“We’ve done it; Port Alberni is making musical history tonight,” said George Zukerman, at the beginning of the Bergmann Piano Duo’s concert at Char’s Landing on Sunday.
The Bergmann Piano Duo was the first show of a sold-out classical concert series hosted by the Alberni Valley Classical Concert Committee.
Zukerman, O.C., O.B.C., has been involved since the committee’s inception, and currently works as an artistic director.
“It is a remarkable community phenomenon that you can get together and prove that classical music is alive and well,” he said. “We are now part of the wonderful world of classical music.”
Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann took to the stage to perform an energetic mix of duets, from the infectious Hungarian Dances by Brahms, to selections from West Side Story, to pulsating tango by Piazzolla.
The Bergmanns shared one piano at Char’s Landing, which was something they made frequent comment about.
“Oftentimes we play on two pianos together when there’s more space,” said Elizabeth. “It’s a true test of our marriage.”
“It’s actually very dangerous sometimes,” Marcel said, about adjusting his West Side Story arrangement for one piano.
Marcel played the lower register and commanded the foot pedals, while Elizabeth played the higher register.
They laughed after colliding during one vigorous piece. “But it still worked out,” Marcel insisted. “Just one of the challenges of sharing an instrument. Can you think of any other instruments that would be shared?”
This was the Bergmanns’ second visit to Port Alberni, but it was their first time performing. The couple lives in White Rock, although their recitals and concerts have taken them all over the world. “What a beautiful place. What a remarkable environment you have,” Elizabeth commented.
They both liked the community’s support of the arts, as well. “We’re big proponents of supporting classical music,” said Elizabeth. “And we love the enthusiasm in the community. It’s very up close and personal,” she said, of the smaller venue.
“It’s a very intimate atmosphere,” Marcel added, suggesting that it was reminiscent of the original classical concerts. “It’s wonderful to see there’s so much interest.”
Second and third concerts for the classical concert series are scheduled for April and May, but subscriptions are already sold out.
David Douglas, the director at large for the Oceanside Community Arts Council, witnessed the start and growth of Oceanside Classical Concerts, and is optimistic about Port Alberni, as well. The Oceanside Classical Concert series is now up to 300 subscribers.
“We found it becomes a night out for people that wasn’t available before,” he said.
Port Alberni previously had an active classical concert society in the 70s and 80s, according to Zukerman, and this is something of an attempt to revive it. The new committee was able to sell the 120 subscriptions well before the deadline.
“There’s definitely a culture of starting from the grassroots level up, and it’s working,” said Marcel.