Gwenda Nemerofsky

  • Free Press critic, columnist 'was the voice of classical music'

    GWENDA Nemerofsky, the Free Press classical music critic and columnist for almost a decade, died of cancer Tuesday. She was 61. The Montreal-born flutist graduated from Concordia University in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in music. In 1990, she moved to Winnipeg, where she worked in communications at Marymound, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts. She wrote her first music reviews for the Free Press in 1997 and became the regular reviewer in 2004.
  • Canadian cellist relishes collaboration with chamber mates

    It's hard to believe that Canadian cellist Denise Djokic turned a mere 33 years old last week. She's a bit of a national darling -- we've watched and listened to her grow up on stages across the country and on CBC radio. The busy artist sat down for an interview when she was in town earlier this month for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Tchaikovsky Festival. She returns Saturday as part of the Boston Trio in the Virtuosi Concert Series at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.
  • New WSO conductor pops in resident role

    IT'S hard not to be impressed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's new resident conductor, Julian Pellicano, for many reasons. At just 33, this high-energy musician not only completed a double undergraduate degree program, earning a bachelor of performance in percussion from the Peabody Institute and a bachelor of philosophy from John Hopkins University, but then went on to the Royal College of Music in Stockholm to study with percussionist Anders Lougin, whom he considers his mentor.
  • Bachtoberfest will transport crowd to 18th century

    It's not always easy to keep coming up with different themes for concerts, recitals and events. Two musical organizations in the city are smartly borrowing from two of October's most beloved traditions -- Halloween and Oktoberfest. How do they incorporate concert repertoire into these events that don't usually bring music to mind?
  • Smaller musical groups offer big performances

    Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is heading to Carnegie Hall in the spring of 2014. This is a marvellous opportunity for the organization, now in its 66th season. With a program of all-Canadian music, they will represent our city well. Two other well-established and well-publicized arts groups, Manitoba Opera and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, have audience-enticing 2013-2014 seasons with name guest artists.
  • Pianist juggles lots of balls

    Canadian pianist David Jalbert is a risk-taker -- both in his personal and musical life. "I'm a tennis freak," he admitted in a telephone interview from his Ottawa home. "I recently got back from the U.S. Open." Jalbert is an avid tennis player, even though his hands are his livelihood. "It is a hobby I've been told not to entertain since I was young."
  • Excitement heralds start of concert season

    What a great time of year! It almost felt like Christmas morning when I spread all the Winnipeg musical organizations' brochures out to write my first column of the new season, the traditional "concert picks." The choices are exciting and varied, with both celebrated guest artists and plenty of local talent featured in choral, symphonic, solo recital and chamber music performances.
  • Agassiz chamber festival draws superb musicians

    If patience is truly a virtue, then the folks who organize the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival are among the most virtuous people around. Artistic director Paul Marleyn, festival director Rita Menzies and a dedicated board of directors have tirelessly nurtured this annual event, now in its 14th year. The early years drew modestly sized audiences, and I recall attending concerts, thinking what a shame it was that such superb artistry was witnessed by so few. But year after year, word got out about this week-long festival that brings quality musicians from around the world to collaborate on great chamber music.
  • Rainbow Harmony Project sings with a blast

    Every year I look forward to concerts by the Rainbow Harmony Project, Winnipeg's GLBTT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit) community choir. The reason is simple: they are a total blast. Everyone onstage seems to be having such a terrific time and the audience catches that fervour. Plus there is always a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour injected into every show. I always leave their performances with a smile on my face. In preparation for their spring concert, Stand Together, Saturday, May 25 at 8 p.m. at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, they are rehearsing hard and practising some unique choreography.
  • Match made in heaven for singers, listeners

    Don't try to pigeonhole Canadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc. Most of us know her as the singer with the voice as clear as crystal; an expert in the interpretation of early music. But there's much more to this singer from the Maritimes. There is an entrepreneurship quality to her career, with a creative aspect, the 51-year-old says in a telephone interview from her home in Fox Point, Nova Scotia, 40 minutes from Halifax.
  • Colourful comedy a crowd favourite

    Now that Manitoba Opera's production of the tragic Aida is over, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society is offering something much lighter and definitely more uplifting beginning tonight at 7:30 p.m. It's the wonderful operetta The Mikado, an all-time audience favourite. The Mikado holds a special place in my heart. It was my introduction to the catchy tunes and witty lyrics that are highlights of Gilbert and Sullivan shows. My dad took me to see it in Montreal when I was about 10 years old. I remember sitting in the front row, completely absorbed in the music, the Japanese costumes and the performers, whom I found hysterical. It was a whole new world opening up to me.
  • WSO resident conductor leaving on a high note

    It's been four years since Richard Lee began his stint as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's resident conductor. His assignment: to lead the WSO Pops Series, Concerts for Kids, several special shows throughout the season, outreach programs in area schools and to conduct the University of Manitoba's Symphony Orchestra. He did it all -- and did it well. Lee has made his mark not only on the audiences of the WSO and the musicians themselves, but on countless students as well.
  • Orchestra revisits 1972 debut performance

    Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again, but the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra is doing just that. In honour of its 40th season, the orchestra is re-creating its first-ever concert, tonight at 7:30 p.m., at Westminster United Church.
  • Monteverdi masterpiece a challenging undertaking

