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Art Beat: Coast Recital Society wraps season with a 'virtuosic barnburner'

Also, the Off the Page series wraps up with 'Any Luck?' from Gibsons playwright Peter Hill.
Members of Ensemble Made in Canada acknowledge a nearly-full house at the Raven’s Cry Theatre on March 5.

The final show of the Coast Recital Society’s concert season was a virtuosic barnburner that would by rights have earned its standing ovation for the players’ physical stamina alone.  

Their tenacity was just the beginning. The deft musicianship of Ensemble Made in Canada — Philip Chiu, piano; Elissa Lee, violin; Sheila Jaffé, viola; and Trey Lee, cello — produced sparkling interpretations of three demanding piano quartets. 

The recital was held on March 5 at the Raven’s Cry Theatre. It was the group’s final appearance on their cross-Canada winter tour, and represented a triumphant post-COVID return for the ensemble which last played on the Sunshine Coast in January 2020. 

Carolyn Mitchell, president of the Coast Recital Society, led a pre-concert conversation with the artists.  

Asked about the challenge of attracting emerging generations to classical music, cellist Trey Lee said, “For me, it’s about how we can continue educating and showing young people that slow-moving things are important. What’s beautiful about classical music is that it’s timeless in the sense that the Sans-Saëns [quartet] we’re playing today is always going to take a half an hour.” 

“No matter what advancements are happening in artificial intelligence, when we sit down and play, this will always take that amount of time. People today are looking for something a little bit more real, and it doesn’t get more real than live performed music.” 

A contemporary piano quartet by Canadian Stewart Goodyear was followed by works from two giants of French repertoire: Camille Saint-Saëns (Piano Quartet No. 2) and Ernest Chausson (Piano Quartet in A major).  

With all three pieces, the musicians began with conspicuously muted dynamics, leaving headroom for the fireworks that followed. In the Saint-Saëns, Chiu channeled the composer’s passion for the organ into sturdy bass clef work and finely-wrought trills. Meanwhile, the string players passed the melody between themselves as seamlessly as a spoken conversation. 

The final movement of Chausson’s work brought down the house with its well-blended string sostenutos and tightly-controlled piano arpeggios. “Chausson,” said violist Jaffé, “is the party that you never want to end.” 

The Coast Recital Society will announce its upcoming season this spring.

Off The Page spins fortune’s wheel 

A new play by Gibsons playwright Peter Hill will be performed by readers on March 12 as the Off The Page series wraps up. 

Any Luck? is set in the angling community of Fishwood. The coastal characters that live there get by on fishing and happy hour — until their lives are disrupted by two women who arrive by sailboat from the big city. It’s a tale of love and beer as coastal characters clash with new residents who have arrived straight from Whole Foods. 

Hill believes coastal communities — even real-life ones — attract a particular kind of people. “For one thing, they offer freedom from the strictures of the big city,” he said. “People are allowed to be more themselves. Eccentricities emerge, which can be good and bad. But for the most part, they give a place personality.” 

Hill’s play The Chinese Student was previously read at Off the Page in 2021. 

Any Luck? will be read by Pam Girone, Mac Dodge, Varya Rubin, Kris Fleerackers, Tara Blascoe, Steve Schwabl and Roger Meloche. The performance takes place at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons on March 12 at 1 p.m. Admission is by donation. 

The future of the Off The Page reading series is uncertain. Despite this, coordinators Wanda Nowicki and Janet Hodgkinson plan to conclude the current season on a celebratory note. Off the Page was originally founded by playwright and songwriter David King.

One Flower, One Leaf, sixth anniversary 

The One Flower One Leaf gallery in Gibsons Landing is planning to mark its sixth anniversary with live music by Roberts Creek musician Graham Walker. 

Walker is well-known for his original children’s music, and also for his love of seeing people come together through art and music. He is the founder of the popular Beachcombers Ukulele Group (the BUGS) and has been an organizer of Slow Sundays in the Creek, Music in the Landing, and the Gibsons Jazz Festival. 

Walker will be singing at the One Flower One Leaf Gallery on March 18 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.