Vancouver Classical Music: Young Strings Singing at Kessler’s Concert

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This weekend’s event inspired by the pioneering efforts of chamber music enthusiast Susan Kessler and her late husband Jack

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Kessler Academy 2021

When: Saturday August 14, 7:30 p.m.

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Or: Vancouver Theater House, 600 Hamilton Street

Tickets, information:musiconmain.ca/event/the-kessler-academy-2021/


A relatively recent addition to our summer calendar of classic events is the Kessler Academy’s annual program each August, during which advanced young string players explore the repertoire of the 20th century and, on occasion, at the -of the. The company is named after the late Jack Kessler, longtime principal violinist of the CBC Radio Orchestra, and his wife Susan.

Project instigator and leader of the Microcosmos String Quartet, violinist Marc Destrubé, told me several years ago that the founding of the academy was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the remarkable Susan Kessler in 2015.

“I studied with her husband Jack in Victoria when I was 12 years old. Susan became a fan of the Microcosmos Quartet. So for her birthday, she wanted to contribute to a kind of educational project dealing with chamber music, and more particularly strings. We designed this project to honor her and Jack and their love of classical music.

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Susan maintains a keen interest in all aspects of classical music in the city and is delighted with how the Kessler Academy has grown.

Given that the past 15 months have been impacted by most conventional forms of performing classical music, it is heartwarming to note many successes when it comes to student and music education.

The organization plan for the Kessler Academy was kept simple: a week of rehearsals and side events, followed by a big final concert. Hand-picked participants – 12 violins, four violas, four cellos and two double basses – began rehearsing with members of the Microcosmos Quartet in the CBC building on Sunday. This Saturday, August 14, they perform for the public, the final celebration of the 15th season of Music on Main.

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Kessler’s 2021 core repertoire includes twentieth-century classics for string orchestra: Divertimento for string orchestra by Béla Bartók (1939); Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in D (1946); and Paul Hindemith’s Five Pieces for String Orchestra, Op. 44, No. 4 (1927); plus a newly commissioned work by Brooklyn Wood.

Wood is both an experienced violinist and a composer. She was educated at and performs chamber music at Langley Community Music School and at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. She is Principal Violin of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra and looks forward to conducting the Langley Fine Arts Senior Orchestra next season. She has written a dozen compositions over the past few years.

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Oh, and she’s about to enter her senior year in high school.

Composer and violinist Brooklyn Wood.
Composer and violinist Brooklyn Wood. Photo by document

I chatted with Wood right after he returned from the prestigious Le Domaine Forget summer program in Charlevoix, Quebec, and as a veteran Kessler, who better to ask about the academy experience?

“This is my third year in the Kessler program. It’s a very intensive week, with a gig at the end, ”said Wood.

Were there big differences between the pre-COVID program and last year? Not a lot, at the end of the day: fewer participants from outside Canada, but no big differences. “We were very lucky because we work in a very large room and we all have lunch together outside,” she said.

Wood’s composition for Kessler 2021 is called Celadon Waves, the first line of Ellen S. Jaffe’s poem China Beach. Wood found the poem (“waves of celadon / smoky green / crashing like plates / on the shore of China Beach”) on the University of Toronto’s Poetry Online site. Wood’s 10-minute work is for strings, with solo parts for principal violin and principal cello, and without a conductor. She explained that her music follows the trajectory of the poem, “which is like a wave”.

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Most of us are excited to see the return of indoor concerts, but maybe a little concerned about the logistics. Music on Main has taken a responsible and proactive approach to the concerns of the COVID era. You can view its stringent security policies at musiconmain.ca/event/the-kessler-academy-2021/.

  1. The Kessler Academy on stage in concert.

    Classical music: Kessler Academy offers innovation, quality and commitment

  2. Montreal cellist Eleanor Frey will present her talents on August 8 at the Galerie Polygone de la Rive-Nord as part of the 2021 Blueridge Festival.

    Blueridge Festival dedicated exclusively to women’s music in 2021

  3. Principal oboe Roger Cole retired after 45 years with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

    Solo oboe Roger Cole leaves the VSO on a perfect note

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