Musical warmth on a warm summer’s night

Todd MacLean
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A concert in St. Mary’s Church in Indian River can profoundly heighten one’s appreciation not only for music itself, but for all that is behind, that surrounds and brings life to the music as we hear it.

All it takes is a gaze up to the great church’s rib-vaulted ceiling — where every wood beam was carefully laid along William Critchlow Harris’ specifications during construction of the architectural masterpiece in 1902 — and you gain an idea of how much work and expertise it takes to produce the miraculous sound that you’re hearing.

Think about this for a moment, too: Can you imagine what that first musical note that graced the interior of St. Mary’s would have sounded like?

And now, millions upon millions of Indian River notes later, the fir, the pine, the spruce, the maple still stretch strongly within, to embrace and exalt the notes from any musician who has the pleasure to play within it, for the fortunate audience members who are present to enjoy this music.

And if you were present this past Sunday night in Indian River, you would have known what it is like to experience the stunning warmth of a cello, as it glows purely in its electronically non-amplified form, enriched only by the wood that reflects it back to your ears.

That cello was played by the hands of Denise Djokic, as the sound of pianist David Jalbert’s work on the grand piano, with lid open at full stick, reverberated and danced about the notes of the cello.

This classical power duo of Djokic and Jalbert has been garnering praise at every performance over the past several years — Jalbert, a three-time Juno nominee, and Djokic, a Grammy Award show performing cellist, who has also been named one of the top 25 Canadians Who Are Changing Our World and who released a new CD, called Cello Sonatas, last fall.

With the first half of the concert that featured a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Six Studies in English Folk Song, Leoš Janácek’s Pohadka, and Claude Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, the duo throughly displayed an impressively synced execution, amid tight phrasing, distinctly in-tandem dynamic shifts and compelling fluidity and expression.

 The second half’s performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano featured such a strong musical connection between the two instruments that it often seemed as though phrases spiralled in galaxies of note solar systems: the piano and cello orbiting nearby each other and yet never adversely affecting each other with their gravitational pulls — only benefiting in their complimentary presence.

The immediate standing ovation that Djokic and Jalbert received at the concert’s end was certainly warranted, as Jalbert’s overall rhythmic precision and expressive touch at the keyboard combined with Djokic’s flamboyant flare and technical prowess on the cello make them a truly delightful performance duo to hear as a unified musical force.

There are so many more chances to experience great concerts in Indian River this summer, too, including a stellar lineup for this weekend featuring music by Quartette tonight and Quartetto Gelato on Sunday night.

Laura Smith comes to Indian River on July 25, Jan Lisiecki on July 27 and the always-popular Mid Summer Magic series returns for the weekend of Aug. 1, 2 and 3. Visit for more information on the performers and the full summer schedule.

Next week: I’ll tell you about Thom Swift at the Victoria Playhouse Summer Concert Series this Monday.


Todd’s picks

1. Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival – Rollo Bay Festival Grounds, today at 8 p.m. through to Sunday at 10 p.m. Featuring Richard Wood, The Queens County Fiddlers, Kendra MacGillivray, Anastasia DesRoches, Kindle, The Chaisson Trio and many more. Visit for info and schedule.

2. Paul Brandt – Celebration Zone, Confederation Landing, Charlottetown, today at 8:45 p.m. Celebrate Alberta Week with free musical performances all weekend long.

3. Ennis – Trailside Café, Mount Stewart, today at 8 p.m. with dinner seating at 6:30 p.m.

4. Quartette: Cindy Church, Caitlin Hanford, Gwen Swick and Sylvia Tyson – St. Mary’s Church, Indian River, today at 7:30 p.m.

5. Classic Music Reignited – Watermark Theatre, North Rustico, today at 7:30 p.m. A night of reigniting the music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones with Nudie, Max Keenlyside and Adam Brazier.

6. DiverseCity Festival – tomorrow throughout the day, Water Street, Summerside.

7. Gelato Affresco with Quartetto Gelato – St. Mary’s Church, Indian River, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Organizations: Church in Indian River, Concert Series

Geographic location: Indian River, Mary

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