by Sean Bickerton
Last night, on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 CMC BC held its first annual Gala Fundraising Concert in CMC BC’s new Murray Adaskin Salon, featuring two of the most internationally celebrated young soloists BC has produced in a generation – Pianist Avan Yu and Violinist Timothy Chooi – in concert with our own Stefan Hintersteininger, BC Head Librarian and a remarkable cellist in his own right.
It is impossible to overstate Owen Underhill’s contribution to the musical life of Vancouver, to the province of BC, and to the cultural fabric of the nation itself.
He is a prize-winning, Juno-nominated Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre; a celebrated and highly innovative Artistic Director of Turning Point Ensemble, renowned for deeply-researched and visionary programs; as a conductor he is acclaimed by the musicians he works with, having conducted well over 150 premieres by Canadian composers; and he is a highly respected professor of composition at Simon Fraser University, where he previously served as Director of the School for the Contemporary Arts and Dean Pro Tem of the Faculty of Communication, Art & Technology.
Few individuals have done as much for the Canadian Music Centre, both locally here in BC, and nationally. He has served on the BC Regional Advisory Council for nearly twenty years, six of those as Chair. He is currently a Past Chair of the Regional Council and the Past Chair of the national Board of Directors on which he served for nineteen years. On the national board he was both Vice President for two terms and President from 2010 – 2014.
For all these reason and more, CMC BC is pleased to present its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Owen Underhill.
I have followed the two young soloists featured on last night’s concert for nearly a decade now. I first heard Avan Yu play the piano when he was fifteen, playing Chopin so beautifully it made me cry. I first heard Timothy Chooi when he was fourteen. He played unaccompanied Bach for me in a cold classroom at the Victoria Conservatory without even warming up. It was profoundly beautiful and musically so far beyond his years, played with such a gorgeous, round sound, that I was incredulous.
It’s long been a dream of mine to hear them play together and extremely rewarding that the very first time they made music together was in our performance space dedicated to Murray Adaskin, who was so devoted to teaching and developing young artists.
It was deeply moving to hear them play works by Hector Gratton and Barbara Pentland from the new Harry Adaskin Special Collection recently donated to our Library. It was impossible not to think he would have been overjoyed to hear them play his Piano trio using his own piano in this Salon now dedicated to his memory.
Framing Adaskin, Pentland and Gratton on the program was unaccompanied Bach to open and the Franck Violin Sonata to close, along with an encore – Dance of the Goblins by Bazzini – that brought the house down!
It was a measure of the interest in these remarkable young musicians that Maestro Bramwell Tovey was in the audience, along with violinist Andrew Dawes – a pupil of Murray Adaskin’s, and founder of the Orford String Quartet.