Concert inspired by unexpected soundtrack

Music: Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra musicians offer more than classics

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 08:38 am

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra violinist Robert Penner will perform in the Okotoks Arts Council's winter classical concert at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on Jan. 13 at 3 p.m.
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra violinist Robert Penner will perform in the Okotoks Arts Council's winter classical concert at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on Jan. 13 at 3 p.m.
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Video game music is not what one would expect at a classical concert but that’s what two Calgary musicians have planned for foothills residents this weekend.

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) Zabaglione String Quartet violinist Robert Penner and cellist Tom Megee are bringing a range of recognizable music from movies to popular hits on the radio to the Okotoks Arts Council’s winter classical concert at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on Jan. 13 at 3 p.m.

“One of the things about my string quartet is we have never taken ourselves really seriously,” said Penner. “Our objective is to be accessible and entertaining and not to play music from some very lofty artistic place that people have to struggle to understand.”

Penner understands what people enjoy, having performed across Alberta for years, and he intends to bring that knowledge to Okotoks. In doing so he will be removing the stiff and formal persona of classical music and introducing music people have heard on video games, at movies and on radio stations.

“It’s not a concert where you sit tight and try not to clap in the wrong place,” he said. “It’s going to be really eclectic and entertaining cut across generations. Part of the concept for us was to take music only the older generation would know and music only the younger generation would know and music both would know and develop the program along those lines.”

Penner said the CPO is becoming better known for performing everything from Beethoven symphonies to The Beatles.

“The orchestra is trying to be accessible and relevant and certainly not elitist because that’s usually the perception about orchestras,” he said. “We’ve been working very hard over the past 10 years to not be that.”

In creating his arrangements for his performances Penner keeps both his audience and instrument in mind.

“I take into account what’s going to sound good and how we can extract the most pleasing sound out of the instruments so it sounds really interesting,” he said.

Penner, who has performed at the RPAC before, began playing the violin at age nine, was the assistant concertmaster of the Regina Symphony and joined the CPO in 1983.

Megee, an American who joined the CPO in 1990, studied in the United States, Italy and Vienna and has been a featured soloist with numerous orchestras in the U.S. and Canada.

Penner and Megee’s upcoming performance in Okotoks marks the second classical concert for the Okotoks Arts Council this season, according to Town of Okotoks cultural and historical services team leader Allan Boss.

“The first one went exceptionally well,” he said. “We had about 80 people there. It’s a great sounding venue and the musicians tend to like it.”

Boss said the audience has grown since the Okotoks Arts Council brought classical concerts to its stage.

“We have seen growth at every single concert that we’ve had,” he said. “Early last year I began formulating these partnerships with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Mount Royal University Conservatory. We will go forward with it again for next year.”

Bringing an accomplished cellist and violinist to the stage should make an entertaining afternoon for residents of all ages, said Boss.

“The violin and cello are always beautiful together,” he said. “They compliment each other very well. It should be a beautiful concert.”

Tickets to see Penner and Megee perform cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door. A package of three tickets for the Sunday classical music concerts can be purchased for $30 with concerts scheduled throughout the winter and spring by the CPO and Mount Royal University Conservatory.

Tickets can be purchased at the Okotoks Art Gallery or by calling 403-938-3204.


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