Saturday, 26 April 2008

Saturday Photo: Elin and Her Viola da gamba

The house is put back together--plants moved back in from outside, chairs folded and ready to return to friends, table back in place and all that. Last night our daughter Elin and Tina Chancey, gambist extraordinaire from Washington, DC, gave a house concert here. On the program was an eclectic mix of music, from improvisations on 14th century madrigals to Bartok folk tunes.

Elin, who's played with many groups North America and in Europe, decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to learn more about improvisation. After a very structured musical education (B.Music from McGill, the equivalent of a masters from the Royal Conservatory in The Hague) she wanted to explore music as it has been played both informally and in concert by musicians over the ages. Part of her exploration was with Tina, who specializes in American traditional music but plays many other kinds: Elin got a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts which allowed her to do three intensive sessions with Tina over the last year, culminating in a visit by Tina to Montreal. This morning Tina is giving a workshop for string players of various sorts at the Maison Smith on Mount Royal, but last night it was our pleasure to host them as they performed.

Our house isn't large, but it does have the living-dining room combination common in row houses, so we set up about 30 chairs, benches and stools and put the musicians (recorder player Laura Osterlund joined them for two pieces) at the end of the room in the bay window. The concert was a great, and the concert-goers all interesting musicians or melomanes: in short, great fun.

The viola da gamba, Elin tells us, was an instrument designed for small spaces, intimate concerts, real "chamber music." It lost out to the cello when music moved to bigger concert halls, but in the last 25 years has begun to find a modern public.

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