Juno-award winning violinist Mark Fewer remembers how the old Orford String Quartet influenced him and his classmates as artists in residence when he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto.
"The example of being professionals and being language experts- they were incredibly formative for dozens and dozens and dozens of us," Fewer said.
Fewer also hopes to resonate with students at the Vancouver Academy of Music in Vanier Park where he started serving a week-long stint as artist in residence Monday.
Fewer's residency will culminate with a Sunday matinee concert called Mark Fewer and Friends that will benefit the school's bursary program for underprivileged children. Vancouver-based jazz pianist Brad Turner will join Fewer along with Jodi Proznick and Tilden Webb to form a jazz quartet. The concert repertoire includes Beethoven, Duke Ellington and a new work by local composer, conductor and VAM instructor Kathleen Allan.
Fewer, who has toured the world as a classical soloist and won a 2012 Juno for jazz violin, serves as head of strings at McGill University and was concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2008. He'll teach a violin master class, jazz and fiddling while he's in town, and he'll introduce classical musicians to improvisation concepts. Fewer will also prepare the VAM All-Star Band for their concert together May 20.
While versatile violinists are increasingly in demand, Fewer says he'll advise virtuosos to pursue what they're best at. Knowing that will help students seek the people who'll help them further their careers, rather than focusing solely on technique.
Fewer's own path was a bit unconventional.
He took private lessons in London with the concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra after completing his degree at the U of T, and then the violinist persuaded pianist Ferenc Rados at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest to instruct him.
"That was the greatest musical education of my life," Fewer said. "He had a generosity about him and a genuine understanding about musical languages that I found to be at a much more advanced and higher level than anything that I had been with before- If I could use some kind of an analogy, Mozart and Beethoven are two separate languages even though they have the same words- The ability to play, as a musician, Mozart as Mozart and Beethoven as Beethoven- The ability to separate those languages as unique, separate from your own technique, that is what I felt he offered me."
VAM's executive director Joseph Elworthy connected Fewer and Allan, both natives of St. John's, N.L.
Allan has set a poem of Fewer's late father Michael Fewer, a singer, standup comedian and front man of duo of Fewer and Cook, to upbeat "somewhat Celtic" music. "Black Valiant" will be performed by Fewer and The Chorales section of the Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus, which Allan conducts.
"Black Valiant" pokes fun at the way Newfoundlanders speak with lines such as, "My friend said, 'Buy Plymouth!'/I told him, 'I Shan't!'/ The one car for me/Is the Black Valiant."
"The kids are having a blast with it," said Allan, who's off to pursue her master's in choral conducting at Yale University in September. "We're going to make some fun car noises in the middle while Mark is playing and it should be a bit of a party."
Allan expects the concert will be entertaining. "It'll be a neat opportunity for a world-class violinist to be seen while playing in ensemble with a bunch of 10-to 12-year-olds," she said. "It's a rare opportunity and it should be a really fun event."
Fewer and Friends is Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Koerner Recital Hall, 1270 Chestnut St. Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. For more information, see vancouveracademyofmusic.com.
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