Ottawa Chamberfest marks 25 years with celebration at iconic French Embassy

Annual chamber music festival opens Thursday night, runs until August 9th at venues throughout downtown

Music lovers got a little sneak listen of what’s to come at Ottawa Chamberfest in one of the most stunning embassies around.

On the eve of the opening night of the world’s largest chamber music festival, the embassy of France hosted a lovely reception Wednesday. Guests enjoyed drinks and canapés inside the splendid art deco-style building on Sussex Drive. But, it wasn’t the fancy decor nor the calming view of the Ottawa River that captured everybody’s attention; it was France’s Quatuor Danel performing music by 20th-century French composer Claude Debussy.

The energetic string quartet is just one of the many talents to play at the chamber music festival, which runs for 15 days from Thursday until Aug. 9th in churches and venues throughout downtown Ottawa.

French Ambassador Kareen Rispal formally welcomed the crowd to the reception, held in celebration of Chamberfest’s 25th anniversary.

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French Ambassador Kareen Rispal welcomes guests to a pre-festival reception hosted for Ottawa Chamberfest in honour of the music festival's 25th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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France's Quatuor Danel performs for guests at a reception held for Ottawa Chamberfest on Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at the French Embassy. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Evelyn Greenberg with Catherine Bélanger, Marg Campbell and Joan Harrison at the Ottawa Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 in celebration of the music festival's 25th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips

City councillor Jeff Leiper stood in for the mayor to publicly announce it to be Chamberfest Day in Ottawa. He was right guy for the job; the representative for Kitchissippi Ward has earned the title of “music councillor” for his commitment to promote a more vibrant local music scene.

“One of the most important festivals in Ottawa is Chamberfest,” said Leiper while acknowledging that it probably doesn’t get “nearly as much credit as it deserves” in our region. “It is absolutely a wonderful festival.”

Among this year’s highlights are: Romani-Hungarian Gypsy-inspired violinist Roby Lakatos, Israel’s Ariel Quartet with Canada’s Rolston String Quartet, the Prague-based Pražák Quartet, and Ottawa’s most beloved concert pianist, Angela Hewitt. And, just to shake things up, the programming features the folk-and-bluegrass-loving string quartet The Fretless, as well as Sounding Thunder, a musical journey into the life of renowned Ojibwe military officer and sniper Francis Pegahmagabow.

On hand to accept the framed proclamation was Gryphon Trio cellist Roman Borys. He’s both the executive and artistic director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, which organizes the summer festival, as well as a fall-winter concert series and community engagement and education programming throughout the year.

The arts organization, he said, puts tremendous effort into getting the community involved.  “This is our goal, that every day should in fact be Chamberfest Day,” he told the crowd.

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From left, Ottawa city councillor Jeff Leiper presents a framed Chamberfest Day proclamation to Roman Borys at a pre-festival reception held at the French Embassy on Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in honour of the annual music festival’s 25th anniversary. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Attendees included Chamberfest board members, including co-chairs Vineet Srivastava, COO of Cistel Technology, and long-time volunteer arts fundraiser Patti Blute.

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From left, Roman Borys, artistic director of Ottawa Chamberfest and executive director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, with French Ambassador Kareen Rispal and Chamberfest co-chairs Patti Blute and Vineet Srivastava. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Also seen were such cultural leaders as Marco Pagani, president and CEO of the Ottawa Community Foundation; Tom d’Aquino and his wife, Susan Peterson d’Aquino, of private venture development and strategic consulting company Intercounsel; and former record label owner Harvey Glatt.

Award-winning businesswoman Marina Kun, head of a global manufacturer of shoulder rests for violins and violas, and Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP partner Janice Payne both attended and are among those involved with Chamberfest’s inaugural gala taking place Thursday, September 20, at the Infinity Convention Centre. The $165-a-ticket evening is to be hosted by Ottawa award-winning singer Kellylee Evans with long-time arts patron Jean Teron as honorary chair.

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From left, arts patrons Glenn McInnes and his wife, Barbara McInnes, with Chamberfest board member Adam Moscoe and Catherine Bélanger at the Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Lewis Auerbach with Marina Kun, owner and president of Kun Shoulder Rest, Susannah Dalfen and her husband, Jonathan Malino, at the Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Susan Peterson d’Aquino with Joan Law, Tom d’Aquino, French Ambassador Kareen Rispal and Earl Law at the Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Marco Pagani and his wife, Carla, at the Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Jean Teron with Sylvie Brillon and Chamberfest board member Louis Thériault at the Chamberfest Reception hosted by the Embassy of France on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca