DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Performing art music 'freaky' in tropical climate, says violinist Geoff Nutall

By John Terauds on January 21, 2012

American violinist Steven Copes is mobbed by young violin students following a masterclass in Cartagena, Colombia. (John Terauds photo)

I have an article in today’s Toronto Star about my time at the sixth annual Cartagena International Music Festival in Colombia. Unfortunately, that article doesn’t appear to be online, so I’m reproducing it here:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Great classical music is not something most sun destinations have on their tourist menu.

But this fortress town on the Caribbean Sea founded by Spanish colonists in 1533 doesn’t qualify as an ordinary sun destination.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Cartagena has been working hard ever since to attract tourists with as wide a mixture of cultural attractions at it can think of.

That includes art, literature and music.

It helps a lot that strong-minded Colombian presidents and city mayors have tried over the past decade to eliminate the formerly notorious drug cartels and appease political terrorists.

A strong and visible (yet polite) police presence serves as a quiet reminder that everything is under control.

Most of the tourist bustle along the city’s narrow, colourfully winding streets comes from day trippers spilling off visiting cruise shops and from longer visits from fellow South Americans, who fill hotels and beaches in and around the walled city during the peak tourist months of January and February.

It was mostly Colombians who savoured the sixth annual Cartagena International Music Festival’s eight days of concerts, lectures, masterclasses and community outreach programs that ended on Jan. 14 with a nationally televised closing concert.

But the finest of the musicmakers were, in this writer’s opinion, Canadians – including violinist Lara St. John and the St. Lawrence String Quartet – and Americans.

California-based pianist, composer and arranger Stephen Prutsman has been the festival’s artistic mastermind for the last four years.

Cartagena and its businesspeople have given him use of a half-dozen excellent venues, ranging from intimate former Spanish colonial-era chapels to an open-air square, to the picturesque restored 1911 Heredia opera house, now known as the Teatro Adolfo Mejía.

Each day saw three paid classical concerts as well as a free, late-night, open-air event featuring more popular musical styles which, this year, included Québecois new-folk powerhouses, Le Vent du Nord.
Latin America was represented by several emerging talents, as well as members of the Sao Paulo National Orchestra of Brazil, the Scola Cantorum de Venezuela and Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov (a recent guest of the Toronto Symphony’s annual New Creations festival).

Between their daily gigs, the visiting musicians provided group and one-on-one instruction to 500 teenage students who won places at the festival’s school through a competition.

The concerts were so well attended that a local tourism operator complained to me that most events are sold out well before the music begins.

Even so, Prutsman said he has to work hard to make the finances work. He explained that, because there is next to no middle class amidst the segregation of rich and poor in Colombia, he simply doesn’t have the wide small-donor base that sustains performing arts organizations in North America.

Despite the challenges, Prutsman, who speaks Spanish fluently, looks forward to coming back every year. “I’ve been to Venice many times, but no place has the magnetic attraction of Cartagena,” he said.

He spends the festival dashing between events, practising for his own daily appearances on stage as a piano accompanist, emceeing the outreach tours beyond Cartagena and putting out last-minute fires.

Prutsman tries to weave themes through the programming, such as the relationship between fashion and Mozart, or Bach and jazz.

“It’s called relational thinking,” says the Californian.

He has also noticed that Cartagena audiences love the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

“If I close with something by that guy, people will leave happy,” he says.

Geoff Nuttall, first violin of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, takes the mix a step further, making sure that one of the group’s new-music commissions can get on programs alongside the old classics.

The audiences responded with shouts of approval.

“Freaky,” is how Nuttall describes playing serious art music alongside the Caribbean Sea. That’s a good kind of freaky, because this was his quartet’s third return visit.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Against the Grain Go Baroque For The 2017–18 Season

By Michael Vincent on September 26, 2017

Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre has announced the long-awaited details on their 2017–18 season this afternoon, including two surprises that we didn't see coming. 
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

SCRUTINY | Toronto Goes Hufflepuff Over Harry Potter With Live Symphony Orchestra

By Brian Chang on October 13, 2017

“I’m a big Harry Potter Fan”, shares Noa, fully dressed in Slytherin robes, ready to go (Snape would approve). Her enthusiasm for the world of wizardry beams off her.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | Move Over Hockey, Study Shows Singing Is Canada’s National Pastime

By Michael Vincent on October 2, 2017

Choral Canada has released a public census report that suggests there are about 50% more adult choral singers in Canada than adult Hockey players. 
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.