What would we do without music, no matter which category?! Any kind of music is better than none and since there is so much to chose from there really is something for everyone, even in the classical genre. Music is for all seasons and all reasons, for all ages and races. Music knows no borders and colours. Music only knows the joy of creating and transcends all barriers, even language.
One of the most wonderful examples of such borderless love was recently demonstrated in a concert, actually 3 concerts, in celebration of Erich Kunzelís 70ís birthday. The Prince of Pop, as he has been dubbed, is most familiar to local audiences and those worldwide. He created single-handedly the concept of having fun at a concert without lack of quality. He could also be called the king of perfection, because that is what he demands and of course, delivers. Therefore a critique of his concerts would read pretty boringly. The music mix is always perfect. The choice of performers is always perfect. The musicians play perfectly and his sense of humour and narrative ability is perfect.
What is left to report? What the artists under his baton have to say of course, because audiences have spoken for decades. All concerts are usually perfectly sold out.
His actual 70th birthday he spent in Vienna, conducting the Wiener Volksoper. Toronto would not do without congratulating him and asked him to come and celebrate here too. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Peter Oundjian, the current Music Director of the Toronto Symphony, benefited from the maestro as a very young musician, along with others, because Mr. Kunzel always knew how to pick and chose. He not only welcomed the maestro but gave him a special "Staendchen" with the orchestra and his violin.
That evening we also heard about other talent "discovered", furthered and frequently asked back to perform with this popular conductor. One of our local talent that has known Mr. Kunzel for a very long time is the versatile tenor Mark DuBois. Mr. Kunzel introduced him and recalled doing some 400 plus concerts with Mark. In the program booklet is states that there were 600, and when we asked Mark DuBois he laughed and said: "Probably closer to 700, but who is counting?" He sang "Iíll go home with Bonnie Jean" from Brigadoon and his rendition of "Danny Boy" is likely the most moving I have ever heard and drives tears to my eyes whenever I have the opportunity to hear him sing it. That night was no different. He sang it even more fervently than ever, perhaps because his mother had just passed away a few days earlier unexpectedly.
Irena Welhash Baerg, soprano, and her husband, Theodore Baerg, baritone, sang lovely selections from "The Merry Widow" to open the performance evening. They too look back on many concerts with the maestro.
Another amazing talent found by Mr. Kunzel was now very established and successful pianist Steward Goodyear who was pushed over 10 years ago into the limelight at the tender age of 15. He was followed by one of Canadaís most talented violin virtuosos from the West, James Ehnes who played on his priceless violin several Kreisler selections, letting his bow dance over the strings like childís play.
After the intermission we heard the world premiere of "In Celebration" by Richard Cohen and moved on to a choral work with the great Mississauga Choral Society and the delightful Canadian Childrenís Opera Chorus with "Itís a small world".
All too soon the evening was over. Tchaikovskyís "1812 Overture" with everyone participating rounded out an evening of celebration.
All barriers fell all around. There was nothing but harmony and joy. And if the standing ovation only came at the end of the evening then it was not a reflection on the performances but on us, the audience, one that still has not learned to give as exuberantly as those that perform for us.