Tuckamore at 10

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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2010 festival to include Borromeo String Quartet, James Campbell

In 2001, pianist Timothy Steeves, violinist Nancy Dahn and cellist Thomas Lowenheim offered the first Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival in St. John’s. Ten years in, the festival continues as an annual draw for fans, students and professionals.

At the MUN School of Music during a past Tuckamore Festival, a coaching session includes Ellen Kogut (violin), Vernon Regehr (standing), Jenna Richards, (at the piano), Heather Wright (viola) and Saird Larocque (cello).

“I think the city really needed a chamber music festival,” Steeves said this week. “The festival has two roles. The first is to bring in fantastic musicians and make great music, but there’s also an educational program to it and we audition and invite 20 — we call them young artists, but they’re really students — they range in age from about 16 to 24.”

Steeves and Dahn have continued the festival year-to-year (Lowenheim has since moved from the island), with a focus on this educational program.

“(The students) have come from all over. This year they’re coming from all over North America. We’ve had them from as far away as Europe and Israel. They audition, we put them into chamber music groups,” Steeves said. “We really put them front and centre. A lot of festivals have educational programs, but they kind of put them sort of in the background, but we don’t.”

The selected student participants have a heavy rehearsal and performance schedule during the festival.

“There’s a lot of free events during the day where the kids take part. There’s master classes they play in (with guest performers), there’s open rehearsals, noon-hour concerts. ... What’s interesting is you see the same audience members can go to these events, they’re kind of following the progress of the students. It’s really exciting to watch.”

Steeves said the success of the educational program comes in the development and subsequent accomplishments of the students.

In 2010, one of the festival’s past students will return to the stage as a professional guest performer.

“We’re bringing back this year Jennie Press,” Steeves said. “She did the festival, oh, maybe eight years ago as a young artist and she’s doing really well. She landed a position at the Vancouver Symphony.”

Press has studied violin since the age of three and made her solo debut with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra at 13. She has since performed with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony and Key West Symphony.

Tuckamore Festival manager Bui Petersen pointed to other reasons to get excited about the Tuckamore Festival this year.

“It’s the main classical music event during the summer, really,” he said, noting the visit of the Borromeo String Quartet right off the top. The group has been quartet-in-residence for 17 years at the famed New England Conservatory of Music.

“They haven’t performed much in this part of Canada, but they are well known,” Peterson said.

“Another exciting thing I find is there’s newly commissioned work by Jocelyn Morlock,” he said. “She’s from Vancouver and she’s one of the new, young composers in Canada. Her music is quite accessible. It’s contemporary music, but it’s quite accessible.”

Morlock is in one of those rehearsal/performance combinations that Steeves recommends taking in. There will be an open rehearsal with Morlock on Thursday, Aug. 5 from 2-4 p.m. at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall in the MUN School of Music. It is followed on Friday, Aug. 6 by an evening concert that will include the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s composition: “Asylum.” The concert is also at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall and will begin at 8 p.m.

“Woodwinds are rare at the Tuckamore Festival — it’s mostly strings and piano — so James Campbell is a Canadian clarinetist and he’s known around the world and he will be performing Mozart’s clarinet quintet, which many people think is the best clarinet piece Mozart (wrote). It’s certainly one of the most respected pieces. So that will be a fabulous program on the 11th,” Peterson said.

Campbell will perform in a concert beginning at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall. The concert will also include Dahn, Steeves, Press, Rennie Regehr on viola and Vernon Regehr on cello.

Other guest artists for 2010: the Gryphon Trio, Stephanie Sant’ Ambrogio and Jennifer Johnson. Dahn and Steeves will also perform as the chamber group Duo Concertante.

Meanwhile, asked for what he feels are highlights from 10 years of the festival, Steeves paused for a moment.

“Louis Lortie was amazing. The Shanghai Quartet, they were absolutely fantastic,” he said. “For me, personally, a lot of the great moments have been with the young artists, the students. Some of them have just played amazingly well. I think because they’re front and centre ... they’re really inspired by some of these guest artists and it really, really pushes them and they’ve turned in some just stunning performances at the final concert.”

The final concert for Tuckamore Festival 2010 is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall.


Organizations: Jennie Press, Vancouver Symphony, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Baltimore Chamber Orchestra New England Conservatory of Music MUN School of Music Shanghai Quartet

Geographic location: North America, Europe, Israel Canada Annapolis Key West Vancouver

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