Consortium Aurora Borealis

Elizabeth Ganiatsos, Artistic Director
Northwestern Ontario's Chamber Music Group ~ Baroque and Beyond

About Us 2007-2008

Founded in 1979 by Artistic Director Elizabeth Ganiatsos and registered as a non-profit charitable organization in 1982, Consortium Aurora Borealis performs repertoire primarily from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, with occasional forays into the Mediaeval, Classical and Early Romantic eras. High artistic standards, varied and exciting programming and historically-themed concerts with authentic instruments add to its dynamic presence in the region. It has been hailed with great enthusiasm by audience and press alike. Now in its 32nd season, it continues with its mission to educate as well as to entertain, presenting up to six concerts of chamber music annually.


Recent Activity 29th Season 2007-2008

Our 29th season ranged from the Middle Ages to the 19th century (as late as Brahms with a brief foray into 20th-century Canada in December), with the customary emphasis on the Baroque, in view of audience interest and the presence of a fine harpsichord. We included music by the ever-popular composer J. S. Bach, but also introduced lesser-known composers such as Boismortier and Benda. In this season of “The Brilliance of Borealis” we became absorbed with the alliterative allure of composers and themes beginning with “b”: “From Bach to Boccherini”, “From Beethoven to Brahms”, “Musica Bohemica”, “Musica Britannica”, “Brass and organ” (for December), etc. Music was heard from Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Italy, France, England, and Canada, giving more national variety than ever before.

For variety of instrumental timbre, we included clarinet and bassoon in solo roles. The subtle timbre of Baroque flute, introduced in March 2007, was heard again in March 2008. The 2007-2008 concert line-up was deliberately varied in terms of style, resources, and chronological period. Our season opener presented Baroque and early Classic music for flute, cello and harpsichord written by our “Five B’s”: J.S. Bach, Boismortier, two different members of the Bohemian Benda family, and Boccherini. October’s “Musica Bohemica: Music of Bohemia” represented Baroque, Classic and early Romantic styles, featuring solo flute, clarinet, and bassoon, along with strings, in a varied and interesting programme. We were honoured to have the Czech ambassador to Canada as our special guest. He addressed the audience and brought a CD of Czech music for everyone! November’s “Music of Paris” concert included intimate music for flute, oboe, violins and continuo by Baroque French composers Couperin, Philidor and Blavet, as well as a “Paris Quartet” by Telemann. We combined the sonorities of organ, brass ( a treat) and choir for our concert of festive Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque music for Advent and Christmas, from Gregorian chant onwards. The Lakehead University Chamber Choir, directed by Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans (a specialist in early music) and a brass quartet of TBSO key players alternated with organist Ganiatsos, who played some works from her recent concert in Venice. The audience joined in the singing of Praetorius chorales.

The triumphant return of the distinguished Penderecki String Quartet drew a large, appreciative, enthusiastic, crowd and received a rave review, as expected. The exquisite programme included Schubert’s “Quartettsatz”, Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet Op.74, and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet. TBSO’s principal clarinettist Peter Shackleton was dazzling. The ecstatic ovation led to an encore, the final virtuosic movement of the Weber clarinet quintet, played with great panache.

We again thank the Ontario Arts Council, including the OAC Touring and Collaborations division, for making this exhilarating concert possible. We concluded our 29th season with “Musica Britannica: England’s Joy”: very unusual historic programming, with 17th & 18th-century songs, sonatas, and country-dance tunes from the theatre, concert rooms & Vauxhall pleasure gardens, by Purcell, Handel, Boyce, Arne, and lesser-known composers. The enthusiastic audience enjoyed the programme’s moments of light-spiritedness and humour, and loved the dulcet tones of the baroque flute, exquisitely played by Van Wyck. We performed in Baroque pitch (a challenge), with Baroque bows, and included 5 local, non-symphony musicians, who welcomed the opportunity to perform with Consortium. Another successful season has ended, but everyone is keenly anticipating our upcoming anniversary year!


