“My name is Damon Johnston: I’m the Artistic Director of the ProArts Society, which is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary during the month of October, 2012.”
There we go Damon: I said we’d get you online, and there you are. That’s enough, is it?
It’s not? Oh.
Well, what the heck, Damon’s a literate and engaging man: let’s let him tell you what he wants to tell you. It’s the least I could do after sending me to so many interesting musical adventures.
“It’s a month-long celebration, and as luck would have it we have 5 Wednesdays in the month of October this year, so we’ll be featuring 5 concerts. We present on Wednesdays only, in the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in downtown Calgary. So we have 5 very different concerts that we will be presenting, and we’re encouraging audience members to remain afterwards for tea and a sweet with the performer, and staff, and volunteers and board of directors of the ProArts Society.”
Succinct and complete. Great, thanks. More? There’s more? I thought I was the blabbermouth around here. I guess my enthusiasm is partly to blame for encouraging his: I’ve met my equal in music-loving generalist in Damon Johnston.
“The first concert on (Wednesday) October 3rd is going to feature young and emerging singer/songwriters, part of the Soulocentric performing arts festival, one of the organizations we like to partner with in the city. That will be followed by a young man, somewhat more established, a percussionist in Calgary: his name is Rob Maciak, and he’ll be doing a concert of primarily marimba music, which is very lovely acoustically in this space. It may even take on the tone of a lecture/demonstration, which he’s very good at.
“The third week, October 17th, we’re welcoming the Cowtown Opera: this’ll be about the third time they’ve presented here. They’re of course.. . .”
Waitaminute. How can you follow a phrase like ‘Cowtown Opera’ with another phrase like ‘of course’? What is there in Cowtown and Opera which suggests an ‘of course’? Isn’t that a bit like ‘landlocked island’ ‘of course’?
I guess he’ll try to explain: take the reins, Damon, . . . B-)
“. . . on the new vanguard of opera in the city (Oh! THAT of course), and that is an opera that is stripped of all it’s very expensive trappings and presented like readers’ theatre, without all of the ballyhoo that’s associated with it.
“Further, our 4th concert of the month, October 24th, originally called Fourscore Quartet, has been changed as 2 of the performers are not available. So that will be a concert of classical clarinet (Nathaniel Schmidt) and piano (Andrew Morrow). Originally, there was also a classical voice and another musician. But the other 2 said they would very much like to present as a duo, so they’re working up something new: they’re both fairly young and very well educated, so I’m looking forward to it.”
(I did say I’d met my equal in music-loving generalist; he doesn’t put this stuff on for fame and profit. He loves it.)
“The final concert of the month is on Halloween (at noon, like the rest), and it’s a very interesting young artist, Phoebe Powell, on classical harp, and she’ll be joined by her brother, Edward, who is a classical violinist, on several of her pieces (and, the program says, Karen Neary on piano, Damon. I guess he can be forgiven for not remembering every member of every performance of 50 concerts per year.). Really interesting family: they’re all musicians, mom and dad included, and I understand they present as a quartet at different events.”
The ProArts website has further information on all of these artists. Especially interesting is some of the history of the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer itself: one would think that ProArts is a suggestion about the professional nature of the young musicians themselves, but actually it has nothing to do with that fact. Find out for yourself.
Damon continues: “We’re really quite casual about our concert presentation. When you present a free noon-hour concert there really is a broad spectrum of the public shows up at the door, and there’s a bit of come and go. You’re welcome to bring your lunch, and you’re welcome to arrive and depart at your leisure. Not exactly what you’d expect in a standard, classical music, concert experience.”
And then he describes to me a miraculous moment in the concert series decade:
“In January of 2011, we presented a series of 3 concerts that had to do with homelessness in Calgary: these were called In/Visible. The first concert of the 3 was a theatre and music concert featuring a cast of homeless people from the drop-in centre downtown, who had come together under the direction of a professional theatre artist who wanted to give them a sense of belonging and a sense of direction, and wanted them to tell their own story.”
And they did. How can you top that?
You can’t. The ProArts Series rocks. Thanks Damon.