    IF the possibility of time travel has ever appealed to you, you're in luck. On Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, at Westminster United Church, Camerata Nova will take a step back in history with a full-length production of Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 magnum opus, Vespers for the Blessed Virgin. The tongue-in-cheek concert name is The Full Monte, telling us something immediately about this musical organization. These are serious musicians who don't take themselves too seriously. They're having fun -- and this is passed along to their loyal audience.
  • Fast winds blowing in something different

    Virtuosi Concerts is bringing something truly different to its stage Saturday night. Not that there's anything to beef about with their usual quality fare of primarily string players and pianists (with an occasional singer thrown in for good measure), but a departure is often refreshing. In the case of their March 16 show, Ports of Call, they've commandeered the Canadian trio from Vancouver, Volante Vento. And yes, there is still a pianist, Cary Chow, but there will also be bassoonist Jesse Read and one-time Winnipegger, Milan Milosevic on clarinet. Volante Vento means "Fast Winds," entirely suitable for the whirlwind tour of the world on the itinerary for the evening. We don't get the opportunity to hear much music devoted to woodwinds in our city, so this is a rare treat. Just as appealing is the selection of works being played, some of which may come as a surprise.
  • Good concert is more than music to your ears

    What makes a concert special for you? Is it the choice of music -- perhaps a favourite piece or something you've never heard before and are thrilled to discover? Some people select concerts based on the soloist. They want an opportunity to witness in person an artist they've heard in recordings or on the radio.
  • Singing the praises of a local institution

    Break out the bubbly, blow up the balloons -- Winnipeg's longest-running choir is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir is pulling out all the stops this season with a star-studded performance of Felix Mendelssohn's epic oratorio Elijah on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 3 p.m. at the historic St. Boniface Cathedral.
  • Lordy, lordy, listen to who's 40

    Turning 40 is a big deal for many of us. It seems to be a marker of sorts, a time when we reflect on who we are and what we've accomplished and look ahead to where we are going -- and maybe even what we want to change. For the Winnipeg Singers and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, both marking 40th anniversaries this year, it's a time to celebrate -- and they have decided to join forces to do so together.
  • Meet the next great pianist

    On Friday night, the audience at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Masterworks concert witnessed an amazing up-and-coming artist. From the moment Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii walked on stage, we knew we were witnessing someone about who we will come to say, "I heard him when..." Nobu, as he is known, showed every requisite quality for a pianist to succeed. He has complete control of the instrument, shows depth of expression and perception, mind-boggling technique and dexterity and musicianship to spare.
  • New year presents plenty of musical gifts

    It's always a letdown to realize that after all the buildup, the holidays are over. Even though we may have had our fill of turkey, eggnog and visiting, it's hard to transition back to real life -- work, busy schedules and those pesky credit card bills. But take heart. It's the new year and local arts organizations have many musical offerings to soothe our winter blues. The following are a few picks that look especially promising.
  • Family, faith, music renew cellist Hooker

    For many people, attending a performance of Nutcracker is a treasured tradition at this time of year. When the overture began on opening night of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production on Thursday, it was especially meaningful for one musician in the pit. Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Yuri Hooker was making his first appearance with the orchestra since last season. In early September, Hooker was in Ottawa, rehearsing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) for the upcoming run of La Bohème with Opera Lyra Ottawa. After a dress rehearsal, he went out with a friend to a local club to listen to a klezmer band. That's the last thing he remembers.
  • WSO bringing ringer into city for Messiah

    There is nothing more gratifying for a journalist than to know that people are reading your column. A great deal of work goes into the crafting of each and every one, so when you get responses from readers, you know you've reached them. In the case of my last column (Nov. 28) about holiday choral concerts, I received several emails from groups whose concerts were not mentioned. Some were quite indignant. And while I explained that space is always a consideration, I realize that it is still important for music lovers to find out about these concerts, so I decided to do a "Best of the Rest" column to cover off some upcoming choral concerts that were missed in the last one. Unfortunately, some brought to my attention have already taken place, but here are two for your consideration.
  • Winnipeg choral groups sing something to please everyone

    Fasten the seat belts on your sleigh! The holiday season is fast approaching and Winnipeg choral groups will serenade you into the yuletide spirit with a selection of concerts to suit just about any musical taste. Whether you fancy traditional carols like Hark! The Herald Angels Sing or prefer something more upbeat like a jazz version of We Three Kings, there are musical treats for everyone over the next few weeks.
  • Concert violinist Gomyo set goal at age five

    What motivates a young girl to aspire to the often solitary life of a concert violinist? In the case of Canadian artist Karen Gomyo, it was a special performance she attended at the tender age of five. "The Japanese violinist Midori was in town," she says in a phone interview from Atlanta, where she was performing with the Atlanta Symphony. "My mom, who is Japanese, thought, since I was taking violin lessons: 'Why don't we take Karen?'"
  • Classical appreciation classes open new doors, and ears

    Every day I realize how lucky I was to grow up in a musical family. Although my parents weren't musicians, they loved classical music and it was always playing in our home. My aunt was a violinist in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and my brother was constantly practising clarinet or bassoon around the house. I was given recorder, piano and flute lessons. And while my flute lies gathering dust on the (matching) piano these days, I still reap the joy that classical music brings -- just from listening. It lifts my spirits when I'm down, it grounds me when things get hectic at work, and it brings tears to my eyes at unexpected moments from its sheer beauty. I can't imagine life without it.

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