Programme Highlights 2007-2008

Special Guest Artists:
  • Baroque violinists Jeremy Bell (2002, ’03, ’04, ’07); Julie Baumgartel (2002)
  • Amelia Roosevelt (2003); Baroque cellist Margaret Gay (2003)
  • Roberto Micconi, Organist of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice (2003)
  • Tara-Louise Montour, violinist (2003); Penderecki String Quartet (2005)
  • Monica Whicher, Soprano, in Concert (2004)
  • Penderecki String Quartet (2005, 2008)
  • Teri Dunn, soprano (2007); Baroque cellist Felix Deak (2007)
Tudor Court Spectacles:
  • Music, Poetry & Dance at the Court of Henry VIII (1984 &1985)
  • Music, Poetry & Dance at the Court of Elizabeth I (1986 & 2001)
  • Music and Shakespeare (1987 & 2002)
  • An Elizabethan Valentine (1988)
Commemorative Concerts:
  • J.S. Bach 300th Birthday Celebration (1985)
  • Handel 300th Birthday Celebration (1985)
  • Schubert 200th Birthday Celebration (1997)
  • J. S. Bach: 250th Anniversary of his Death, (2000), (2 concerts)
  • W.A. Mozart: 200th Anniversary of his Death (1991)
  • Mozart 250th Birthday Celebration (2006)
  • Annual All-Vivaldi concert: held many years, spotlighting TBSO soloists
Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater:
  • held several times, in R.C. churches (especially during Lent)
J. S. Bach Concerti:
  • for one, two, three, and four harpsichords (1989)
Other J. S. Bach:
  • Cantata 209, with Monica Whicher, soprano (1984)
Eric Lussier, harpsichordist:
  • virtuoso harpsichordist, in recital, in duo recital with E. Ganiatsos, as soloist with chamber orchestra, and as presenter of workshops and master classes, on several occasions (most recent concert, 2003)
Music for Two Organs:
  • Ganiatsos’s chamber organ (built by CAB Chairman Herman Dost) & the Karl Wilhelm tracker organ (Soler concerti a 2, 1980 & 1983)
Music of Venice:
  • brass & organ music from St. Mark’s, Venice (2001); also Micconi’s concert Carnevale Veneziano (2006)
  • Music from the Venetian Orphan-Conservatories
18th-century vocal:
  • Music from 18th-century English Pleasure Gardens (Vauxhall), with Monica Whicher (1982)
  • Il Teatro alla Moda: a Musical Satire, with Evelyne Reid, soprano (1992)
  • The Beggar’s Opera (abridged concert version, 1991)
Palm Court Fundraising concerts:
  • “Liz and her All-Girl orchestra”, with palms, tea & cakes
Eatons:
  • Consortium presented Spanish 15th & 16th century music in Renaissance costume at Eaton’s “Uncrate the Sun: Spain” event.
Local television:
  • CAB performed a few representative selections for “Spotlite” music series Shaw Cable TV vignette of the Artistic Director demonstrating the harpsichord (aired hourly for two weeks, Nov./Dec., 2004)

Authentic reproductions of period instruments are used when possible, e.g.: various mediaeval & Renaissance string and wind instruments, Baroque bows, mechanical-action organ, Baroque flute, cornetto and natural horn on occasion, as well as Consortium’s 2-manual Flemish and Ganiatsos’s 2-manual French (after Blanchet) harpsichord, both built specially by Canadian harpsichord maker David Jensen.


Mission and Vission 2007-2008

Consortium Aurora Borealis (CAB) has maintained a unique, vigorous presence in the community of Thunder Bay for thirty years. It has been hailed with great enthusiasm by audience and press alike, and continues with its mission to educate as well as to entertain. We maintain our vision of presenting high quality performances by local professional musicians, mounting concerts of chamber music, which potentially include works, both instrumental and vocal, from the mediaeval to the early romantic eras. We strive for varied, exciting, and unusual programming; much scholarly research goes into our productions. Our attention has been given mainly to Renaissance and Baroque chamber music, not only because of our David Jensen harpsichords, which we like to put to good use, but also because the music of these two periods greatly appeals to our audiences. In addition, we are the only group in the region concentrating on these periods.

We, of Consortium Aurora Borealis are dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community by offering music that would not otherwise be heard in our city. Thunder Bay is a unique cultural environment; we are blessed with such richness in a relatively small, isolated community. People tend to appreciate what many others take for granted. Our audience may be small in actual numbers, but quite high on a per-capita basis. The music for our series is to some extent selected with a view to showcasing a variety of musicians and giving them an opportunity to enrich their own lives by performing as soloists before a warm, highly appreciative audience. The Artistic Director always strives to instil a note of enthusiasm and vibrancy into the concerts, in order to foster in audience and performers alike a greater love, knowledge, and appreciation of the music being presented. A separate sheet of Programme Highlights summarizes memorable concerts of the past.

Part of our vision is to share our music with as many people as possible in Thunder Bay. The Board feels very strongly about making our concerts accessible to all, regardless of ability to pay, which is why, for years, we have not charged admission, relying, instead, on voluntary donations at the door, seeking out Patrons (steadily increasing) to whom we issue tax receipts, and holding fundraising drives (ethnic dinners, annual tulip sales, etc.). We especially reach out to young people: children of all ages, including the very young, as well as high school and university students, attend. We also have a large following of senior citizens, several of whom have also become volunteers. Our vision includes enriching the lives of such people who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend concerts of live classical music. However, in our effort to widen our musical horizons, expand our forces, raise performance standards, plan more ambitious programming, and engage special guest artists of high calibre from outside our community, we instituted an ‘admission by donation at the door’ policy with a suggested donation of $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. We have successfully fundraised to purchase our own harpsichord and recording equipment, and have held various educational activities. We enjoy a high degree of community support, have formed several partnerships in town, and have received great publicity.

In the four most recent seasons we turned our attention to importing a few distinguished out-of-town performers, such as: violinist Jeremy Bell for 17th-century string concerts; Maestro Roberto Micconi, Titular Organist of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice, Italy, for two concerts of Venetian organ music in May, 2003, as part of his first Canadian tour; virtuoso harpsichordist Eric Lussier for an all-Bach programme; the well-known Canadian soprano Monica Whicher; the Penderecki String Quartet (Nov. 2005), and Toronto soprano Teri Dunn (March, 2007), thereby giving our community an opportunity of hearing well-established, top-quality musicians from distant places that otherwise would not be performing in Thunder Bay. These appearances have sparked great enthusiasm within our community, especially during our milestone, memorably-rewarding, twenty-fifth anniversary season which we recently celebrated. These artists have brought in larger and more varied audiences, drawn favourable attention to our group, thereby raising community awareness of who we are, and have also served as a source of professional development for in-town musicians. Increased funding has helped to make such concerts possible, and Consortium hopes to be able to continue bringing in special out-of-town artists to join with our local players from time to time. The Penderecki Quartet returns in our 29th season. We warmly thank the Ontario Arts Council for its part in enabling us to engage such illustrious soloists from outside our region.

We are grateful for our elevated profile and rising success; we are totally committed to continuing to serve our community as best we can. The board of directors is highly supportive of the cause of Consortium, and is exploring new paths to the even greater success and effectiveness of our concert series, so that we may share our joy and vision with as many as possible.


History 2007-2008

Consortium Aurora Borealis arose as a unique organization in Northwestern Ontario to fulfil a need in a somewhat remote area. It came into being out of an enthusiasm for the music of the mediaeval and Renaissance periods, a desire to share this love with the community, and an intent to complement courses given by the Departments of Fine Arts (Music), English, Languages, and History at Lakehead University. Founded by Elizabeth Ganiatsos, its artistic director and “moving spirit”, and her friend, the late Wilma Ayre, the group presented its first concerts of early music in February and May of 1977. A third concert followed in January of 1979. Finally, in the fall of 1979, it was decided to mount an entire series of chamber music, with six to eight concerts a year.

In 1981, the organization was solidified; a board of directors was established, a constitution was drafted, and it became a non-profit group. After receiving registered charitable organization status, revenue increased considerably, as the prospect of tax receipts attracted a steadily growing base of donors, who, along with the Musicians’ Performance Trust Fund, made the concerts possible. Over the years, audience size and revenue continued to increase, enabling CAB to invite more musicians to perform. Most recently, artists’ honoraria were increased significantly. Being committed to employing local musicians, Consortium draws its players primarily from the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

From its inception, the group has emphasized a historical approach, using authentic reproductions of old instruments with appropriate performance style, and at times, introducing costumes and brief readings from the period represented. Historic themes were often selected: Music from the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, or Music at the Court of Frederick the Great (regional recording by CBC radio, 1982). At the same time, however, there was an attempt to select music that would delight as well as educate. People of Thunder Bay, including young people, were pleasantly surprised at how accessible mediaeval and Renaissance music was to the modern ear.

Our home, until 1986, was Lakeview Presbyterian Church, favoured for its fine acoustics and its 12-rank Karl Wilhelm tracker organ, which was perfect for our repertoire (it was featured in May 2003 for a concert of Venetian Organ Music performed by Roberto Micconi, organist of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice). We then moved our base of operation to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, pleasant in ambience, and handicap-accessible; audiences enjoyed viewing the art at intermission. We have outgrown the Art Gallery, and now perform at St. Paul’s United Church, with its fine organ, grand piano, and excellent acoustics. We have also appeared in the past at schools, libraries, hotels, conference facilities, malls, craft markets, Chapters, Eaton’s, the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, Lakehead University, and various churches.

There have been many memorable moments in Consortium’s history. A programme of music of Soler, etc., for 2 organs, featured the music director’s chamber organ, together with Lakeview’s Wilhelm tracker organ. Consortium provided 18 costumed performers for an Elizabethan-themed benefit (“Muse of Fire”) on Magnus Theatre‘s stage, participating along with well-known Shakespearean actor Barry McGregor, in aid of replacing costumes that Magnus lost in a fire. Our lavishly-costumed Tudor Court Spectacles: Music, Poetry and Dance at the Courts of Elizabeth I or Henry VIII were not only extremely popular, drawing our largest crowds and reinforcing Consortium’s image in the community; they also created community spirit among the many volunteers who helped to produce them. In 1985, the Consortium Chorale was formed as an ad hoc ensemble to perform choral music at our Bach and Handel 300th Birthday Celebrations. A partnership was formed with The Solstice Singers, a fine vocal ensemble of 4 to 8 members who specialized in singing madrigals, but also performed other styles and genres, from mediaeval polyphony through Vivaldi sacred music. Recently, Consortium formed performing ties with four other local choirs, including a children’s chorus and a women’s choir.


