy and Pergolesi, WSO violinist and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra concertmaster Karl Stobbe in a solo recital on June 26 which includes Esaye's Sonata No. 5, saxophonist Allen Harrington with pianist Laura Loewen (July 3) and James Robertson, WSO French horn player in a program of Telemann, Mozart and Marais (July 31), just to mention a few.
"We're very pleased with the lineup," said Turner. "This is music made in this community and played in this community."
Some of the ideas for musicians and choices of music come from Bill Loewen, one of the series benefactors. He and his wife Shirley have provided the funding to hold the concerts. "Bill is a passionate music lover and he has made a major difference to all of us," said Turner. "He has ideas about where the series might go and is interested in certain repertoire and combinations of instruments. It is through his generosity that the series continues. He continues to be enthusiastic and faithful to it and we are very grateful."
The concerts now have a loyal following, not only because there is no charge to attend, but because of the quality of the musicians, the comfortable, friendly atmosphere and the stately surroundings. It is truly like an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city outside its walls.
For more information, contact Turner at 668-6983.
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A Thursday Night in June with Organ and Saxophone
At 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 14 the always busy Allen Harrington, saxophonist, will partner with organist Lottie Enns-Braun in a fundraising concert for and at Young United Church, 222 Furby at Broadway.
While this may seem like an unusual combination, it is actually very pleasing to the ears. The two artists have collaborated several times before, much to the delight of local audiences. Harrington and Enns-Braun have put together a wide range of repertoire that includes music by Bach, Marcello, Piazzolla, Fauré and Bédard. They will also play a set of two pieces by Augusta Read Thomas, which Enns-Braun said they have performed before and which the composer claimed was the best performance of it she had ever heard after listening to it on the MP3 file they sent her.
Seating will be in a relaxed cafe/cabaret style with small tables for four to six people. All seating is rush, but tables can be reconfigured to allow for larger groups, if necessary. Iced tea, coffee, wine, beer, appetizer baskets and cookies are available throughout the evening.
Tickets are $15, $5 for students and are available from McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the church office and at the door.