Arts and Music

Local Musicians Breathe New Life into 'Music of Friends'

'Master Chamber Works With Clarinet', featuring Shiori Kobayashi and Ian Green, will take place at 7pm on May 24, at Hamilton Mennonite Church, 143 Lower Horning Road.

By Shiona Mackenzie
Published May 13, 2014

Shiori Kobayashi, an accomplished Dundas-based clarinetist, recently launched an innovative chamber music concert series, featuring Hamilton area guest performers, to bring the warmth of chamber music to audiences in the Greater Hamilton Area (GHA). Written for small groups of instruments, chamber music is often referred to as the "music of friends" due to its intimate nature.

"I wanted to support area musicians while introducing pieces that highlight unusual combinations of instruments. Hopefully, we'll encourage local audiences to listen to music they may never have heard before," she says.

"There are hundreds of pieces that have not had enough time on the concert stage. My goal is to offer these beautiful blends of sound to Hamilton audiences, to empower GHA musicians to perform this unique music, and to ensure that the tradition of chamber music performance remains alive and well. At this time, there are no other small ensembles in the Hamilton-Burlington area focusing on this."

As an active soloist and chamber musician, Shiori has performed with various community orchestras and ensembles, including the The Sinfonia (Redeemer University College orchestra), the Dundas Concert Band, and Symphony on the Bay. She has also coached and conducted clarinet and woodwind clinics at Hillfield Strathallan College, Hill Park Secondary School, and Redeemer University College, among others.

Shiori currently performs with the Grenadilla Winds trio, Symphony on the Bay, the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and Masterworks of Oakville. She teaches woodwind instruments and piano privately and at various music academies in the GHA.

Moving to Canada from Japan as a child, Shiori experienced a language barrier and culture shock. "At the time, aside from my family and Japanese friends, music was the only thing that helped me overcome my frustrations," she said. "Music gave me confidence and strength.

"More than half of my days were spent listening to many different styles of music. Although I may not have understood the meaning of the songs, I tried to listen to the harmonies, the dynamics, and phrasing of the melody line, which can be understood no matter what language you speak. I strongly believe that music is a universal language.

"Music comforted me, especially in difficult times," Shiori says. "It made a huge impact on who I am today. I hope to touch people's lives through performance, the same way music helped me."

Shiori invited Ian Green, a talented pianist from Hamilton's east end, to help bring her chamber music brainchild to life. Ian has been using his skills to advance music education for some 15 years now. In addition to teaching music theory and piano musicianship to students of all ages in his home studio, Ian co-founded a start-up technology company that creates music education resources for mobile devices.

Ian wears many hats in the music industry: Music Director and Organist at Ryerson United Church in Ancaster; co-owner of the music entertainment company Southern Ontario Music; piano adjudicator at a variety of Ontario music festivals; and recording secretary for the Hamilton-Halton Branch of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association.

He performs regularly and enjoys playing music that challenges his audience as well as himself.

"I select music both to entertain and to educate," he explains.

"There is a need on a grassroots level to keep classical music alive in the community. That's why I was so excited by the idea of organizing and playing chamber music with musicians from in and around Hamilton.

"In March, Shiori and I performed with guest musicians Homer Seywerd on oboe and flute and Seiichi Ariga on flute. This month, we will be joined by Zoltan Kalman on clarinet and Abigail Freeman, an operatic coloratura soprano, in a concert featuring compositions by Antonín Dvořák, Feliz Mendelssohn, Francis Poulenc, and Vincenzo Bellini. It promises to be an inspiring evening, which we hope will pique people's curiosity about chamber music."

'Master Chamber Works With Clarinet' will take place at 7pm on May 24, at Hamilton Mennonite Church, 143 Lower Horning Road. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and can be bought at the door, or in advance by calling 905-628-4980.

A version of this story was first published in The Point (Crown Point community newspaper).

Shiona Mackenzie is a communications professional with 17 years of international experience and a lifelong love of music.

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