Music Niagara Festival’s founder and artistic director Atis Bankas prefers a tall glass filled with a dark stout to be served with his Brahms this month.
Unfortunately for Bankas, the Foreign Exchange Stout might not be on the menu this Thursday, Oct. 14 at the live taping of the Brahms Oktoberfest concert at Queen Street’s Exchange Brewery.
There, concert-goers will enjoy the music of Adam Diderrich on violin (who has recorded with Gloria Estefan and Natalie Cole), and Matti Pulkki on accordion (from the renowned ensemble Quartetto Gelato), while enjoying a German-inspired flight of six beers along with an accompanying platter of Oktoberfest snacks. Stout, of course, is tied more closely to Great Britain.
The duo known as Adamatti will regale the live audience with sing-alongs and polkas in true Bavarian Biergarten style in the second instalment of the tribute to the beloved beer-loving composer. The ticket price for the show that begins at 2:30 p.m. is $50.
On Monday, Oct. 18, the celebration of Brahms continues at the new Blackburn Brew House, located near Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls. The Blackburn Brauhaus Hefeweizen is sure to be on the menu as Joe Pillitteri hosts an exciting afternoon of special live performances from Victoria Kogan (piano), Peter Stoll (clarinet), Cameron Crozman (cello) and Quartetto Gelato.
Again, Oktoberfest snacks including German salami, kielbasa, pretzel bites, triple crunch mustard, pickled beets, sauerkraut, emmental-style cheese, roasted nuts and grapes will be served along with a five-beer flight of Blackburn German-inspired brews. Ticket prices are also $50 for the noon program.
The fourth and final Brahms Oktoberfest show is a virtual performance of music from Brahms, Dvořák and Schumann by Toronto’s Odin Quartet, who recorded their program last week at Oast House Brewers in the upstairs loft.
Actor Joe Ringhofer also returns to Music Niagara to narrate the program, providing context and some history of Brahms and his connection to the other composers. Now living in Wasaga Beach, Ringhofer taught music theory for many years alongside Bankas at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory.
“I’ve known Joe for over 30 years,” Bankas says. “As our emcee, I give him programs and he finds the material and presents it. He’s done a lot of excursions to Europe for operas that were groundbreaking at the time. He understands the music and the composers.”
Bankas takes special pleasure in welcoming the Odin Quartet back to Music Niagara. After all, violinists Alex Toskov and Tanya Charles Iveniuk are former students of his at the Conservatory.
Toskov, who speaks Spanish, Russian, German, Norwegian and Serbian as well as English, formed the Odin Quartet in 2015. The winner of The Glenn Gould School Chamber Music Competition in 2011 has appeared as principal violinist with the Toronto Concert Orchestra and Toronto Mozart Players, and has also recorded soundtracks for CBC.
Toskov enjoyed collaborating on the Brahms Oktoberfest repertoire with Bankas.
“It’s always a great experience,” Toskov says. “We went from teacher-student to friends, colleagues, to all of the above. We definitely have very high respect for all of his input. He’s been such a very good collaborator for the quartet over the years.”
He continues, “he’s been open and always supportive of young talent. And we love performing with Mr. Bankas, as he is such a passionate performer. I think we match very well with our intuition and musicality.”
Charles Iveniuk has performed with the Odin Quartet and also as a solo performer in the past with Music Niagara. She looks forward to visiting the region every time she travels here, and missed seeing the familiar faces of Music Niagara patrons and supporters this summer.
The Hamilton native with roots in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has performed across Canada, the U.S., South America and the Caribbean. She is the recipient of the Women’s Art Associate of Canada – Luella McCleary Award, the Gabriella Dory Prize in Music, and the Hamilton Black History Association’s John C Holland Award.
She sheds light on the varied talents of her Toronto-based ensemble.
“All of us have different backgrounds that we come from,” she explains, “also musical backgrounds that we pull from. Myself, I play mariachi in the Mexican style, Alex is Serbian, and (cellist) Samuel (Bisson) writes film scores. We all pull from our respective backgrounds and we make projects together using some of those elements.”
Those elements might not be so evident in this particular program, but the quartet’s well-rounded backgrounds and education certainly make for a more adept, masterful quartet overall.
During the performance, to be aired on Oct. 28 on the Music Niagara website and the festival’s YouTube channel, the four musicians worked together for a flawless performance, including a wonderful rendition of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Numbers 2 and 5.
Brahms enthusiasts are invited to pick up a special Brushfire Oktoberfest take-home feast for two as they enjoy the Odin Quartet that day. For $110 per couple plus HST they will receive a bottle of Farmhouse Ale, a beet and cucumber salad with yogurt dressing and aged gouda, and a main course of choucroute garnie smoked white ham with bratwurst and confit pork belly, barnraiser braised cabbage and garlic dill potatoes with beer mustard cream.
And perhaps if Bankas asks politely, Oast House just might consider substituting a couple of cans of their Russian Imperial Stout for his personal take-home feast.
Information and tickets for all three events are available at musicniagara.org/brahms-oktoberfest.