More On The Musical Scene
By Jim Cooper
It is hard to believe, but the sixteenth season of the very prestigious classical/jazz music festival is just around the corner. From February 16 to March 2, a collection of some of the world’s very best musicians will happily descend on Ajijic to form the 2018 Northern Lights Festival de Febrero. The Founder and Artistic Director, Chris Wilshere, tells us he is thrilled to have performers this year from Canada, the U.S., the UK, Vienna, Belgium, and Moscow!
It is hard to imagine that performers of such international acclaim are delighted to come such distances to entertain us here, so far away. However, the reasons are several: first and foremost is the warm welcome they have always received here Lakeside, not only as enthused audience members, but also as guests in the many homes of billeters, who graciously give them a warm bed and a dose of Ajijic hospitality.
They also love the convivial atmosphere of their central “rehearsal home” where they consume three meals a day (about 1500 meals total!) and do most of their rehearsing. It means that they have a wonderful experience with fellow musicians, sharing ideas and stories. Finally, it is of course hard to beat our February weather, especially since they all come from the cold northern climate!
This year, the Festival will feature again (after his first visit two years ago), the truly astonishing violinist Julian Rachlin from Vienna. When Julian performed last time, on his 1704 Stradivarius, the audience was mesmerized. All those involved in the Festival are confident he will do so again!
The Festival opens with a “light classical” performance by Canada’s famous Quartetto Gelato, entertaining us with virtuosic showpieces, romantic tenor arias, blazing gypsy showpieces, and a world accordion champion! Not to be missed.
And speaking of accordion, Alexander Sevastian, along with his colleague Colin Maier on oboe, will dazzle us in the Salon Series showcasing JS Bach. This program was released on the Canadian label Analekta.
On Wednesday Feb 21, the main “Gala” performance will be held, featuring Julian Rachlin and the orchestra performing masterpieces by Mozart. Julian will then be joined by Sarah McElravy to perform Mozart’s famous duo for violin and viola - Sinfonia Concertante. If you are a season ticket holder (a patron), you will have an invitation to the wonderful after-concert party, with wine and jazz!
The following day will find us enjoying the Manhatten Chamber Players at the beautiful new Haus der Musik. These performers, led by Luke Fleming, are New York based, and perform chamber music at the highest level.
For lovers of opera, the Festival has a special treat for us. Daniel Moody will be returning to Ajijic and amazing us with his beautiful voice. And this year, audiences will be delighted to hear a superb soprano, Amalia Avilan. Amalia hails originally from Columbia, but is now centered in Brussels. These are two performers you must see and hear! (Note that the original date and the originally scheduled singers, have both changed. The old date was Feb 18. The new date is Feb 28).
Jazz will be back! Richard Underhill and his sax, along with Eric Saint on guitar, Daniel Barnes on drums, and the Festival is excited to have Canadian vocalist Elise LeGrow attend for her first visit to Ajijic! The quartet will perform Feb 17 at the Nueva Posada, and Feb 26 at the Avocado Club. Be there!
Saturday the 24th at the Auditorio will be a date to remember. “Julian Rachlin and Friends” is a concert that will thrill audiences with the drama of Beethoven and Shostakovich. A concert like this is a very rare event. Chris, the Artistic Director, says that a concert of this caliber should definitely be on your calendar.
Those who have been fans in previous years know that the Gryphon Trio is a special treat. Jamie Parker on piano, Roman Boris on cello, and Annalee Patpatanakoon on violin, provide us with superb musicianship. The Gryphon Trio is Canada’s premier trio, having graced audiences with numerous recordings and innumerable performances.
The Festival series Finale is always a bittersweet evening for everyone - musicians and audiences alike. Featuring four different soloists and three different concertos, it’s an evening of virtuosity. Violist Juan Miguel Hernandez will be joined by artistic director violinist Chris Wilshere to perform the Atterburg Concerto, Alex Sevastian performs a new work for accordion, and David Fung bids the Festival adieu with Mozart’s piano concerto. It will be a remarkable evening!
During the entire two weeks of the Festival, there will be ten students from various parts of Mexico, attending under scholarship provided by the Festival. They will receive multiple lessons from the musicians, master classes, and will attend the musical events. They will be accommodated in the village, and will have their meals with the Festival players, giving them the opportunity to learn, enjoy, and have a truly memorable experience. This, as we have been reminded by Chris Wilshere, is one of the Festival’s key goals: bringing world class musical opportunities to up and coming future virtuosos from Mexico.