Board of Directors 2007-2008

Founded in Thunder Bay in 1979; Registered as a Charity with Revenue Canada July 1, 1982. Our mandate is to entertain and educate audiences by presenting performances of chamber music from the 12th to early 19th century.

Founding Members

Wilma Ayre
Herman J. Dost
Elizabeth Ganiatsos
Rev. Leonard Weaver

Board of Directors 2007-2008

President: Jaro Kotalik
Vice-president: Eugene Kotyk
Treasurer: Karolyn Hoard
Secretary: Diana Pallen
Music Director: Elizabeth Ganiatsos

Members-at-large:
George Holborn
Jeremy Mohr
Celeste Pedri
Louisa Pedri
Robin Smith
Derek Oger


Artist Statement 2007-2008

Invigorated by another highly successful year, Consortium Aurora Borealis is set to embark upon its twenty-ninth concert season, eagerly anticipating what lies in store musically, as we approach our thirtieth anniversary. Our proposed musical activities for 2007 – 2008 reflect our organization’s mandate and goals, outlined below.

Consortium is committed to presenting a series of chamber music concerts, usually six in number, encompassing a variety of periods, styles, instrumentation, and genres, yet emphasizing the 17th and 18th centuries. The personnel engaged varies, as does the size of performing group, according to the repertoire being presented. The music director is generally the only performer common to each concert. Instrumental, vocal, and choral works are presented.

Our distinctive programming style is reflected in the many historically-themed concerts that we have produced over the years; programmes are carefully researched. We feel that we have something very unique to offer the people of the Thunder Bay area, something that is not duplicated by any other group. We are the only group devoted to early music in Northwestern Ontario, and the only producer of regular chamber music concerts in Thunder Bay. We endeavour to use authentic copies of period instruments where appropriate (harpsichord, recorder, Baroque flute, Baroque bows, cornetto, viol, vielle, psaltery, etc.), and seek out performers with knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque performance practice when possible. We offer the Thunder Bay public an occasion to hear a greater variety of featured instruments. We therefore expose our audiences to a sound and style of music that they would not otherwise experience. Our aim is to educate, as well as to entertain.

A prime function of Consortium is to offer to Thunder Bay Symphony players, and others, an opportunity to appear as soloists, giving them a platform to present themselves to the public without their incurring expense; musicians are also given a chance to appear in public as chamber musicians. As a result, they are able to expand their repertoire, and enlarge their musical horizons. Consortium therefore also provides a learning experience, as performers (as well as audience) discover new periods and styles, and encounter new and challenging works.

It has been a goal of Consortium’s in recent years to foster artistic interaction on occasion between our Thunder Bay-based musicians and established, gifted, visiting performers, who appear as soloists, supported by the local players. The visiting musicians are keen to impart their knowledge to other players, in whom they have a genuine interest; they provide invaluable professional development, in terms of style, technique, appropriate performance practice, and general musicianship. They inspire musicians to rise beyond their limits, resulting in a richly rewarding experience for all that are involved (including the audience). In pursuance of this goal, Consortium engaged soprano Teri Dunn and Baroque cellist Felix Deak to perform early Baroque works with local musicians in March 2007, and in January 2008 the Penderecki Quartet will be joined by TBSO clarinetist Peter Shackleton. Such exceptional visiting performers are able to demonstrate the epitome of their art and involve both players and audience in a totally innovative experience. We do emphasize the impact our concerts have on our community.

It is important for Consortium to continue to provide concerts of artistic substance and variety, periodically inviting acclaimed guest musicians to work with local players, particularly since Thunder Bay is relatively isolated geographically, and does not enjoy the richness of concert life that a larger centre such as Toronto would afford. We wish to reach as many people as possible, regardless of ability to pay. We intend that our performances should enhance the quality of life, and bring joy and beauty into the lives of our audience members, and seek to appeal to an audience of all ages. We do enjoy great community support. We have a fervour and enthusiasm about the music that we present. A key goal is to communicate our excitement and passion, be it for early music or for string quartets, to people in our region, through the energies and talents of our local musicians, as well as, on occasion, through the performances by inspired artists that are active in Toronto and elsewhere. We are thereby able to foster a keen appreciation for the enriching power of music.


Ontario Arts Council