I am sitting in a beautiful, sunlit space with a sloping wooden ceiling, ready to experience the first of six AMAZING cello concerts. I know, I know ... I’m a bass player for God’s sake and not only am I looking forward to this concert but, together with TSO cellist Winona Zelenka I organized the whole series. How did this happen?
Start with a stunning acoustic, and a gorgeous building in a part of town where you might not expect to hear classical music. I first discovered Seicho-No-Ie through a friend. I’m a bassist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and have been organizing concerts for as long as I can remember.
In my experience, when musicians see a place like this they immediately think concerts! After our first visit to Seicho-No-Ie (a Japanese non-denominational centre of worship) my wife Kim and I invited Etsuko Kimura (assistant concertmaster at the TSO) to try her violin in this venue.
Up until this point there had never been a concert in the building, a fact that we found rather exciting. Etsuko fell in love with the sound and, on the spot, we came up with the idea for a six-concert series with six violinists, six one-hour concerts and each one featuring one of J.S. Bach’s solo sonatas or partitas. Presto! It happened. That was last year. The series was a success; we were able to raise money for the church, pay the artists and bring fine music to the neighbourhood.
So how do you follow that? Well, Bach did compose six suites for solo cello, too. TSO assistant principal cellist Winona Zelenka had attended one of the violin concerts (TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow) and was blown away by the sound. When I mentioned a cello series she jumped at the chance and together we have assembled a lineup of six of the finest cellists you will find anywhere. Our country is well represented with players coming from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Everyone loves the cello - this is a chance to get up close and personal with six terrific players, hear varied repertoire including all the Bach suites and explore a new concert space ... What more could you ask for? So join me October 26, as I sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labours.
Joe Johnson, October 26, Suite No.1
Elinor Frey, November 16, Suite No.6
Ariel Barnes, January 11, Suite No.4
Winona Zelenka, February 1, Suite No.2
Rachel Mercer, March 8, Suite No.3
Brian Manker, May 3, Suite No.5
662 Victoria Park Avenue