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Calgary Opera's latest resident conductor, Kimberley-Ann Bartzcak.

Calgary Opera’s resident conductor, Kimberley-Ann Bartczak. Photo by Alain Dupere

Kimberley-Ann Bartczak has been named by Calgary Opera as its latest resident conductor and repetiteur, or coach for the Opera’s singers.

She brings plenty of experience to her new role. Originally from Montreal, she is also on staff at Opera on the Avalon in St. John’s,  Newfoundland. She has also worked in other Canadian cities, in Italy and Germany. In Calgary, while preparing the mainstage productions during rehearsals, coaching the principal actors and assisting the conductors, Kimberly-Ann will conduct Calgary Opera’s Christmas at the Opera, a Choral Extravaganza running Dec. 1-3, which features artists from the emerging artist development program.

Currently, she is assisting former resident conductor Christopher Topher Mokrzewski, who will be conducting the Barber of Seville, which starts Nov. 18.

“I have two roles as resident conductor,” explains Kimberley-Ann. “I am head pianist for all of the rehearsals, and I play with the orchestra during the shows when necessary. As well, I assist the conductor, which is a great learning opportunity as I transition into the role of conductor.”

Kimberley-Ann is well aware that female conductors are still rare in Canada. “I see myself as a conductor, not as a female conductor. It really comes down to how you interpret the music and how you communicate your ideas around the music. The whole idea that conducting is a male profession is changing.”

She became interested in opera in her late twenties. Now 34, she has embraced the art form. “I was mostly into the choral community, but when I saw my first opera I was taken by the singing, acting, dancing, the orchestra and the whole spectacle of it. An opera is such a huge show, a real collaborative effort involving a lot of people.”

She is a big fan of introducing opera to a young audience. “To really appreciate opera, young people need access to the various elements of the production. I’m a big advocate of bringing opera to them in the classroom. Opera connects with an audience on so many levels. We just need to do more of it.”

As well, she appreciates the intimacy of performing for a small audience. She will be speaking and performing for United’s Garrison Green residents January 29.

“Calgary Opera is an important partner of ours, and we are particularly pleased to be sponsoring Kimberley-Ann as resident conductor,” said United music director Jill LaForty. “With her visits to our communities our residents will have a special opportunity to build a relationship with her over the duration of her appointment. And United’s philosophy is all about remaining active and creative in your later years. We appreciate that Calgary Opera both brings opera directly to our residents in-house and gives them an opportunity to attend their productions at the Jubilee. We have some real opera buffs who not only love the Calgary Opera performances but who also take advantage of excursions to the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD which are shown regularly on the big screen at Chinook Theatre.”

Kimberly-Ann looks forward to achieving her goal of becoming a conductor. “My transition to conductor is already happening. I’m learning so much by assisting the conductors and in my role as repetiteur. The role of conductor is all encompassing. They need to know each instrument in the orchestra and how that sound fits into the bigger picture. There is so much involved, and I’m looking forward to learning everything I can about the role over the next few years here at Calgary Opera.”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

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For Virginia Stewart, music and writing are two sides of an artistic coin. We all have the capacity to learn and develop to the end of our lives. United supports opportunities for that to happen. Virginia is a perfect example of that. Shortly after turning 70, she earned a BA in  English from the University of Calgary and is well known at United’s Garrison Green community for her poetry.

Last year, she penned a book of poetry called The Wayward Umbrella with the support of other residents who provided the artwork.

Virginia is also an avid painter. One of her colourful pictures graces the walls at Garrison Green. 

But Virginia is also keen about her music, with a particular passion for song. In this week’s blog, Virginia talks about that lifelong passion.

My love of music is inherited from my mother’s side of the family. While my grandmother was her church soloist, my grandfather, among other things, played the pit piano in the days of silent movies.

When I think of my mother and her identical twin I think of their musical skills; singing harmony and teaching dancing.

