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The Kensington Sinfonia: collaborative quintet swings both ways 

Thursday 24th, May 2018 / 10:00
By Andrew Bardsley 

CALGARY – Founded in 1988 by John Lowry, the associate concert master of the Calgary philharmonic orchestra (CPO), The Kensington Sinfonia (which uses the Italian term for symphony) has been around a while. The quintet captures a classical side of Calgary that displays a passionate, intimate environment under musical director, Donovan Seidle.  

Currently in its twenty-ninth season, the Kensington Sinfonia began as an opportunity to do something different. “It started as a chance for orchestral players to play with smaller groups. To be playing stuff that you never get to play in an orchestra because it is too reduced for any orchestra to program,” explains Laura Reid, a member of sinfonia.  

Reid, a violinist with the group, will be taking over for Seidle beginning next season that consists of three concerts per year. Reid is also the mastermind behind the Kensington Sinfonia: Village Sessions, which combines local folk music with the sinfonia’s string quartet led by Reid. The sessions create an intimate occasion between the artist, the ensemble and audience.  

“It is a reduced ensemble,” says Ried. “It ends up being a string quintet. Donovan has actually written for (folk and country artists) Kris Ellestad and Amy Nelson arrangements of their own songs that the ensemble can play with them. We are able to expand their sound, which is really cool!” 

The Village Sessions offers the audience a chance to engage with the Calgary folk music scene and the classical scene, two established music communities that are rarely viewed simultaneously.  

“We want an open door between both sides,” says Reid. “I am not interested in crossover, but I want these sessions to be a chance for each side to what they would do on their own. When I take over, what I really want to do is expand what people think of when they think of a classical ensemble. As a music fan in this city, I go to a lot of shows where I see an opportunity for fans to really enjoy an expanded view. I want to change how audiences are represented in this city.”  

Reid adds, “People in Calgary go to shows to support their friends, and those are the only shows you go to. I think it is a lack of awareness that maybe the concert goer would like something different.”  

As the sessions continue, Reid carefully selects who the sinfonia should collaborate with. “I want it to be a positive social interaction, but I also want to have someone who makes musical sense.”  

The Kensington Sinfonia’s upcoming show on Fri., May 31 is at Hope Lutheran Church featuring Darren Young.  

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