If you've been lucky enough to take in a Ritornello Chamber Music Festival performance, you know it's truly an incredible experience. Goosebumps kind of incredible. Pianist Jacqueline Woods and violinist Carissa Klopoushak are the creators of this annually fresh and innovative concert series that returns this weekend and they took a few moments from their hectic schedules to chat with us about the beginnings and highlights of Ritornello. If you love Saskatoon, music, and good people doing great things, you'll want to read on!
The festival began as Jacqueline worked on her Master's in Ottawa and Carissa was doing hers in Montreal. The two had coffee while in Saskatoon for Christmas and lamented the fact that there were so few chances to play at home. To boot, Saskatchewan didn't have a chamber music festival! "Carissa and I both adore chamber music," explains Jacqueline, "We'd both had the great fortune to participate in numerous festivals across North America and we wanted to bring that sort of energy to Saskatoon!"
Ritornello's audience is super mixed, young and old, and of various levels of immersion to the genre. "There are people who have been listening to Classical music for ages and people who have never experienced it before." But Jacqueline assures us with a wink, "The latter always leave converts."
Their aim with Ritornello is three-fold, Carissa tells us. "First, we want to share this special kind of music performance, the really intimate, dynamic kind, with Saskatoon audiences. We also try to bring the classical concert experience into this century - presenting music that we really believe in, knowing that the audiences will love it or be as excited by it as we are. And of course, we like to showcase exciting performers from the prairies and across Canada, as well as our friends in Saskatoon."
And though it's difficult for the girls to pick favourites, they've programmed some really special music this year, like Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, a piece by Nico Muhly, the Dvorak piano quintet... many of their absolute favourite pieces, not often (or ever?) performed in Saskatchewan. "Also, we're bringing in the world-class and seriously acclaimed guest artists the Cecilia Quartet and Phil Chiu!" Carissa dishes. "They're excellent people and excellent performers. You'll love meeting them. I'm also really excited to see how Brendan Flaherty's poetry will add to the Saturday night concert." (We are, too!)
There is something on the schedule for everyone:
-Friday at 7:30, it's a gala concert at Grace Westminster, a more traditional presentation of Classical music with some really exciting Slavic gems like the Dvorak Piano Quintet.
-Saturday is a more laid back affair at Village Guitar at 9; a later starter with beer, wine, and tapas - and live poetry by Saskatoon poet Brendan Flaherty.
-Sunday's 2:30 offering is a sunny afternoon concert at Mayfair United with a variety of great pieces that Jacqueline promises will get listeners' hearts smiling.
To reserve your tickets for this weekend's concerts, visit ritornello.ca or call 306-370-9588. Thank-you to Carissa and Jacqueline for taking the time to chat with us! We're certainly looking forward to hearing your beautiful music all weekend long.
Maygen + Karyn