Chamber music through the ages 

The Arbutus Ensemble performs at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Arbutus Ensemble With Alison Patterson on cello, Alison Hext-Roberts on piano, Barbara Irschick on viola and Masako Matsumoto on violin (l to r).
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Arbutus Ensemble With Alison Patterson on cello, Alison Hext-Roberts on piano, Barbara Irschick on viola and Masako Matsumoto on violin (l to r).

Alison Hext-Roberts says she and her fellow Arbutus Ensemble musicians came together because of their love for chamber music.

"The passion for all of us is the fact that we're playing chamber music, and certainly the orchestral players among us are used to playing with other instruments. We absolutely adore being a part of something so much greater than ourselves as individuals.

"For each of us it is like speaking a different language, but together you play your part of the theme and then you pass it over to the next instrument and they put a different take on it. All the instruments have different timbres, we play a slightly different part and sound.

"That is the wonderful thing about chamber music, especially for string players who are used to being part of an entire section. This is why we do what we do."

She adds that the core group has been playing together for 20 years.

"We use ensemble rather than quartet because it's more versatile. Sometimes we're a quintet, occasionally we're a trio," Hext-Robert says.

The Arbutus Ensemble includes Hext-Roberts on piano, Masako Matsumoto on violin, Barbara Irschick on viola, and Alison Patterson on cello.

"It's different having all women, it's absolutely true. We have to be quite disciplined or else it becomes a very social occasion!" Hext-Roberts laughs.

"We make sure we get our work done. It has been really fun working with all women. I'm not sure it makes any difference in the way we play music."

Each has extensive experience playing around the world.

"As a quartet we've played a lot locally, mainly in Vancouver, for different music festivals as well," Hext-Roberts says.

"We probably only perform together four or five times a year. We'll get a program together and offer it to several different locations, which is nice because it is a lot of work to get it up and ready to play."

The concert has a very varied repertoire and covers music from the 17th to 20th centuries by Telemann, Mozart, Erno Dohnanyi, Joaquin Turina and Astor Piazzolla. British composer John Williams' Theme From Schindler's List and Scott Joplin's Heliotrope Bouquet will also be performed.

"The organizers of the Whistler show were looking for quite a bit of variety, so people with different interests would hopefully hear something that was close to them, music that would appeal to a wide range of people," Hext-Roberts says.

Asked what style of music she prefers, Hext-Roberts says classical wins out.

"As a group, though, it has been really fun to grow the repertoire and incorporate some jazz and contemporary music as well," Hext-Roberts says.

The ensemble hopes to take its work further and develop its performance for schools in the Lower Mainland.

"We want to feature this as a school program; we will do it as a walk through the centuries. We already have a couple of bookings for the fall and will also get something happening for the spring as well."

The Arbutus Ensemble is performing at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for youth, and available at the Whistler Museum.

The concert will be followed by a Q & A.

The concert's promoter, Jane Reid, says she and organizer Alison Hunter want to bring more classical music to Whistler.

"The church is a lovely place to perform. The acoustics are wonderful in there. Alison has the connections (as a classical harpist) to find musicians and bring them here," she says.

"It's a great way for people to listen to and appreciate beautiful music — very approachable, beautiful classical music — and learn something at the same time. I think a lot of people are interested in those things.

"(Hext-Roberts) has known (Hunter) for a long time and the other musicians have been members of other orchestras, including the Vancouver Symphony and with the Vancouver Orchestra. A musicians can never do one thing at a time."


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