During the depression they travelled up the west coast of Vancouver to Alaska on a
friend’s cabin cruiser, which they christened ‘Chautauqua’, entertaining at many fishing villages along the way. My grandfather said it was less expensive to finance the twins and their entertainment during the depression than to keep them at home in the city.

Well, what does this history have to do with United Active Living’s Garrison Green community you ask? Our community offers those that enjoy a variety of activities, the space and guidance for an enriched life. Here I am after years of singing in a church choir and joining my young sons in music lessons.

Yes, it was an enriching experience. As a result I have been able to contribute to the musical life of my new home, where we have established a singalong choir which meets every week under the guidance of a mother/daughter co-director to enjoy some of the old songs and to introduce our community to a casual evening of song.

Our little group has grown from about four or five enthusiastic singers to what now amounts to roughly twelve who enjoy singing. We even discover our voices raised in song in the elevator after these sessions!

Learn more about United and its philosophy of active and engaged living. Watch this short video, then give us a call!

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

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United and Calgary Civic Symphony (CCS) have renewed their partnership, giving residents access to the symphony on stage as well as bringing performances into United’s two communities.

“We are one of the best kept secrets in Calgary,” said symphony executive director David Wartman. “By being responsive to the needs of the community, and through partnerships such as the one with United, we become better known.”

“When we come into one of United’s communities with small groups of musicians, the residents are very appreciative. That in turn makes the time we spend with them that much more fulfilling,” said Craig Hutchenreuther, concertmaster at CCS. “I think it’s the intimacy of the surroundings. We are performing right there with the audience and there is a real exchange of energy.”

Craig Hutchenreuther, top left, with the Calgary Civic Symphony quartet

Craig Hutchenreuther, top left, with the Calgary Civic Symphony quartet

Craig and three other musicians performed for residents in the Fish Creek community theatre, playing four pieces by Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky – the latter providing the opportunity for the quartet to add a little humour. Tchaikovsky’s 1812  was written to be performed by a full orchestra. But to the delight of the residents, the smaller performance introduced a humorous approach.

“Since we have a quartet, the musicians did double duty as vocalists for part of the piece, and we enlisted the help of the audience to fill in the sound effects of cannons and church bells, which appear at the end,” said Craig.

“The participation of the audience is something that works very well in a small, intimate surrounding such as the United theatre,” said Craig. “We can see them moving with the music, which we can’t necessarily see in a large theatre, so it was the perfect opportunity to engage with the audience and give them a more personal experience.”

John Miles, a resident of Fish Creek noted, “Often when you go to a concert, there is a serious atmosphere about the performance, but this was much lighter and more comfortable.”

“The nice thing about today’s performance was the sense of humour. It was clever. It shows that classical music can be fun!” said Fish Creek resident Ray Waldock.

“It’s performances like these that really speak highly of our partnership with Calgary Civic Symphony,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director, and audience conductor for the 1812 performance. Having access to musicians who really want to make a difference is a real benefit to residents, especially for those who have difficulty going out to concert venues.”

Residents will be attending several of the Calgary Civic Symphony concerts this year including “Oh Canada!” a celebration of Canadian music at the end of  October.

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

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“Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings.” – Robert Burns, poet

For many, this quote, attributed to poet Robert Burns, expresses in a humorous way the extent of our knowledge about opera. That and perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. But opera has long historic roots, and United Active Living’s renewed partnership with Calgary Opera continues to educate residents on the finer points of the genre and further the benefits that all forms of art have on a person’s well-being. Opera is complex and challenges the listener to interpret more than just the music.

“A dynamic art form, opera engages participants through multiple artistic disciplines including vocal music, instrumental music, theatre, dance and visual art/design,” said Suzanne Boyd, director of fund development, Calgary Opera. “Opera also offers cognitive challenges and intellectual stimulation (including exposure to foreign languages), to create a rich and dimensional experience.”

