Orchestra Kingston/Canta Arya School for Strings
May 7, 2016 at the Isabel

While it is not at all insignificant to encounter a collaborative effort of (mostly) amateur musicians staging a prodigious and ambitious program, it is downright shocking to have a Canadian conductor (John Palmer) not only conduct his own composition, but works from two other notable Canadians, Clifford Crawley and John Burge, the latter (a Juno award winner) on hand to individually thank each of the talented young soloists on stage, after they flawlessly performed his “Concerto For 4 Violins”.


What appeared at first sight as an “end-of-year” recital, soon revealed itself to be a polished production, complete with clear and dynamic harmonies, from a number of Canta Arya groups, entering and exiting at various times. Each personnel change was a well-rehearsed and efficient transition, under the watchful and dashing ever-vigilant school directors Karen Kimmett, Venetia Gauthier and Deb McFarlane. Everyone, including some very young artists, walked with authority to their preset destinations. No one stumbled. No one dropped an instrument. The group bow at the end (slightly audible to those in the front rows, the younger ones heartwarmingly reciting “I can see my shoes”) choreographed to “Broadway” perfection.


The Suzuki method, a global phenomenon legendary for its instilment of confidence and assertiveness in budding artists, was ever so convincing in the piercing opening notes of Boccherini’s “Moderato e Grazioso” minuet, one of several memorable melodies embedded in Crawley’s ingeniously crafted “Starship Twinkle”. Double forte boisterous in its exclamation statement , and animatedly faint, in the response. Luigi would have been impressed with this rendition of his celebrated minuet.


Overheard at intermission (by a visiting composer): “The kids were all in tune. That may not sound startling, however, I have, sadly, performed with groups where NO ONE was in tune!”


Prominent voices from the professionals sitting in Orchestra Kingston’s principal’s chairs provided a solid basis for the rest of the ensemble, who collectively played with very few rocky moments. The woodwinds, in particular, shone with technical finesse during the melodic passages of Sibelius’ “Finlandia”. The strings performance of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” was appropriately fiery and agile.


And what more can be said of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts theatre that has not already been articulated? It is a unique gem for the residents of Kingston to proudly show off. Superbly engineered acoustics and the most comfortable seating, the quality of sound underscored by the Mascagni “Intermezzo” (performed by Orchestra Kingston augmented with Canta Arya students). It was lush and dream-like, as the composer intended. It started breath-like and undulated through its opening passages with clarity and dulcet tones, achieving an emotional climax, and ending with a “smorzando” of the diminishing flame. Nothing left but a smoky haze and complete silence, the audience captivated, as unmoving and still as all the musicians on stage, for what seemed to be minutes, but in fact, was only seconds. It was a classic “sheer beauty” moment, one of many, in a first class concert.


Rex Limn

Picton, Ontario








By Barbara Fear

A capacity crowd welcomed Orchestra Kingston and the Kingston Community Strings to their inaugural joint concert at The Isabel concert hall on May 8.

A carefully chosen program engaged the audience who responded with enthusiasm.

Canadian composer Godfrey Ridout’s rousing “Fall Fair”, conducted by Wayne Tindale, united the musical forces on stage and filled the hall with rich exciting sound.

Following, in contrast, Maestro Tindale conducted John Rutter’s “Suite for Strings”, a work filled with stylish sophistication and a gentleness of mood that captivated the audience once again. Revealing hints of familiar themes throughout, the Strings brought a tenderness to the music which ended with a rhythmic third movement.

Concluding the first part of the programme, Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides, op.26” took the full stage with conductor John Palmer. Evoking the roiling foam of a storm on the water surrounding Fingal’s Cave in northern Scotland, the music’s strong, dynamic themes showcased the brasses. As the force of the storm declines, a peaceful calm spreads throughout the music.

Sir Malcolm Arnold’s “Little Suite (No. l)” opened the second half of the programme.

Once again, the hall was rewarded with a pleasing work, that challenged and enlightened the audience and orchestra alike. The work was originally composed for the National Youth Orchestra of Britain which Arnold founded, and revealed a unique and pleasing sense of style which he espoused as a non-conformist of his time.

Concluding the evening, Conductor John Palmer’s original composition in four movements, “Suite of Spanish Dances” gave the ‘grand’ touch to the Grand Finale. Comprising music related to four similar but different dances in the Spanish style, it roused endless musical visions of Matadors, Bull Rings, sensuous Tango dancers, Carmen Miranda and her Rumbas with great aplomb.

Need I say it was a ‘blast’? It left the audience a tad breathless, yet eager for more.

All in all a successful evening of memorable music, talented conductors and musicians, and hope of another such concert to come.