The London Free Press: Words, Pictures combine

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When #WePlayOn plays its Saturday concert, it will share the stage with one of CBC Radio’s quickest wits and Canada’s most star-spangled cellist.

CBC Radio star Tom Allen is the master of ceremonies and narrates the London orchestra’s visit to Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Allen is a fine musician himself, but the audience at Metropolitan United Church should probably expect words — in the form of his zany one-liners — from the mic on Saturday rather than any notes from his trombone.

Allen can quip with insight about all manner of music.

Another guest, Montreal cellist Matt Haimovitz, is in London to play Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme on the #WePlayOn bill.

Haimovitz is billed as “cellist/foodie/wine-o” at his home. He also is a cellist who looks out for his instrument and, like Allen, someone who knows his classic rockers.

“You treat (a cello) very well and it gets looked over once a year. I’m not really obsessive about it. Some people get it checked up every two weeks,” he recently told Postmedia News. “My philosophy is that it’s survived 300 years, and if you take good care of it, I’m not going to be afraid to play Jimi Hendrix on it.”

Haimovitz knows his Hendrix. As an undergrad at Princeton, the young classical ace jammed with an electric guitarist, discovering the joys of rock and jazz improvising and the famous Hendrix version of the U.S. national anthem.

“It was a whole new thing. When I heard the Hendrix Star-Spangled Banner, I immediately went, ‘I gotta play that!’ ” he said.

Meanwhile, Quebec-tied guest conductor Jean-Francois Rivest helms the program, which includes Richards Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde. Rivest has worked with some of Canada’s top classical stars during posts with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and elsewhere.

The musicians are delighted to welcome 100 of London’s most recent citizens from Syria to Saturday’s performance.

#WePlayOn then guests at the London Youth Symphony’s concert on May 1 to finish its scheduled performances for the 2015-2016 season.

The organization is waiting to hear from granting agencies at all three levels of government as it plans for its 2016-2017 season.

Support from the City of London in a $100,000 grant administered by the London Arts Council helped pay for the two upcoming concerts and an earlier #WePlayOn event starring Toronto singer Patricia O’Callaghan.

— with files from ­Montreal Gazette

By: James Reaney

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