By Tim Stacey
Music has never been that big at Brock University, at least when compared to other programs like Con-Ed, Sports Management or the Goodman School of Business. Housed for years in a handful of rooms in the Schmon Tower’s basement, the university’s music department has enjoyed a close-knit atmosphere among students and faculty thanks to its small size. While this aspect has been great for lectures, study groups and the social side of student life, it hasn’t made for very well attended performances.
Case in point: Music@Noon, a free recital series that takes place every Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., showcasing faculty members and students performing a range of classical music pieces for whoever shows up. Despite its fancy new downtown premises, and the extremely competitive ticket price, the weekly series has never drawn a very large crowd. Audiences are usually made up of students (by mandatory attendance), faculty, friends and family of performers and a few loyal members of the local music community. It’s hard to believe, because even for those unfamiliar with classical repertoire, these recitals feature damn good music that anyone could enjoy.
Not convinced? Then consider the following points, and keep in mind that, after all, it’s just an hour of your time.
It’s as simple as that; attendance is completely free, with no fees or donations going towards the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre (PAC), the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), Brock University, or anywhere else. Music@Noon is simply a community initiative, meant to foster a connection between the music department and its community, as well as provide a venue for its students to perform for an audience of more than just their peers.
Support For Local Musicians.
Depending on which recital you attend, you’ll get to see one of two things: a world-class performance by one of Niagara’s many globally renowned musicians; or, a performance by a current music student, some of whom will surely become the former of these two options later in their careers. As stated before, this is a free weekly concert series, but the quality of programming isn’t something you’d regularly associate with open admission. Past performers include internationally celebrated guitarists Timothy Phelan and Emma Rush, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Gordon Cleland, nationally recognized clarinetist Zoltan Kalman, and more. To see these musicians perform elsewhere – with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra or the Gallery Players of Niagara, for example — would cost you upwards of $30 – $60. At a Music@Noon concert, you get to see virtuosic performances without paying a cent, right here in the heart of St. Catharines.
On the other hand, by attending a student recital, you’re supporting the burgeoning talent in this region. Each additional audience member only helps to authenticate the live performance experience for these young musicians who benefit from every second they get to play for a full house. While you may not be concerned with fostering talent that will end up in symphonies and ensembles you may never see, what you should know is that you’ve likely seen some of these students perform already. Students in the music department are ingrained in the local music culture, classical or otherwise. The Bends, The False Endings, and even a local Genesis cover band, all boast members that study classical music in the MIWSFPA.
On top of being free performances by talented musicians, the Music@Noon recital series is hosted in the First Ontario PAC, located in downtown St. Catharines at the corner of St Paul Street and Carlisle Street. Held in the 300-seat Cairns Recital Hall, these performances benefit from a brand new, specifically designed acoustic environment.
This is just one part of a massive ongoing initiative to foster St. Catharines’ downtown as a home for the arts, which includes more than the local bands that play at venues down the street. By filling a seat during your lunch hour, you become an active participant in the development of what could one day be a crucible for local arts.
When all is said and done, attending a Music@Noon recital is a great way to spend your lunch break. You get to take in music that you may not have heard before, performed by renowned (or, soon to be renowned) musicians in a brand new venue, without costing you a cent. This is a phenomenal opportunity to expand your musical horizons without dropping $50 for symphony tickets, so take part in your downtown arts community by coming next week
For more information about the RBC Foundation Music@Noon series, and for a list of the winter semester recitals, check out the website.