Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Music Society
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The K-W Chamber Music Society began life in the autumn of 1974 - the year that the Stratford Ensemble, now called the Canadian Chamber Ensemble, came to our cities. The K-W Symphony came under the inspired leadership of Raffi Armenian in 1970-71; by the 1973-74 season, it was able to take the big step of incorporating a core of professional musicians - twelve, originally - into the orchestra. Here, I thought, are musicians good enough to perform regular chamber music concerts in our commuinity. Raffi Armenian also felt that the musicians would love to play chamber, but the fledgling symphony organization just didn't have the personnel to manage a chamber music series in addition to the orchestra's season. O. K., I said - I'll see what we can do.
I buttonholed friends and acquaintances, and before long we formed a Board of Directors for our proposed support organization, which we decided, in uninspired though accurate fashion, to call the K-W Chamber Music Society. On the original board were Hugh Smyth, a lawyer, who drew up the relevant documents for incorporation and charitable status, and his wife Pat, who served for many years as Secretary of the Society; Marek Irland, a computer scientist at the University of Waterloo; Beryl Hultin, who later took a music degree from WLU and became one of the area's most active oboists; and Tom and Lynn Certin, then students at the U of W. We set about immediately organizing a performing season for that very year, 1974-75. A few meetings with Raffi Armenian and some consultation with the musicians produced six programs; many phone calls and much footwork produced workable venues at local churches, schools, and the auditorium of the Kitchener Public Library. Our very first concert was held on December 1, 1974.
Attendance held up well during our first season, and for 1975-76 we doubled the Stratford Ensemble's concerts, putting on the six programs twice - once each in Waterloo andf Kitchener. In addition, however, we added two concerts by prominent touring ensembles. In that first season for such artists, we had Canada's famed Orford Quartet and the world-famous Beaux Arts Trio from the U. S. While concerts by ensembles at that level of world stage popularity are pretty much out of the question now, since then KWCMS has had such world-famed groups as the Bartok, Prague, Fine Arts, and Prazak Quartets, plus all of the winners of the famed Banff International String Quartet Competition up through its 2004 winners, the Jupiter Quartet.
Dinner Concerts, 1977-86
Our Dinner Concert series presented the complete chamber music of Beethoven with piane, which was to be Raffi Armenian's bow-out as a pianist, he said - and indeed, he didn't complete them himself, in the end. These concerts were unique in that they were conjoined with a dinner, cooked by the members themselvel and served in the dining room of Conrad Grebel College, the concert being performed in its Chapel. This attractive combination, whose idea came form Jean Narveson, won many friends over the next nine seasons - until it was terminated by the Regional Health Department, which discovered a rule forbidding the selling of food under those conditions (in spite of our history of nine years of dinners for thousands of people with no discernible ill effects on anyone).
In 1977 the Society realized another of its aims by presenting two young violinists from the community in concert, both of whom went on to careers with major orchestras. Since that time we have often presented young artists of note - an 8-year-old violinist being the youngest so far.
The Kuerti Beethoven Series
In 1978-79 we undertook a major venture, sponsoring the 8-concert cycle of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas by the famed pianist Anton Kuerti at the University of Waterloo Theatre of the Arts. That series was also broadcast live by radio station CKMS-FM, the student-run radio station of the U of W, under the expert management of Mr. Bill Wharrie - still at the station - and our Vice President, Professor Stanley Lipshitz of the U of W's Applied Mathematics department. His world-renowned expertise at matters electronic and acoustic has been utilized in the recording of out concerts ever since.
Radio Program - "The World of Chamber Music"
At that time, too, we inaugurated a weekly radio program for CKMS, "The World of Chamber Music", on which all of our concerts are broadcast. Ever since, this program has been presented every Tuesday evening, with Stanley Lipshitz in technical charge and Jan Narveson doing the announcing.
