What: Mattina Musica/Classical Coffee Concerts with Sarah Hagen
When: Monday (Courtenay) and Tuesday (Nanaimo), 10: 30 a.m.
Where: The Port Theatre
Tickets: $25 regular, $22 members and groups, $15 students at tickets.porttheatre.com
Isn't it strange how a theatre full of people with a common love of classical music will gather for a symphony, but leave without interacting with one another?
Pianist Sarah Hagen thought so. So she began organizing concerts in the less-stodgy setting of her own living room a few years ago.
"I think classical music gets a little bit of a bad rap because it seems kind of stiff," she said. "It was so relaxed [in my living room], especially because we'd have tea and biscuits and there was a real community that formed. And I thought, wouldn't it be great if that atmosphere could transfer to a theatre?"
The Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, where Hagen used to live, was the first to begin adopting the more intimate model with periodic Mattina Musica shows. Since then, she has also brought it to the Surrey Arts Centre, the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, as well as the Port Theatre in Nanaimo (Classical Coffee Concert Series).
"The Port Theatre is huge - it seats 800 people," she said. "But they have this incredibly beautiful lobby space. It's all glass on the outside and the light is so beautiful, especially in the morning, so it works perfectly. They move their Steinway out there."
The only hiccup, she said, is that rather than socializing and enjoying tea before the show, many concert-goers end up grabbing seats early and listening to the rehearsal.
"But it's kind of nice, because that's how it would be in your living room," she said.
Hagen, who now lives in Vancouver, has performed throughout Europe and North America. She has played as a soloist with the Victoria Symphony, as well as collaborating with Ariel Barnes, Trio Accord, Rebecca Wenham, Larry Knopp, Ballet Victoria, the Emily Carr String Quartet and many more. She is also artistic director for Pro'ject Sound, a performance project featuring live piano alongside large-scale projected images.
Typically, she invites one special guest to perform with her for the morning concerts. "When two people make music together, the musical conversation is quite intimate, so it kind of suits the setting," she said. "You're letting people into your little world."
This Monday and Tuesday, she welcomes Krzysztof Kaczka from Poland, who is the principal flautist for the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in China. He made his New York debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall as the IBLA Grand Prize winner (the prize is named for an ancient Sicilian city) and was named a laureate of the prestigious Young Poland Award in 2006.
Hagen and Kaczka first bonded over dance moves during a party at the Banff Centre, then coincidentally ran into one another six months later on a bridge in Paris. Since then, they've maintained a long-distance friendship but perform together whenever they find they're in the same part of the world. "A lot of people play the flute," said Hagen. "But he can bring so much to the instrument, as if it was not even the flute sometimes."
Mattina Musica continues at the Sid Williams Theatre Nov. 5, Feb. 4, March 11 and April 22. Classical Coffee Concerts continue at the Port Theatre Oct. 16, Nov. 6, Feb. 5, March 12 and April 23.
Anticipated guests at both Mattina Musica and Classical Coffee Concerts include violist Vaida Rozinskaite and Martin Chalifour, concert master for the L.A. Philharmonic. Each concert also involves discussion.
"I recognize so many of the people," said Hagen. "It was to create a community of people who like the same kind of music and I think that is actually happening."
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