I hurried into the Von Kuster Hall at Talbot College in order to find a good seat for Friday’s concert. The hall was already packed with students, faculty members, as well as a good variety of the London public. A grand piano was placed on the stage, waiting for the performance.
At 12:30 p.m., internationally-renowned soloist and head of keyboard studies at Western, Stéphan Sylvestre, takes a bow. Thanking the eager audience, he introduces the Romantic era pieces he is about to play from composers Robert Schumann and Maurice Ravel.
His performance runs the gamut of every emotion, eliciting thunderous applause and even a bouquet of flowers from a member of the audience.
Sylvestre’s concert was just one in a weekly series every Friday at Von Kuster. The concerts are not limited by instrument or number of performers, and in the past have included an eclectic mix of instruments, voices and ensembles as well as a balance between a more classic repertoire and contemporary styles. Depending on the performers, it may also be held in Paul Davenport Theatre.
The concert series co-ordinator and assistant professor of music, Todd Wieczorek, remembers how “two or three years ago we had Red Chamber, and they were playing on traditional Chinese string instruments.”
The exact genesis of the concert series, Wieczorek says, came about, “35, 36 years ago when the faculty wanted to start a concert series that was accessible to the community but also brought in artists from all over Canada, North America, and depending on connections, international artists.” This “artistic cross-pollination” also allows these artists to work with Western’s students if the opportunity arises.
The diversity of the concerts makes it difficult to boil them down to a single statement, yet Wieczorek says, “They aim at bringing musical artists who engage our audience to greater appreciation and greater music-making.”
The series being open to everyone has made that goal easily achievable, given the ecstatic reaction to Sylvestre’s performance. Third-year geo-sciences student, Sarah Bazal, has always had an interest in the arts so she “tries to make time for live performances, because it’s pretty spectacular.”
Bazal particularly enjoyed Sylvestre’s performance, calling it “really beautiful” and, despite not being in music studies, extolls the benefits of the concerts, as “it exposes you to other sides of the Western community you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise so it’s good to take that initiative.”
The Friday concert series at Von Kuster is able to bring in artists from every spectrum of the musical world, from their instruments to their influences and styles. As well, it’s free of charge approach and inclusivity allows everyone to appreciate the virtuosity on display every week.
The concerts start every Friday at 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Von Kuster Hall at Talbot College.