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PREVIEW | Taking A Dive Into Ottawa Chamberfest With A.D. Carissa Klopoushak

By Anya Wassenberg on July 5, 2022

Ottawa Chamberfest Artistic Director Carissa Klopoushak (Photo: Alexander Vlad)
Ottawa Chamberfest Artistic Director Carissa Klopoushak (Photo: Alexander Vlad)

The Ottawa Chamberfest is back for summer 2022 with a full slate of in-person concerts and events, along with online offerings from the festival’s premiere venue.

Carissa Klopoushak is the Artistic Director, having taken over the role in March 2021. When Roman Borys of the Gryphon Trio made the decision to step aside, Klopoushak was invited into the role.

“I think that part of the reason that I was tapped was because of who I am as a musician,” she says. The Ottawa-based violinist is a member of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and an active chamber musician with the Ironwood Quartet, and as a member of the Ukrainian band ТутіТам. Along with classical music, she performs folk music. “I’m interested in all kinds of music,” she says.

“I had started a chamber music festival in Saskatoon where I grew up,” she explains. “I love to curate, I love to plan. I think chamber music is a special thing, and my favourite aspect of music making.”

After last year’s all-Canadian version, Klopoushak’s looking forward to a full-scale festival. “I at least had the one year to build in my approach,” she says of the challenges in planning events during the period where openings and lockdowns were uncertain. “First of all, I have a fabulous team,” she acknowledges. “I’m the one that gets to dream and imagine. I think I always had faith that this would be possible.”

Planning is an ongoing process, one that took the disruption of the past couple of years into account. Along with new artists, German pianist Hinrich Alpers, for example, will be back after his acclaimed 2019 Chamberfest debut to continue his cycle of Beethoven’s solo piano sonatas.

Ottawa Chamberfest 2019 - ART OF TIME (Photo: Andre R. Gagne)
Ottawa Chamberfest 2019 – ART OF TIME (Photo: Andre R. Gagne)

Even a casual glance at the Chamberfest program reveals a diverse selection of both music and performers.

“I can only speak to my philosophy,” says Klopoushak. “I think that at the core, what I’m trying to do is design a festival that is for everybody.” As far as she is concerned, everyone likes chamber music — they just may not know it.

Chamber music has an intimate appeal. Without a conductor, it relies on the connections between performers, and between the performers and the audience directly. She underscores the importance of including new music, and genres like folk along with classical offerings in her programming.

“I don’t think the music is the problem. We don’t have to get rid of anything, we just have to make room for others,” she says. “You don’t need prior knowledge to enjoy it,” she continues. “I try to create a festival that I would enjoy, and the people that I know would enjoy.”

“It’s making sure we have people on stage who reflect the society that we’re in. That’s who this is for, and that’s who we need to see on our stages.” Beyond that, it goes to the make up of the organization itself. “Who’s in our staff? Who’s in our board?”

The festival has a theme this year. “It kind of came to me as the festival was developing,” Klopoushak explains. “It’s about being part of the community, part of society. A theme found me, in a way, considering the year we’ve been through.” The invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic weighed heavily on her mind. “I’ve landed on this theme of light overcoming darkness.”

The various concerts develop that theme, some in subtle ways, others more obvious. The opening concert on July 21 is entitled First Light, with Finnish pianist/composer Olli Mustonen’s Nonet no. 2, and Mendelssohn’s famous Octet on the program. “We’re going to be performing music that, to me, evokes the sunrise,” she says.

“This year, we’re introducing some sunrise concerts,” she says. They’ll take place outdoors on the historic grounds of the Beechwood Cemetery. Other concerts, towards the end of the festival, will be sunset related, including Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, performed by Tunisian-born mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb.

All in all, it’s good to be back. “I think this summer, we’re presenting the magnitude that I think people are expecting from us,” she says. “I think people will be really excited to have that live music experience for real.”

Imani Winds (Image courtesy of the artists)
Imani Winds (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

The Festival

The festival includes more than 70 concerts, with several world premieres, in both small and large venues.

  • Signature Series: five concerts and collaborations between musicians with an international reputation, with the Canadian Brass, mezzo Rihab Chaieb, among others at Ottawa’s Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre.
  • The Rest is History: a concert celebrating 50 years of the Kun Shoulder Rest for violins, pioneered in Ottawa. Marina and Joseph Kun sponsor an evening showcasing artists such as Lara St. John, the Gryphon Trio, Afro-Cuban ensemble OKAN, and Carissa Klopoushak herself in an eclectic program.
  • Beechwood Series/Sunrise Concerts: outdoors at the historic grounds of Beechwood Cemetery, including GRAMMY Award-winning musician Johnny Gandelsman playing the Bach Cello Suite at sunrise, and others.
  • New Music Now: a celebration of brand new music at Chamberfest’s annual miniseries.
  • Marina Kun Series: featuring core string ensembles, solo piano, and opera amidst folk influence, with outstanding chamber musicians, including the innovative Imani Winds, the Verona Quartet, and Toronto’s own Tafelmusik.
  • Chamberfringe Series: a late night cross genre concert series, with the Cris Derksen Quartet, Moskitto Bar, and other innovators.
  • Midday Matinées: this new series features both renowned musicians and newcomers at local venues, including Brahms Horn Trio and Berlin-based Canadian soprano Rachel Fenlon’s first performance of Winterreise — the artist has made waves by both singing and playing piano accompaniment.
  • Steinway Series: naturally, celebrating the piano at the Steinway Piano Gallery Ottawa with artists Ruby Jin and Meagan Milatz.
  • Other offerings include free family-friendly and interactive programming, and The Record Centre Series of concerts at the legendary Ottawa venue.
  • Livestream Content: online content broadcast live from Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Chamberfest begins July 21, and continues until August 4. Tickets and more information available here.


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