Nineteen music students with their instruments are gathered at St. Hilda’s Church on a sunny Saturday — eight of the Coast’s own Youth Orchestra and 11 visitors from Washington — and they are playing the same three notes over and over. This is boot camp for strings. It’s what it takes to learn and express a piece of music.
The musicians from the Afiara String Quartet, on tour in Sechelt to perform at a Coast Recital Society (CRS) concert, are leading them, with the Youth Orchestra’s conductor, Kathleen Hovey, looking on.
Yuri Cho, violinist with the quartet, has a soft voice, but sets her students some hard tasks. David Samuel, violist, leads them through a difficult transition.
Later, Adrian Fung, the quartet’s cellist, remarks, “Every time I meet these students I’m always struck by their skills and their courage.”
He recalls how nervous he was to learn from professionals when he was young.
The quartet’s teaching gig was organized by CRS’s on-going outreach program. Sometimes visiting musicians will perform at one of the Coast’s three care homes; on other occasions they go to the schools where students can ask questions and learn. In this way, internationally renowned musicians might be playing a free concert for your aging parent or your first-year piano student.
CRS artistic director Frances Wainwright, also in the workshop’s audience, was looking forward to Sunday’s concert when the Afiara Quartet performed with Jane Coop, an award-winning pianist. Coop won her first prize for performance at the age of 19 and continued to earn honours thereafter. As a concert pianist she has performed in 20 countries and is now senior professor and head of piano at University of British Columbia’s School of Music. She was recently appointed to the Order of Canada.
“She’s performed here several times and has given workshops as part of our outreach,” said Wainwright.
One time, after giving a recital at Chatelech Secondary School, a 15-year-old walked up to Coop and told her she had been ready to give up piano, but after hearing the performance she decided to continue.
At a pre-concert chat on Feb. 24, Coop elaborated on working with young people.
“A teacher must give off a tremendous sense of passion and energy,” she said.
The passion was certainly there at Sunday’s concert at the Raven’s Cry Theatre, especially during a collaboration of Afiara and Coop on a challenging piece of music, the Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34 by Johannes Brahms.
Many in the full house had come especially to hear this robust and melodious music, and they were not disappointed. It was definitely the highlight of a concert that opened with the Afiara String Quartet, prized for their interpretation of Beethoven, performing the composer’s String Quartet in A Major. Coop followed in her solo performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
“Beethoven and Brahms,” Coop said. “What better can you have for a programme?”
CRS offers one more concert this season on Sunday, March 17, featuring pianist Angela Cheng. For more information see www.coastrecitalsociety.ca.