As the weather has warmed up, so are Calgary’s local musicians. Curbside, garden and lawn concerts are a growing trend as artists find a way to bring their music to the community and pocket some badly needed cash at the same time.
While a wide variety of genres, from country to jazz to folk, have been making the rounds, two accomplished local musicians are now bringing classical to the fore.
Concert pianist Roman Rabinovich and Calgary Philharmonic concertmaster and violinist Diana Cohen have launched a series of casual concerts in their front yard. It is a poor replacement for the European and North American concerts they were set to play this summer but it allows them to showcase their exceptional skills for the benefit of the community.
It’s a bit of a happenstance event, but Cohen said they hope to be out in their Crescent Heights yard again at noon on May 24.
“It is weather dependent because we put out a really high-quality piano keyboard and my violin. These are not instruments that are normally played outside,” said Cohen.
Although they’re in the yard, these are not your garden variety shows. Both Cohen and Rabinovich are highly sought-after musicians. This month alone, Rabinovich was booked on a tour that included events in Paris, New York, Germany and London. In addition to her CPO duties, Cohen is also artistic director of ChamberFest Cleveland which was scheduled for June. All that is on hold due to the pandemic shutdowns.
“It is sad, although the silver lining is we get to hang out together with our baby,” said Cohen, noting that her husband is usually on the road much of the time.
Last weekend, Rabinovich started something of a project during the yard concert. He is learning Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a massive piece first published in 1741 that has an aria and a set of 30 variations. Each week, Rabinovich will play a little bit more of the work, which launched Canadian Glenn Gould’s career as a renowned international pianist.
“I think it’s a nice thing for the people who come a few times to hear my progress with the piece. It’s such a monumental piece,” said Rabinovich. “It’s iconic music that I think everyone can connect to. Especially during this challenging time, this music has a spiritual quality to it as well as virtuosity.”
In addition to the free yard concerts, the couple is also launching a program for people interested in hiring them for private backyard recitals. As it’s unknown how long borders will remain closed and social distancing rules are in place, working musicians need to find other avenues to perform and earn a living. Although Cohen said that is not their priority.
“Roman is normally a soloist and he plays solo recitals around the world. He almost never plays in Calgary so this is a unique opportunity. Instead of jumping on a plane to play in Paris this month, our neighbours are getting to know us in a much deeper way.”
If interested in learning more about the private recitals or you want to go on an email list for the public front yard concerts, email Cohen and Rabinovich at firstname.lastname@example.org. The garden concerts occur at 118 7th Ave. N.W, weather dependant. Donations are gratefully accepted.
“We’ve never been gigging musicians,” said Cohen.
“Playing in a front yard is not the same as playing in a great hall in Paris with a great orchestra and conductor but it’s a unique opportunity and we’re seeing it as such.”