The Healing Gift of Music

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performs a benefit concert for the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund

Virtually everyone in the Italian Canadian population remembers when they first learned of the terrible earthquake that struck the region of l’Aquila in Abruzzo on April 6, 2009. Worldwide media coverage brought images of the destruction into our safe, secure homes on this side of the Atlantic. Within days, volunteer groups across Canada were formed to raise funds to assist in the restoration of the historic city of 99 fountains, 99 churches, 99 piazze. Those with family and friends in the vicinity called frantically to find out how they were doing, and where they would spend the next night, the next month, all summer. The chaos eventually settled down, but extreme weather conditions, first of heat and then heavy rain, make life difficult in the emergency tent city.

Other Canadians also were moved to offer assistance, among them the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, one of the premier period instrument ensembles in the music world today. Although Toronto is their home base, this orchestra travels widely. When they played in Montreal in January with l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, conductor Kent Nagano invited them to be the orchestra in residence for the newly-established Reate Festival in Rieti in August 2009. When the musicians saw the earthquake news coverage, they realized that Rieti was very close to l’Aquila. In fact, many of the injured were treated in the Rieti hospital. The bass player, Alison Mackay, came forward with an outstanding offer: Tafelmusik would perform a concert without payment, and the ticket sales would benefit the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund.

This was a true artistic gift. Tafelmusik has been performing for 30 years. Their reputation has grown around the world. They have made 72 recordings on CD, and now they are bringing Baroque music masterworks to the internet for podcasts and downloading. The concert date was set for June 2, the Italian Festa della Repubblica. Every year the Italian Consul General in Toronto holds a reception on that day, so it seemed fitting to locate the concert close to the grounds of the Italian Consulate. The Art Gallery of Ontario is directly across the street; inquiries were made and the Walker Court was secured as the concert venue. The musicians then invited the popular Quartetto Gelato to join the line-up, as well as two dancers from the Opera Atelier, a company that specializes in early opera.

Space was limited. There were only 215 seats available. Centro Scuola, that promotes language and culture classes in schools, and Altra Italia, a cultural organization for adults, united their efforts, and very soon all the tickets were sold. On the night of the concert, a full house greeted the orchestra warmly from the very start. The music was crisp and lively, from Vivaldi and Lully to Rameau and J.S. Bach. Alison Mackay gave explanatory remarks in English, and oboe player Marco Cera gave notes in Italian. At the end of the concert Dott. Gianni Bardini, the Consul General, took the microphone and offered enthusiastic thanks to the orchestra and indeed to the Canadian people for the widespread support shown for the victims of the Abruzzo earthquake. Ticket sales and donations received that night amounted to $10,200. For details of the Abruzzo Earthquake Relief Fund, please see:

First published in Accenti Magazine, Issue 16.

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