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"From Canada, with Love" was the fitting title of the program emanating from Cary's charming Page-Walker Arts and History Center on a dazzling fall afternoon. Providing the entertainment was the Free Spirits Ensemble, an affiliate of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. Present at the proceedings and furnishing commentary throughout was the lone composer represented, Elizabeth Raum, a native of Saskatchewan and an Eastman School of Music graduate. All of the day's formalities, including the delightful after-concert reception, were sponsored by the Sister Cities Association of Cary. Honored on this afternoon was Markham, Ontario, by all accounts an exceedingly fine municipality hard by Toronto.
Opening the concert was one of the highly acclaimed composer's finest works. Searching for Sophia sought deserved recognition for women of antiquity. Performing here were five local musicians of the finest caliber: clarinetist Jim Williams, violinists Lauren Eastman and Tasi Matthews, violist Michael Castelo, and cellist Lisa Ferrebee. The "Dance" movement was high-spirited and seemingly carefree. Then the somber "Prayer" began with lugubrious solos by the several instruments, eventually becoming quite busy and intense and longingly prayerful. "Mother, grant me a voice…." In the ending "Fantasy on a Traditional Theme," the players swapped off a recurring melody among themselves.
Pianist and composer (and Artistic Director of the Ensemble) Lanette Lind has received too many honors to be chronicled here. She joined violin and clarinet for the Duet and Burlesque. The smaller instruments provided the tuneful duet, while all joined in the rollicking burlesque and, in the words of the program notes, its "whirlwind finish." Wayne Leechford demonstrated just how good the saxophone can sound as a serious solo instrument. He joined the piano for two movements from the Chagalian Suite, dreamy and surrealistic, as would befit the works of the namesake painter.
It seems that the "Bushwakker Brewpub" must be the leading watering hole in Regina, Saskatchewan. (Let's cut the Canadians some slack on that spelling.) The Bushwakker Six Pack comprises six movements, each of which extols a frothy offering served up by that establishment. The arrangement featured piano, clarinet and saxophone, surely not your everyday slice-of-life trio. In "Northern Lights Lager," the piano cleverly furnished the continuous light rays. "Last Mountain" brought on the grandiosity of the Rockies, and "MacGregor's Wee Heavy" chipped in with a Scottish reel. "India Pale Ale" was appropriately exotic. "Stubble Jumper" and "Screamin' Mosquito Chili Beer" rounded out the six-pack.
Here was the confluence of seven accomplished American musicians and a justly renowned Canadian composer. Have benign international relations ever been more harmoniously promoted?
This series continues with a concert on November 3 in the same venue. For details, click here .