BY THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
The Montreal pianist who’s stepping in to program the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival said Monday that his team is not trying to take over the event, and have offered to help simply to ensure the festival can go on following last month’s resignation by Julian Armour as artistic director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society.
Lauber, 38, described his performance at the festival’s 10-piano gala in 2003 as one of his most memorable concert experiences. He will work with three artistic advisers to complete programming for the festival, scheduled to run July 21 to Aug. 4.Board chairman Colin Cooke said the board will begin a search for a new artistic director soon, though Cooke said yesterday he hadn’t closed the door to the possibility of Armour’s return, if the two sides can find an agreement.Lauber, who has a doctorate from the University of Montreal, contacted Cooke after Armour’s resignation to offer his help. The men met at the festival in 2003.Armour had done some of the programming, including most of the headliners. Lauber said he will complete the programming with advice from the team. The full lineup will be announced May 18.
The advisers include veteran Canadian pianist Andr Laplante, violinist Rene-Paule Gauthier — who has been a regular extra player with the NAC Orchestra in recent seasons — and Montreal conductor Jean-Philippe Tremblay. Tremblay has programmed concerts in Montreal and knows Ottawa’s music scene through his experience as the NACO’s former apprentice conductor.
“I chose these three musicians because they have impeccable credentials, and I’m very proud to have them on board,” Lauber said.Gauthier told the crowd “the festival is really close to my heart. Many of the most memorable performances of my life have been at this festival.”
She said she wants to ensure the festival continues, and says many Ottawa musicians want to be involved in this year’s event.
Lauber said he’s committed to ensuring that Ottawa musicians remain a big part of the festival, with musicians from across Canada and abroad.
He also wants to present emerging artists, and has already booked young Ottawa mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta and Toronto’s Cecilia String Quartet, who both performed yesterday to enthusiastic applause.
Lauber, who spoke highly of Armour, said some of the performers booked by Armour include Ottawa pianist Angela Hewitt and Montreal pianist Louis Lortie. The festival will include several performances of Schoenberg’s music, in connection with a conference at Carleton University.
Lauber mentioned several pre-festival fundraising concerts for the Chamber Society, including a concert by Montreal Symphony principal trumpeter Paul Merkelo with Ottawa musicians and a possible benefit recital next month by Laplante, one of Canada’s best-known pianists.
Lauber said Laplante is having second thoughts after comments by Canadian violinist Andrew Dawes in yesterday’s Citizen. An article quoted a letter to the Citizen from Dawes, critical of the festival’s board for “the shameful situation” of Armour’s departure. Dawes, a frequent festival performer, said he also felt upset with musicians for “taking advantage of the situation to now run the festival.” He was not aware of plans for Laplante’s fundraiser when he wrote the letter.
Lauber said yesterday the comment was unfair to the team. He described Laplante, one of his former teachers, as “not just a phenomenal pianist but a wonderful human being who loves this festival. He’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. I brought him on board to support the festival, to offer his services as a musician.”
Laplante echoed the comments.
“I would not take advantage of anything,” he said. “I am here as a performer and to offer occasional advice if someone calls me. I’ve been asked to help, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I love this festival.”
After the event, festival supporters said patrons should give Lauber and his team a chance.
“They’re trying to make sure the festival survives, and that’s what we all want,” said Anneline Lubbe, a longtime festival volunteer.
Don Harper, an Ottawa arts presenter, said he will present a fundraising concert for the Chamber Society July 14 by a Monaco boys’ choir, Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco.
Cooke also said yesterday the board still supports the community concert hall that Armour had championed, and that five new members joined the board recently who he said will bring financial, fundraising, construction and arts expertise to the project. Cooke said the board plans to hold an announcement soon about fundraising plans and community involvement in the project.