Opera also provides exposure to diverse and complicated subject matter, including various time periods/historical eras, settings that are frequently in a different culture, and plots and themes that allow for meaningful discussion such as current events, relationships, social/personal values, life choices and political/religious beliefs.

Calgary Opera's resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak

Calgary Opera’s resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak

United’s partnership with Calgary Opera includes sponsorship of the resident conductor. This year that person is Kimberley Bartczak, who has quickly established herself in the opera world as a collaborative pianist and opera coach at both the university and professional levels.

“Research supports the role of music and the arts to engage the mind and influence a person’s well-being,” said Jill LaForty, United’s music director. “In opera, we see a range of art forms from music, to drama, to dance, that engage a person’s emotions and imagination in a way that no other art form does. We are delighted to continue our relationship with Calgary Opera.”

Jill notes that living in a United community expands the residents’ worlds. “Our residents aren’t living bounded by four walls. Our community extends into the greater world where they are exposed to a wide variety of music and other creative arts. These partnerships really give residents something you can’t find anywhere else.”

Calgary Opera's Lauren Woods and others performed at Garrison Green last year

Calgary Opera’s Lauren Woods and others performed at Garrison Green last year

This year, Calgary Opera will bring opera to the residents of United’s Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities with three performances by members of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program as well as a personal one-on-one with resident conductor Kimberley Bartczak.

Topher Makrzewski at Garrison Green

Topher Makrzewski at Garrison Green

What do those visits look like? Last year, then resident conductor Christopher “Topher” Mokrzewski sat down with residents at Garrison Green and spoke of his career as a pianist and conductor, his role as resident conductor, the anatomy of an opera production, his favourite composers, thoughts on new works, his other professional exploits, and the pedigree of his current opera family, Calgary Opera.

“Topher played a bit, laughed a bit, and talked about his life in the arts,” said Suzanne. “His appreciative audience was visibly moved by his story, his personality and the passion with which he lives. It was clear from the response by both the presenter and the residents that this was only the beginning of a special relationship.”

“The partnership with United helps us fulfil our mandate to bring opera to the people,” said Susanne. “This is particularly helpful for residents who might have difficulty getting out to our performances. We bring those performances to them.”

In August, Calgary Opera’s Opera in the Village takes to the stage for its fifth year with performances of South Pacific and Cinderella at Enmax Park on the Stampede groundsCheck out Calgary Opera’s website for more information.

“Our partnership with Calgary Opera helps us serve the wide ranging tastes of our residents,” said Jill. “Some of our residents are lifelong opera buffs and are gaining a better understanding directly from the artists themselves thanks to this partnership, while others are getting a chance to experience the thrill of it for the first time. It’s a wonderful relationship!”

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

Contact us here!

 


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Residents at United’s two communities have the best of both worlds. Through partnerships with Calgary’s best musical organizations they go out to performances, but also have performers come into the communities for intimate concerts. Honens, the Calgary Philharmonic, Calgary Pro Musica, Calgary Opera and Calgary Civic Symphony have all renewed their partnerships with United Active Living. Several other partnership agreements are in the works.

“The partnerships we have with Calgary’s finest music and educational organizations make a wealth of musical talent available to our residents,” said Jill LaForty, music director at United. “These are great for our residents. They get preferred seating when attending performances, and these groups also bring their top talents to United’s two communities, giving our residents a much more intimate contact with the musicians.”

Luca Buratto speaks with residents at Garrison Green

Luca Buratto at Garrison Green

A popular event last year brought 2015 Honen’s Prize Laureate Luca Buratto into Garrison Green. He played to a full house and afterwards mingled with residents.

 

 

Calgary Pro Musica has also renewed its partnership with United.

The non-profit organization has brought in world-renowned chamber ensembles to perform in the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in the University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre.

The New Orford String Quartet

The New Orford String Quartet

In April, they brought in the New Orford String Quartet, who won a Juno Award this year for “Best Solo or Chamber Recording”.