K-W Symphony Developments
During the 1980-81 season, the Centre in the Square was built, and became home to the K-W Symphony Orchestra. The Stratford Ensemble changed its name to "Canadian Chamber Ensemble", and presented its concerts after 1981 under sponsorship of the K-W Symphony Orchestra. KWCMS did not permanently sever connections with the ensemble, however, for during the past several seasons our subscribers have been able to attend the CCE's concerts at their new home , the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall at WLU, providing a considerable fraction of its audience. Those first seven years under our official sponsorship were the frmative years of our Ensemble, giving them the concert experience so essential to molding them into the superbly cohesive ensemble they are today.
The Music Room Concerts - 1980 - present
In the spring of 1980 we initiated a novel experiment in concert presenting. Instead of trying to fill large spaces such as churches and auditoriums, we would present concerts in a much smaller space - the sort of space, in fact, that "chamber music" concerts were originally envisaged for, and from which the term originates. Our new space was the Music Room in the home of KWCMS president Jan Narveson. This very large living room, measuring about 22' x 32', with a fairly high cathedral ceiling, had been added to the house years before, and the Narvesons meanwhile acquired a used 6' concert grand piano as well. Our experiment began in the spring of 1980 with a concert by the then 13-year-old cellist Ofra Harnoy - who has since gone on to a major career. Attendance and acoustics proved satisfactory, and the exciting prospect of a full season of concerts by important touring artists as well as from the K-W Symphony began to unfold before us.
Concerts at the diminutive Music Room - later given a fire-department rated capacity of 85 - got under way in earnest in the 1980-81 regular season with our series of "Connoisseur Concerts". It became clear that we could be of real use to the musical community in K-W, bringing in the sort of nationally and internationally prominent artists our music lovers could now hear without having to make the trek to Toronto. We could do so often enough to provide a steady diet of top-quality chamber music, without seriously competing for audiences with the Canadian Chamber Ensemble, whose efforts we of course continued to support. By the autumn of 1982 we had settled into a pretty intense level of concert production - which has been maintained ever since.
Public recognition of the Society and of its founder and president, Jan Narveson, has been extensive. In 1985, the November/December issue of Canada's nationally-known Music Magazine devoted an article to our concerts. And in 1988 a group of friends presented a wonderful tribute to Jan Narveson in the form of a gala concert, to which several of Canada's finest artists contributed. Moshe Hammer, violin, james Campbell, clarinet, Anton Kuerti, piano, Kristine Bogyo, cello, along with the Orford Quartet performed at this outstanding event, held at WLU's Theatre Auditorium. This was also a fundraiser, and with the proceeds, plus the sale of our former piano, we were able to buy a first-rate concert piano for the Music Room ( a supurb Steinway piano, with 1887 case and plate and 1988 Hamburg Steinway mechanical action and strings). This fine instrument has been a joy ever since its inaugural concert by none other than Janina Failkowska in July, 1989.
Also in 1989, Wilfrid Laurier University honored the Society, in effect, by awarding Professor Narveson an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, in recongition of his service to local music. Recognition continued with Jan's selection for a Arts Award in the music division from the Waterloo Arts Council, and again in 1993, when he received the Ontario Arts Council's Valuable Volunteer Award. All these were capped off by Jan’s being made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003, largely for his chamber music activities. Such tributes really recognize the Society and not just its president, of course, for without all the others' efforts it would not exist (notably those of Jean Narveson, whose behind-the-scenes work on the house enables the Music Room to be the scene of so many concerts.)
Further Community Connections
The KWCMS encourages members of the K-W Community Orchestra to play chamber music in the Music Room, - now an annual event. This enables amateur musicians to devilop their skills and to be heard as individuals. In 1994, we also had the first chamber music concert by members of the K-W Chamber Orchestra. We are happy to have these links with performing artists around our community, whether professional or amateur. In the summers of 1993 and 1994 KWCMS started what we hope will also become a tradition, an intensive summer chamber musicworkshop for young artists. Thus we still continue to develop, even after 20 seasons.
Location(s) of Business
57 Young Street West,Waterloo,Ontario,N2L 2Z4