Accomplished violinist Jeanne Lamon moved to Victoria in 2019 with decades of high-level experience on her résumé, which she put to good use in the years that followed as she eased out of semi-retirement and into the city’s active Baroque music community.
The native of Queens, New York, who spent more than three decades at the helm of Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, died June 20 in Victoria after a brief battle with lung cancer. She was 71.
Lamon left Toronto in 2019 to move west with her partner, longtime Tafelmusik cellist Christina Mahler, eventually settling in Oak Bay. Both Lamon and Mahler continued to perform during their semi-retirement, often in collaboration with Victoria Baroque, an ensemble of players who specialize in performances of music from the 17th Century.
Lamon first performed as a guest conductor and soloist with Victoria Baroque in 2013. She often led from within, which, in Baroque music terms, meant she did double-duty during performances. “Jeanne would often play the violin, but her main role was directing the ensemble,” said Soile Stratkauskas, artistic director of Victoria Baroque.
“She was a really warm performer. She was a very genuine personality. That really came across when you worked with her. She had a gift of bringing people together throughout her career. There is a whole generation of Baroque musicians in Canada who really got started because of her mentorship and inspiration. ”
It was a unique skill set with which Lamon would make her name in Toronto. She was awarded several notable honours during her lifetime, including the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, after growing Tafelmusik into one of the world’s top Baroque orchestras.
Lamon broadened the reputation of Early Music worldwide during 33-year Tafelmusik tenure, from 1981 to 2014, and criss-crossed North America for performances with the orchestra. Early Music America presented her with a lifetime achievement award, while the Canada Council for the Arts once described her as “a toweringly influential figure in the musical life of Canada.”
In its obituary of Lamon last week, The New York Times said she “was not content simply to recreate centuries-old music; she wanted to make it appealing to a modern audience.”
Stratkauskas, a decorated flautist, performed alongside Lamon and others last year during Music for the Pause, a livestreaming series from July through September that was organized by Victoria violinst Chloe Kim and broadcast from Christ Church Cathedral on Burdett Avenue.
Lamon last performed with Victoria Baroque in October, Stratkauskas said. “Obviously, none of us could imagine that that would be the last time. When she was playing with us, she seemed so full of life and energy.”
Her life was celebrated last month during a private funeral, but donations can be made in Lamon’s honour to Victoria Baroque (victoria-baroque.com/donate). A tribute concert is expected to take place later this year, Stratkauskas said.
“I will consult with her partner, Christina,” she said. “But I would definitely like to acknowledge her, when we can have people come together again.”