The musicians are part of Pro Musica’s Dick Matthews Young Artists Development Program, which was created to discover, nurture and promote young Calgary musicians. The program was named for the late philanthropist who was a long-time patron of the arts in Calgary.

“The concerts, whether at the Rozsa Centre or in our communities, enables our music lovers, and music-curious residents to hear a wide variety of the highest-level Canadian and international chamber music,” said Jill.

“My friend and I had season’s tickets to Calgary Pro Musica for many years,” said Garrison Green resident Doris Bingham. “Now I go out to hear them and to other concerts with the residents here, and I always go to see them and the other performers when they perform at Garrison Green. Hearing them again brings back fond memories of when I used to attend their concerts.”

CPO resident conductor Karl Hirzer at Garrison Green

CPO resident conductor Karl Hirzer at Garrison Green

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra has been a cornerstone of the city’s arts community since 1955. From the classics to rock and roll, to broadway favourites, the CPO entertains Calgarians with a range of music to satisfy every musical taste.

“That wide range of styles is a big reason why the CPO is a good fit as a United Active Living partner,” said Jill. “The beauty of the CPO is that they have programming that appeals to every musical taste, and our residents, who also have varying tastes have been able to benefit from that range.

“Our residents are able to attend the dress rehearsals the CPO holds prior to their performances,” said Jill. “We’ve arranged for some of the conductors and performers to come to our communities to perform some of the music, and to discuss the music and its history with the residents. This is something that would not normally be available, and many are very interested and engaged in the discussion.”

We’ll talk more about the rest of the partnerships in future articles.

United has partnerships with six musical organizations and two universities that provide our residents with a wide range of musical and higher learning opportunities.

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

Contact us here!

 

 

 


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Calgary musician Peter Exner at Garrison Green

Calgary musician Peter Exner at Garrison Green

Peter Exner is a Calgary musician who knows how powerful music can be to excite the emotions and to bring people together. We caught up with Peter at United’s Garrison Green community where he performs regularly for residents.

“This is a thoughtfully structured music program,” said Peter. “I’m not playing at people. It’s more interactive. Depending on the song, residents feel moved to sing along or simply move to the music. Music literally lights up the entire brain. It brings back memories of where they were and what they were doing when they hear a particular song.”

Humour is a big part of Peter’s interaction with residents. “Today I decided to play Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues to get into the Stampede spirit. But as I worked on an arrangement for piano, I kept ending up with the opening theme for Sesame Street. Not exactly what I was looking for. A tune called St. Louis Blues, which I’d introduced to the group before, worked much better so I decided to sing Folsom Prison Blues to that well-known blues standard instead.”

Each of Peter’s songs is prefaced by a short story about the background to the song and why he wanted to play it for residents. The stories add a very personal touch to the music. “I even challenge them by selecting music, not always from their youth, but from today’s top 10. Then we’ll try out the lyrics, which is always humorous, especially as we figure out together how to arrange it for piano.”

Knowing how music affects people guides him when deciding what music to play and what stories to tell the residents. When Peter began playing for older adults, it began with a rough start. But he soon began to understand the effect music had on them to the point now where each of his visits has become a performance with residents arriving early and staying afterwards to discuss what they heard.

To complement his musical interests, Peter has completed the three-year Music Care Certificate program, which is aimed at caregivers to give them the fundamentals of music as it is used in care.

He notes that music has preventative qualities that impact health that all of us should pay attention to.

“The themes and tunes that play in the background of our lives can have a significant impact on our health and well-being,” he said. Since music can have such a profound effect on us he challenges us to think about our own choices in music. “What music do you listen to? When do you listen to music? What do you do when music is playing in a common space that you can’t change?”

If you’d like to learn more about Peter’s approach to music, click here.

Why wait? Call today to arrange a tour!

Imagine! Flex your creative side. Fine dining. New friends. Luxurious suites. Live the lifestyle you deserve at one of our United Active Living communities. Click the button on the right to arrange a tour at Garrison Green or Fish Creek

Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help! 

Contact us here!