Lawrence House Sunday Afternoon Recital Satisfies On All Levels

Lawrence-HouseCaitlin Mason, Dan Sonier and Tessa Catton satisfied on all levels at the Lawrence House: Sunday Afternoon Recital in Sarnia on Sunday night (Oct. 21).
The show opened with the first movement of Mozart’s well known ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ and followed with a less familiar Concerto for two flutes and piano by Vivaldi. After that it went through less familiar but still very accessible territory that included both the Baroque and Romantic periods. The Celtic set that followed had names that (probably) only dedicated players have committed to memory but which resonated with the audience as if they were old friends. It was a delight.
The same held true for the second set. With the exception of Ed Sheeran and Irving Berlin the names of most of the composers weren’t known well. The same was true for Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’. Along with ’Perfect’ it was one of the few titles that was recognizable instantly. The music however, which featured excerpts from ‘West Side Story’ early on, struck familiar chords just as the reason for combining Sheeran’s ‘Perfect with the ‘Canon’ became wonderfully clear.
The arrangements the trio used were filled with drama, humour and pathos, and diverse in ways that allowed plenty of call and response between the musicians. The individual parts were played off the page or adapted depending on what the group had to work with. The result was a feeling of spontaneity that gave each chances for individual expression while conjuring up the sense of urgency that kept the audience rooted.
Highlights in a program that was virtually all high points included the second movement from the Vivaldi Concerto, several of the passages from Ethel Smythe’s ‘Interlinked French Melodies’, the intertwining of ‘Perfect’ and the ‘Canon’, the entire sequence of Celtic pieces and all of Tessa Catton’s introductions of the musical numbers. With her devastating wit the intros she provided entertained and educated without cutting into the energy generated by the music.
Picking a star from among these three is impossible. Because they’re standing and up front violinist Caitlin Mason and flautist Tessa Catton seemed more obvious at first but the lovely passages from coming Dan Sonier at the piano drew attention to what he was playing regularly. As soon as one settled into focusing there however their attention would be drawn elsewhere. Sometimes it would be to a sweeping passage from Mason’s violin, while other segments drew the eye to lilting notes coming from Catton’s flute. Other instances would pull the eye and ear into the collective. It was that kind of show.
The nature of the Lawrence House itself the intimacy created by the musicians. No amplification was needed when performers were playing or speaking and the instrumental sounds carried beautifully. The sight lines weren’t perfect but that was more than compensated by the intimacy and the venue afforded. That the performers were relaxed there just added to what was already sublime.
It’s not entirely easy to play there. Crowds that attend Lawrence House Concerts are there to listen and the room insures that golden moments (or gaffes), whichever happens will be heard with stunning clarity. That’s a two sided street though. When musicians are confident enough to take some risks as these three did the results are bursts of spontaneous wizardry that can exist only in those singular moments.
Caitlin, Dan and Tessa conjured an amazing number of those instances during this show and it connected in every area that mattered. As singer/songwriter Missy Burgess astutely stated, it was a $100 concert for ten bucks.
Photo: Brian Hay